Contributed by Head of Grade 4 David Ayers

While in a meeting with my team, working together while planning the next pivot in our PBL (project-based learning) about energy, I shared that I wished our students could visit the dam in my hometown like I did when I was in fourth grade. My teammates simply looked at me and responded, “Why can’t we?” We then began networking to build a two-part expedition to Lark Hartwell in Northeast Georgia.

In preparation for the expedition, students researched both the Buford Dam at Lake Lanier and the dam at Lake Hartwell to understand how they operate as hydroelectric dams to generate on-demand power. At peak times both dams generate power to the grid which can be pulled to cities where demand is the greatest.

The Army Corps of Engineers graciously hosted the entire fourth grade for a tour inside the Lake Hartwell Dam. As part of the PBL study, students had been studying clean and renewable energy resources, so the team jumped at the rare chance to go inside a highly secure and massive structure.   

Students were allowed to observe the control room which manages all of the technology for the dam. From there, the students took an elevator down into the turbine area of the dam.  Students were even allowed to observe an active one hundred and five mile an hour spinning turbine. They were surprised at the speed and force of the turbine.

One of the penstock pipes, which carries water from the lake into the turbines, was under construction. The engineers allowed our students to look inside the twenty-six foot wide pipe. 

“That must hold so much water, and it must move so fast!”

Grade 4 Student Caroline Meriwether

Truly, being in the dam and seeing how all of the parts worked together gave the students a better understanding of the generation of hydroelectric energy.

At the conclusion of the tour students were allowed into the secured area on the top of the dam to look over the lake and the Savannah River. They were also able to stand in both South Carolina and Georgia at the same time. This was a tremendous opportunity to provide real world connection to the electricity we use every day.

But Wait There’s More!

Since the students, teachers, and chaperones had traveled so far, the team was keen on making the absolute most of their experience.  In Social Sciences, students were studying the American Revolution, and I knew I had to tell them about Nancy Hart.

Nancy Hart was a heroine from the Revolutionary War who fought back against British soldiers who attempted to occupy her home. Hart County, the home of Lake Hartwell, is the only county in the state of Georgia named for a woman.

Networking with the local Chamber of Commerce and Daughters of the American Revolution, the Grade 4 team were able to arrange for a tour of Nancy Hart’s Revolutionary War era cabin.  Additionally, a local member of the DAR, who was in the character of Nancy Hart, joined the students to share with them about the town’s famous namesake.

This expedition proved that there is great power in brainstorming and pulling upon our resources.  Teachers were able to network and build a truly one-of-a-kind learning experience.

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