Written by Lulu August | June 15, 2020
In 2017, the Peer Outreach With Energy Resources internship was co-founded by Ms. Larissa Johnson, the Residential Energy Program Manager of the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (MoCo DEP), and Ms. Diane Lill of the Audubon Naturalist Society (ANS). Each year, these enthusiastic environmentalists teach MoCo high schoolers about energy, where it is sourced, and its everyday applications, as well as prepare them to present their learning to elementary school kids at the Montgomery County Public Libraries’ annual Energy Express Program. In light of recent library closures and the pandemic, these enthusiastic environmentalists made sure that the program would continue on, even if it meant taking kids on an energy journey through the popular conference platform, Zoom.
“We have two great leaders who are walking us through this whole process and showing us how we talk to kids and how [to be] cool when it comes to teaching energy to elementary schoolers,” says Eliza Risso, one of the eight POWER interns and a rising junior at Northwood High School. Along with presentation skills, POWER interns gain valuable career experience from experts. “They’re really awesome with interacting with kids…so it’s really nice getting to learn from their experiences,” adds Akshaya Balaji, a fellow POWER intern and a Richard Montgomery High School graduate.
Before meeting together online, the high schoolers met at their individual schools twice a month with Ms. Larissa and Ms. Lill. During these brief lunch meetings, they explored Maryland’s energy consumption, past POWER presentations, energy tools like thermal cameras and kill-a-watt meters, and other interactive activities that are difficult to replicate on an online platform. Nonetheless, their weekly virtual meetings proved rewarding and worth-while! “We didn’t get a chance to know each other super well until we transferred online,” says Balaji. “It’s been super fun [online]: we’ve gotten to play a lot of games…and it’s been fun meeting new people [as well],” Risso commented.
As important as learning presentation skills and building a strong sense of community were, the interns also took time to cultivate meaningful curricula for their presentations that tied in this year’s MCPL summer reading theme: Imagine Your Story. “We all took on [an] energy source, so we’ve been writing these scripts for a Choose Your Own Adventure style presentation…we [have also planned] activities at the end that allow for further learning,” says Risso. In each presentation, students will be asked to use their imaginations and choose to learn about the adventure story of one of eight energy sources: coal, biomass, natural gas, nuclear energy, hydropower, solar, wind, and geothermal. Each presentation is unique, fun, and tailored to the individual students! In preparation for the exciting task, Balaji explained how the interns split up into pairs to work on a part of the program. “For me and my partner, we are working together on the social media side of it: we are arranging posts on introducing our team members and little challenges that can get people excited about the program!” explained Balaji. Risso and her team member have been putting together “little [surprise] packets to give the kids so that they can have fun at home…without us being there for them.” The final two pairs have worked on finalizing presentations and crafting this P.O.W.E.R. website.
Despite the tragic and painful climate of today’s global society, two trainers and a group of teens have worked year-long on a mission to equip young kids in MoCo with the tools to harness their energy knowledge for the better. With virtual Energy Express presentations starting on June 30th, they simply can’t wait!