Mining for education
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Luminant Energy recently contributed $28,000 to fund a two-week SFA workshop for East Texas teachers. Pictured are, from left, Dr. Alan Sowards, elementary education professor; Dr. Hans Williams, Regents Professor of forestry; Sid Walker; Robert R. Gentry, Luminant Academy curriculum director; Dr. Baker Pattillo, SFA president; Dr. Janice Pattillo, chair of elementary education; Jerri Jones, district director for Rep. Wayne Christian; and Mel Finkenberg, chair of kinesiology and health science.

Outfitted with yellow hardhats, safety glasses, ear plugs and reflective vests, the 20-person crew arrived at the front gate of Luminant Energy's Martin Lake lignite mine near Carthage seeking answers.

Though heavy June rains had slowed plant operations and muddy roads prevented a scheduled close-up view of the dragline, the resilient group was determined to learn all it could that day about the process of producing energy from coal.

The inquisitive visitors peppered Luminant officials with questions throughout the tour and will take the answers along with their personal experiences back to their classrooms this fall.

The field trip was one of the highlights of a two-week SFA workshop for East Texas teachers titled "Energy, Economics and the Environment." Luminant contributed $28,000 to fund the workshop, which also included a visit to a nearby power plant. The annual training is designed for elementary and secondary science teachers to learn more about the power generation process while emphasizing environmental stewardship and the importance of alternative energy sources.

"Luminant strongly believes in the benefits of education and is proud to support programs that help teachers explain the important role of energy in our country even better to students," said Dirk Hughes, director of Luminant's employee focused continuing-education center, Luminant Academy.

"Providing continuing education to our state's educators is a powerful way of ensuring that knowledge is shared with our youth."

The workshop was led by Dr. Alan Sowards, professor of elementary education in SFA's James I. Perkins College of Education. Many of the East Texas teachers who participated in the workshop are SFA alumni, including Kenna Patton '95, a seventh-grade science teacher at Van Junior High School. She said she is looking forward to sharing what she learned at the workshop with her students in the coming school year.

"We talk a lot in seventh grade about renewable resources and protecting the environment, and this workshop has given me a lot of ideas for hands-on activities I can take back to my kids to help them better understand some of the subjects I'm teaching," she said.

The teachers participated in classes led by Luminant Academy instructors and received three hours of graduate credit upon completion of the workshop. Many in the group are pursuing post-graduate degrees at SFA.

"The success of this workshop is due in large part to the interest and commitment of the talented educators who dedicate their time to learning more about energy and our environment," said Robert Gentry, Luminant Academy curriculum manager. "The rest of the credit goes to our experienced employees who share their knowledge and time, ultimately making the workshop possible."

Deanna Greene, a chemistry teacher at Hallsville High School, said seeing first-hand how coal is mined and used to make energy for everyday comforts like lights and air conditioning helps her explain the concepts to her students.

"Not only do we get to see how this all works for ourselves, but we are also learning ways to integrate these ideas into our lesson plans, and students are always interested in seeing how things work in the real world," she said.

As Texas' largest power generator, Luminant is committed to improving the environment through cleaner, more efficient energy and consistent, measurable environmental stewardship. Teachers at the workshop were briefed on the company's award-winning land reclamation and forest management programs, which also are of interest to researchers in SFA's Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture.

SFA is fortunate to have corporate partners like Luminant, as such relationships are extremely beneficial to both parties. Corporate partners recruit our graduates, gain exposure through campus programs such as the energy workshop and have access to the most current research by our faculty and grad students. Learn more about supporting SFA academic programs. >


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