Aug 28, 2017 by Chris Wood, Ph.D.

Susan Lee (center), PCWASA Division Manager of Operations, leads a tour of the Authority’s Rockaway Plant for teachers from Fayette County Public Schools.

When Fayette County Public Schools opened for business earlier this month, local teachers started the new academic year with fresh ideas on how to make curricula come to life, with the help of the Peachtree City Water and Sewerage Authority (PCWASA).

Prior to the start of this school year, the Authority hosted approximately 60 teachers for tours of the Rockaway Wastewater Treatment Facility, under the direction of Susan Lee, Division Manager of Operations, and Stephen Hogan, General Manager. The Rockaway Plant is adjacent to the Authority headquarters on Highway 74 in Peachtree City and an ideal site for experiential learning for local students.

Teachers toured the campus of the sequence batch reactor (SBR) plant, which has a permitted wastewater treatment capacity of 4 million gallons per day (MGD). The local educators received insights on the science and processes involved in wastewater treatment on site, in addition to how the Authority provides treated wastewater for irrigation of golf courses and recreational facilities nearby.

“I think there will be a lot of opportunities for our students to learn more about STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) curricula by visiting these (PCWASA) facilities,” says Rae Presley-King, Director of Secondary School Improvement and Professional Learning for Fayette County Public Schools. “By taking teachers on these types of field trips, we make their standards and curricula more relevant. It’s one thing to talk about the curricula, but it’s another to see it in action.”

According to Virginia Gibbs, Work-Based Learning Coordinator with Fayette County Public Schools, last year Superintendent Jody Barrow proposed an initiative to get teachers out in the community to see applications of their subject matter and to learn more about the business and civic resources at their disposal. As a result, a team led by Mark Henderson, Math Curricula Coordinator with Fayette County Schools, began to schedule coordinated “externships” for teachers to meet local business and community leaders by going onsite to their respective organizations.

The recent visit by teachers to PCWASA is an example of those externships in action, when teachers have a chance to get a better understanding of local business and industry, in addition to what’s going on professionally in the community and what jobs may be available to Fayette County students in the future.

“We want to bring teachers together and have them start focusing on how to bring the outside world into the classroom,” says Gibbs. “We have a weeklong summer program of ‘STEAM Tours’ and this (tour of the PCWASA Rockaway Plant) provided a great chance for teachers to see something they’ve never seen before.”

Gibbs notes that site visits such as the one at PCWASA get teachers going creatively and collaboratively, providing ideas for projects that students can pursue in class.
“We learned how people benefit every day from these (wastewater treatment) processes, and how this (PCWASA operations) is such a critical piece of our community,” says Gibbs.

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Chris Wood, Ph.D.
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