At least once a month, DTE Energy’s renewable energy team receives a request from a school, youth or community group to tour one of our renewable energy projects or to have one of our subject matter experts come and speak. One of the more creative approaches DTE has introduced for teaching elementary school students about renewable energy is a play, “Knowledge is Power,” which recently wrapped its spring tour.
The 40-minute, interactive play follows six characters who need to use renewable energy to open a secret box that is on the school’s property. The play’s characters include members of the clean and green team, Sunny, a solar-powered robot, and Dr. Gloom, an evil doctor who monitors the energy grid. The renewable energy team commissioned the play in 2016, and it has been performed at 25 elementary schools in Michigan over the past three years.
The play recently toured in mid-Michigan in communities adjacent to DTE’s Gratiot and Pine River wind parks, in Detroit schools bordering DTE’s O’Shea solar park, and at two schools in Grosse Ile. This year alone, more than 3,000 students will have seen the play.
“Our play is a creative way to teach younger students about renewable energy,” said Matt Wagner, renewable energy development manager. “Schools are central to neighborhoods because they involve layers of community members – teachers, school administrators, children and parents. Our hope is that these students and community members learn more about DTE and develop a better understanding of renewable energy, especially if we already have projects in their community or are looking at their community for future development.”
DTE’s renewable team members are also asked to visit classrooms frequently, and they use the opportunity to perform skills-based volunteering. Recently Jake Carney, renewable energy associate engineer in operations and maintenance, met with high school sophomores from the Henry Ford Early College – Advanced Manufacturing cohort, who wanted to learn more about renewable energy from someone who works in the industry. Students particularly enjoyed learning about wind energy generation – asking Jacob about DTE’s wind fleet performance, how our turbines perform in the cold weather and what a day in his life is like.
“Being in a classroom and sharing what I’m passionate about with students is fun,” said Jake. “The Henry Ford Early College students have a technical background, so we were able to have interesting conversations about how renewable energy is impacting our company and environment.”
The renewables team also works with an outside vendor, Plus One Meetings, who can provide presentations on renewable energy for schools and youth groups. At a recent visit to West Hills Middle School in West Bloomfield, fourth graders learned how DTE’s solar and wind parks generate energy and participated in hands-on activities that reinforced what they were learning in their energy unit.
“We strongly believe that our community education program supports the goals of our department,” said Dave Harwood, renewable energy director at DTE. “In addition, given the role that renewable energy will play in our generation portfolio moving forward, it is important that people learn more about how wind parks and solar farms benefit Michigan’s environment and its economy.”
DTE has been designing and building renewable energy projects in Michigan for more than a decade, and we are committed to being a force for good in the communities where we live and serve. Increasing generation from renewable resources like wind and solar is a key part of DTE’s plan to reduce carbon emissions by at least 80 percent by 2040.