Putting STEAM to STEM
The Lower Alloways Creek School District, located in the serenity of Salem County, is almost 70 square miles and abundant with preserved wetlands and farms in the southwestern tip of New Jersey. Despite its rural atmosphere, the school District has been fortunate to have a wealth of opportunities for our learners through a partnership with PSEG.
PSEG houses one of its’ biggest power facilities in the town, providing enough power for approximately 3.5 million homes and is the second largest power producing facility in the United States. With such a large facility, many of our town residents work in the facility, and many see it as the epicenter of the community.
Given the size and magnitude of the facility, and being that the plant revolves around science, technology, engineering, and math, it was natural for the District to partner with them. PSEG welcomed us with open arms.
The first initiative was opening their doors to the Energy & Environmental Resource Center. The EERC, is a learning center focused on building a greater understanding of energy, environmental challenges, and strategies for balancing energy demand with environmental stewardship. Designed to promote conversations around energy use and the complexities of climate change, the EERC presents lessons and information about electricity use and environmental impacts about our nation’s energy future. Over 20,000 square feet of the education center including 6,000 square feet of interactive exhibits. The exhibits explore the impact of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, & Math), lifestyle, and public policy on energy consumption and the environment and challenge visitors to consider their own energy use and carbon footprint. The EERC is also a Gold-level LEED certified building; lessons were taught last year about how the center made strategic choices during the design and construction, reducing energy and water use in the building, and on how the use of photovoltaic solar panels and a wind turbine provide some of the building’s power.
PSEG has also sponsored contests and activities that circulate around the creative arts, specifically with creative writing and poster contests. Last year, our students partook is a series of STEAM activities (art contests, collaborative student-led presentations, and even a poetry corner) where engineers, scientists, and other employees from the facility came to the District to assist in judging and offering feedback. Students were even honored their winning artwork chosen for the annual Emergency Planning Calendar Contest. The calendar featured the students’ winning artwork based on the theme "Integrated Emergency Response: It’s All About Teamwork." The calendar is distributed to every residence, business, industrial site, park/recreational area and government office within the 10-mile emergency planning zone in New Jersey and Delaware.
The District has also invited several employees to come in and speak about today’s trends in science, technology, and engineering. From sponsoring science fairs to speaking at an academic awards ceremony, the partnership has proven paramount for the District’s success in fully implementing STEAM in our daily curriculum and activities. Now more than ever, it’s crucial that we include all stakeholders in the growth of our learners. Schools are suppose to be positive focal points of the community, being treasured for all they are doing for our future citizens. By partnering with stakeholders like PSEG, we continue to grow, learn, and move onward.