Anything But Elementary
Tour of Apache Generating Stations gives young students a first-hand look at producing power
Apache Generating Station doubled as a classroom last month for nine students from Coronado and Palominas elementary schools. Enrolled in the GATE (Gifted And Talented Education) program, the students toured Apache as part of a lesson about electricity.
“The students have been learning a lot about energy. They’ve been learning a lot about battery power. They’ve been learning about how energy is created, sources of electricity, basic circuits all the way up to some more complex circuits,” said Lisa Marie Satterfield, GATE teacher for the students.
“The students had also learned that in Arizona most of our electricity comes from coal and gas.” Satterfield said that it’s important for the students to see all kinds of generation in action. “It’s really wonderful. It’s great to be able to have this opportunity to come and bring these kids here,” she said.
Mike Nelson, executive director of power production, led the group on a tour of Apache that included the ground floor and basement area, deck nine, the burner front, the control room, and the turbine enclosure areas. The tour provided firsthand experience on how coal and natural gas are burned to convert water into superheated steam that turns the turbine and generator to create electricity. He opened a porthole on the burner deck so students could see the boiler tubes, the fireball inside the boiler, and better understand how a negative draft furnace operates.
“I learned a lot, actually. I never knew that so much had to go into that, or that so much more had to go into that,” said Jon Benton, a seventh grade student from Palominas Elementary School. “The most interesting was definitely the furnace. That was cool. The generators and all of those were also interesting.”
“Going up that high” was noteworthy to Erin Posey, in seventh grade at Coronado Elementary School, in reference to the boiler deck that is nine stories high. “Because it was fun. You don’t normally get to go up that high,” she added. But she also recognized the importance of understanding how electricity is generated from a variety of different sources that range across coal, natural gas, wind and solar.
“Because if you don’t even know that in your life, you’re just going to be sitting there, not knowing,” she explained. And if something happens, she said that those who don’t understand how electricity is generated will only be able to ask, “Why is this happening?”
The class finished their visit with a pizza lunch in the conference room at Apache Station. They discussed what they saw and asked questions.
Satterfield said that while the group might have seemed young and somewhat reserved about what they saw, being exposed to the reality of large-scale electricity generation can have a significant impact on what they think and what they decide to explore in the future.
“Even though some things may be above their head, they may spark an interest in learning for later,” she said.