Nuclear plant provides hands-on learning for teachers

It’s said that teaching is one of the most rewarding professions a person can pursue. When asked, many people can point back to their favorite teacher, or one who inspired, mentored or believed in them.

At Duke Energy, we take every opportunity to assist teachers by providing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) based educational resources and programs. Also, we host teaching fellows and educators, like Gabrielle Davis, at local plants during the summer months.

Davis admits she had a misconception about how nuclear power generation works. “I thought you just pulled water in from the lake and put it in a generator and made electricity,” says the South Pointe High School (Rock Hill, S.C.) chemistry, biology and physical sciences teacher.

After spending more than 25 hours at Catawba Nuclear Station as part of the South Carolina Summer Externship for Educators (SEE) program through the Department of Commerce, Davis now knows better – and plans to take her new-found knowledge back into her classroom.

“I’m very inquisitive and like to learn what things are all about. I wanted larger insight into how a nuclear plant is actually run. I briefly talk about it in class and I had that misconception,” she says, “I’ll use that information and educate my students on what it takes to operate it.”

In her time at the plant, she toured the plant inside and out. Davis also spent several hours learning from chemistry technicians and staff, watching them gather samples for analysis.

In addition to the technical information, she gained valuable career advice to pass along to her students: “We know a lot of kids won’t go to college, or will go a different route after high school. Now I can relay what they need and how they’d be best suited to work in this industry,” she said.

And that’s important to her Catawba escort, Eddie Benfield, supervisor, nuclear station sciences, who agrees, “Not everybody’s going to get a four-year degree. This is another outlet to get into the classroom because, at some point, I’ll want to leave and I want someone to take my place.”

If a teacher isn’t able to participate in an extended learning program at one of our six nuclear plants, additional teaching materials including lesson plans, experiments and other fun learning tools can be found on the Duke Energy website. These resources can be used both inside and outside the classroom.

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