Destin Elementary School gifted and technology education teacher Gail Smith has been challenging her 4th and 5th grade students for years with an interactive project that encompasses everything they've learned about energy sources over the past few months.
"They are required to study all of the energy sources," said Smith. "But they can choose which energy source — or sources — they want to display with their projects."
The idea behind the project is to create a new community powered only by renewable resources; geothermal, hydroelectric, solar energy, among others. Making their models completely out of second-hand items, the models — or energy-smart cities — had to include homes and various buildings, as any real community would.
Fourth graders Jadyn Gillard and Taylor Barnes, both 10, created the community of Terraville — a town that relied completely on hydroelectric energy and wind energy. The students equipped Terraville with floating wind turbines that would be beneficial for both wind energy and hydroelectric energy.
"If there’s a drought and the water source dries up, the wind turbines would still work so the homes and businesses would still have power," said Gillard.
The ladies told The Log they chose the name Terraville because "Terra" is both the Italian and French word for earth.
Presenting their projects to Smith, their parents, city council member Jim Foreman and even Destin's mayor Sam Seevers on May 23, the students had to defend their chosen energy source.
"There are advantages and disadvantages to everything," Smith said. She added that she wanted her students to know as much as possible about renewable energy sources.
Ten-year-olds Brody Miller and Gracie Chandler, both 4th graders, constructed the energy-savvy community of Emerald City. It was powered by wind energy, solar energy and hydroelectricity. Outfitting the rooftop of every building in the Emerald City with a solar panel allowed the sun’s energy to be amassed and turned into energy after running through a breaker.
Thinking ahead, Miller and Chandler put the many wind turbines on the outskirts of town because, according to Miller, the wind can get “pretty intense.”
Fourth graders Emma Jowers and Helena Small, both 10, created Our Green Town. Powered by solar energy and hydroelectricity, the team had the foresight to put the power lines on the ground, so in case of a natural disaster or emergency they would not be knocked down.
"We got the idea to put the power lines on the ground after someone from Gulf Power came to talk to our class about how dangerous power lines can be when they get knocked down," said Small.
Smith told The Log that she gave her students the necessary tools and building blocks needed for the project, but assembling the model and preparing their presentation was done mostly on their own time.
The consensus of the students was overwhelmingly unanimous; the project taught them a lot and it was also a lot of fun to work on.
"They did a nice job," said Smith. "They were informed and creative."