May 29–SHIPPINGPORT — The latest answers about how to best educate high school students aren’t coming from a textbook, in the classroom or from a government-mandated rubric.
Instead, they’re coming from places like FirstEnergy Corp.’s Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station in Shippingport, where about 30 Blackhawk High School juniors and seniors presented the results of their research about nuclear power to the team of engineers who are part of the 1,000-person workforce at the nuclear power plant.
“There is no perfect, right answer sometimes,” FirstEnergy’s Eric Larson told the kids. “It’s the method you use to get there that’s the real skill.”
Larson’s the vice president of the Shippingport plant, and he and his team played host to the students, who were mentored by professionals who work at FirstEnergy this year as part of Blackhawk’s involvement in a Global Passport Project that brings businesses and schools together to tackle real-world problems.
The program is the brainchild of Dewayne Rideout, who founded the project that’s been used in a handful of schools in the Pittsburgh region. Blackhawk is the first Beaver County school to participate, he said.
“We’re preparing them to take the baton,” Rideout said. “And they’ve risen to the challenge.”
The students in Robert Puskas’ environmental science classes spent part of their time this year studying nuclear energy in all its forms. They also researched problems supplied by FirstEnergy on nuclear waste disposal and having that disposal meet federal requirements.
Students presented their findings Thursday to FirstEnergy, and they’ve compiled what they’ve learned onto a website, as well.
“You are witnessing the re-engineering of the classroom,” said Maureen Pedzwater, a project manager for the Global Passport Program. “Welcome to the future of education.”
“We’ve just run with it,” Blackhawk Superintendent Melanie Kerber said.
It’s a program FirstEnergy systems engineer Meggie Whitfield said she wishes was in place when she was in high school.
“To me, it’s just great,” Whitfield said.
She didn’t become interested in nuclear engineering until college. The Blackhawk students were exposed to this as juniors and seniors, giving them a toe-hold should they choose to enter the field, Whitfield said.
“Students have had a number of wonderful experiences in this project,” Blackhawk High School Principal Scott Nelson said.
This was evident as the student made their presentations Thursday.
“Anytime we can enrich our curriculum, anytime we can add to what students are learning, it’s a wonderful thing,” Nelson said.