HCWA Presents Program at NSTA Conference
Last summer, the HCWA hosted approximately 20 science teachers from Henry County Schools for four days of “Rain to Drain” workshops, introducing them to water professionals and facilities that might be of interest to their students.
The success of this public education program resulted in an invite for the Authority to present ‘how to’ insights on Rain to Drain workshops to members of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA).
During the NSTA National Conference held recently at the Georgia World Congress Center, the HCWA’s “Rain to Drain” presentation was among the more than 1,200 educational sessions – from topics such as STEM curricula, 3-D learning, technology solutions, student engagement techniques, and much more – for every science teacher and administrator in attendance.
HCWA employees Tara Brown, David Farmer, Lindsey Sanders, and Zeb Brown, presented insights on each of the four topics from the inaugural Rain to Drain workshops. The Authority staff noted that teachers received information and tours of facilities and operations, as well as lesson plan ideas on: (1) Water Treatment (at the HCWA Tussahaw Plant), (2) Wastewater Treatment (at the HCWA Walnut Creek Plant), (3) Engineering (at the HCWA Engineering Annex at the Authority’s Headquarters), and (4) Outdoor Education (at the HCWA Cubihatcha Outdoor Education Center in Locust Grove).
The Authority partnered with the Henry County Board of Education to pull off the Rain to Drain workshops last year, so representatives from Henry County Schools joined the HCWA delegation at the NSTA Conference. Heather Toliver, Science Teacher on Special Assignment for Henry County Middle and High Schools, and Jennifer Burton, Science Teacher on Special Assignment for Henry County Elementary Schools, assisted with the presentation, since they are advocates of the program who were instrumental in promoting the Rain to Drain workshops among their peers.
“This (NSTA) conference was a great forum to share our Rain to Drain experience with other educators at both a state and regional level,” says Burton. “The group of educators who attended the Rain to Drain session were very enthusiastic about our program and were interested in beginning a similar program in their area.”
“I truly believe conferences like NSTA are an important part of the professional development process for teachers, because they get to experience new things and collaborate with their peers from around the nation, which is why our opportunity to share our collaboration together was so powerful,” says Toliver. “I said in our session that we just want to plant a seed to inspire other educators to do the same thing in their communities and raise awareness of the work of those in the water industry, while promoting science.”
Tara Brown, HCWA Environmental Compliance Coordinator who organized the Rain to Drain workshops for the Authority, noted that the NSTA Conference Presentation was a great opportunity for water professionals to remind educators of the wonderful resources a water utility has available for experiential learning for students of all ages.
“The purpose of our presentation at the NSTA conference was to share insights on how to put on similar workshops in other communities, while encouraging teachers from all over the country to look into partnerships with their respective water utilities to see how STEM curricula for students applies so naturally to what we do as water professionals on a daily basis,” says Brown.
Brown also notes that according to the feedback and evaluations received from the NSTA Conference attendees, Rain to Drain workshops may indeed begin to be implemented in school systems outside of Henry County.
NSTA conferences offer the latest in science content, teaching strategy, and research to enhance and expand the professional growth for teachers. It is a unique opportunity for collaboration among leaders in science education and their peers. Each year, NSTA hosts a National Conference on Science Education in the spring, followed by three regional conferences in the fall, along with a STEM Forum & Expo.
Chris Wood, Ph.D.