HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (May 4, 2022) — Third grade science, technology, engineering, arts and math students from Union Elementary, Sumner County magnet school, participated in Environmental Awareness Day at Old Hickory Dam.
The group of approximately 80 children, accompanied by 20 chaperones and five teachers, arrived bright and early for their walk through of the hydropower facility and were divided into three groups, which took turns visiting the powerplant, lock and dam, and playground area.
“Here at the Nashville District, we really want to give the kids a unique look at the Corps of Engineer and some of the science and technology that goes on behind the scenes, and tie that into their education and real-life experience,” said Project Manager Capt. Brian Sekita.
Old Hickory Powerplant personnel and park rangers ensured the children seamlessly moved from one event to the next, answering any questions they had along the way.
“We have presenters here helping with educational presentations so the kids can learn about water quality at Old Hickory Lake,” said Natural Resource Park Ranger Emily Johnson. “We have participants from the state of Tennessee, as well as the city of Hendersonville, here to see what goes on around the lake.”
The children attended an outdoor hydropower system class where they viewed a miniature town replica, which sustained different levels of replicated rainfall showing the impact rain has on a town if there are no water management structures in place to prevent the free flow of water.
“My favorite part was the little dam because it was fun to see the tiny houses get washed away with water, but I’m sure it’s not as fun when it’s big houses getting wet in real life,” said STEAM student Gunner Kingrey.
David Withers, a biologist from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, explained how salamanders are affected by the environment and their importance to the ecosystem. The children viewed live salamanders up close learned about their carnivore diets.
STEAM student Liam Sporin said his favorite part of the day was getting to learn about salamanders. “I want to be a marine biologist when I grow up, so I was excited to see amphibians here today,” he said.
Liam, whose father works at the powerplant, said he’s proud of his dad and the hard work he does at the powerplant.
“I am so glad my class got to come here and see where my dad works. We got to see places in the powerplant I hadn’t seen before,” said Liam.
Power Plant Senior Electronics Mechanic Nathan Sporin coordinated the field trip with Union Elementary as a way to give future engineers a look at how hydropower and STEAM go hand in hand.
“As the father of one of the children on this field trip, I’m proud to stand with all our team and show my son the important work that we all do each day, the amazing facilities and resources that we have guardianship of, and the incredible individuals I get to work with daily,” said Sporin.
“It was pretty impressive how much these children knew about hydropower and the questions they asked showed a deep interest in the topics we were covering with them,” said Civil Engineer Gabe Wagner.
Johnson said it was a great experience having such a large group visit Old Hickory facilities, and now that COVID restrictions have changed, she hopes more field trips like this happen soon.
“It's great that we get to do this because we don't normally, as a park ranger, this is not usually what we do here at Old Hickory, our jobs are a bit different,” Johnson said, “So, it's nice that we get to come out and do this and count it as our Environmental Awareness Day.”
The Nashville District hopes to conduct more STEAM tours in the near future to give students thinking of entering the STEAM job field a look at potential job opportunities.
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)