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Youth discover magic of science

Monday was as good a day as any to fry an egg on the sidewalk.

But a group of students from Greenville Elementary School and Greenville Middle School had a different goal in mind during Alabama Power Company’s annual summer program.

Greenville students in grades 3-8 visited the Alabama Power business office for a day-long field trip, in which they learned about various facets of Alabama Power’s day-to-day operations.

The students interacted with the company’s line crew and office employees, and learned about topics including career opportunities, marketing, appliance sales and everything in between.

Marcus Burkett, eighth-grade history teacher at Greenville Middle School and the lead teacher for the school’s summer program, said Monday’s trip to Alabama Power is one way the system is trying to bridge the disconnect between classroom lessons and practical experience. 

“It’s exciting. We’re trying to do more project-based learning in our schools, and to tie that with real-world stuff,” Burkett said.

“And they get to come here and see that. They talk to them about the jobs they can have in the future. And they built all the stuff for the egg drop, so they learned about it and put it into practice.  So they get to see some of what we’re talking to them about in school, building and doing project-based learning, and they get to see it in action out here.”

The egg drop competition, the star of the show, is a test of ingenuity, creativity and resourcefulness that tasks teams of students with building a contraption that allows an egg to survive falls from increasingly dangerous heights.

Aided by a lineman and his bucket truck, as well as a pair of engineers who provided lessons beforehand, students used a number of household supplies—including grocery bags, popsicle sticks, bubble wrap, toilet paper rolls, tape, straws, etc.—to reinforce their precious cargo and protect it during its decent.

Susan Lambert, power delivery clerk with Alabama Power’s Greenville office, said that watching the students’ faces light up during the egg drop competition easily proved the highlight of her Monday.

“Their oohs and aahs during the egg drop is the best part,” Lambert said. “I love seeing their reactions.”

This year’s crop of students did much better than anyone anticipated—so well, in fact, that their eggs failed to break even at the bucket truck’s maximum height. 

“Last year, we wiped out a bunch of them right off the bat,” Lambert continued.

“But this year, they did really good. In the end, it was decided to cut the parachute and let them drop. That was the only way they were going to crack this year,” she added with a laugh.

The egg drop alone proved the value of hands-on experience for Burkett and the other participating educators, but the trip to Alabama Power isn’t the only project planned for Butler County students this summer.

“At the middle school, we’re teaching them to code in JavaScript,” Burkett said.

“We’re also building robots using Lego Robotics.

“And we have a trip planned to the Montgomery Zoo, to go bowling and to take an overnight trip to the Georgia Aquarium with a special itinerary that normal visitors won’t get to experience.”

Missing valuable summer vacation time for school activities may sound like a prospect that students would balk at, under normal circumstances.  But Burkett and other Butler County teachers are proving that the opposite is true.

“We’re trying to make them excited about it,” Burkett added.

“And I think we’ve gotten pretty good results.”