The spark of learning

By Nicole Cooke

February 19, 2014

Fourth graders at Skyline Elementary got a lesson in electricity safety Wednesday from Keith Mueller, education specialist at Central Electric Power Cooperative.

Mueller gave two presentations at Skyline about the basics of electricity — open and closed circuits, grounding, insulators — and taught the students about electricity safety. Mueller had a table of props with live electricity running through it to demonstrate his points.

“There are so many storms in the area and we want them to know what to do (if a power line goes down),” said fourth grade teacher Tina Vansell. “We study electricity in fourth grade, and this allows them to visually see electricity, and we want them to understand that. Especially since you normally can’t see electricity, we want them to see what happens when it is visible.”

Mueller taught students about grounding — all electricity wants to reach the ground, he explained and when standing on the ground a person can become a conductor for electricity. With that important bit of information in mind, he showed the students what would happen if a tree touched a power line with his props. The sparks that were caused gained big smiles and lots of “oohs” and “aahs” from the students, who seemed very intrigued with Mueller’s lesson.

He noted that CEPC trims trees that are growing over power lines free of charge to prevent any hazardous conditions, and that if a household is concerned about the proximity of tree branches to power lines in their yard they can call CEPC at 826-2900 (for those who receive service from CEPC).

A majority of the presentation was focused on electricity safety, including what to do if a vehicle hits a power line. Mueller said although most people’s first instinct is to either get out of the vehicle or to help whomever is inside, the best advice is to stay inside the vehicle and call 911. While inside the vehicle, a person isn’t a conductor because they aren’t touching the ground, and the only contact with the ground is the rubber tires, which act as an insulator.

Mueller said he has been giving this presentation at Skyline for more than 10 years, and that it’s an important lesson for kids to learn.

“The students at Skyline are important to us at Central Electric Power Cooperative and we enjoy visiting them every year, teaching basic electrical safety,” Mueller said. “The students were excellent. I’m sure they all enjoyed learning, and they all really enjoyed all the visual demonstrations.”