To some, a place cleaning up radioactive waste might not be a place to take children to learn about protecting the environment, but a program at Savannah River Site does that to offer real-world perspectives.
The SRS Technology Enrichment Program brings students and teachers together with scientists on the site from the U.S. Department of Energy, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions and the U.S. Forest Service. Also participating are the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center and the National Audubon Society.
The classes, which typically last two to three hours, focus on sharpening decision-making skills by using environmental issues.
What the kids seem to remember is the hands-on learning and the critters.
“The kids love insects, animals and a chance to get their hands dirty, especially the younger students,” said Kim Mitchell, the SRNS coordinator for the program. “It’s rewarding to see that look on their face when they discover something new or observe something fascinating during hands-on activities.”
During a recent visit of 100 students from Aiken Elementary School, student Naliah Brown said she came away with a better understanding of the water cycle.
“And I learned that we need to protect things in nature like bugs and animals and keep our water safe, too, not to harm it,” she said.
The programs are designed to enhance math and science curricula and compliment what students are already being tought.
“Teachers jump at the chance for their students to take a trip here because of the unbeatable, hands-on lessons presented by interesting and knowledgeable RPSEC instructors,” said Kim Parrish, a fourth-grade teacher at Aiken Elementary. “Students’ curious spirits are truly intrigued as they spend time ‘powering down’ and exploring the great outdoors. The trip was well worth every second.”