WALLENPAUPACK - An alien’s dangerous use of electricity was the basis for a lesson last week. At the Wallenpaupack North Intermediate School, students learned about electricity and how it is relevant to their lives through the theatrical performance of “Agents of Safety.”
PPL Electric Utilities sponsored the show, where Regional Affairs Director Alana Roberts told the students the company has nearly one million poles and enough wire to go around the earth three times.
Because aliens were “creating electrical safety havoc” Roberts explained, actors Allison Nissley and Shawn Murphy from the National Theatre for Children had to investigate who the culprits were and stop them.
Through the performance, Roberts said PPL wanted the children to get an idea of what electricity is and how conductors are just a few components needed since it’s a part of their everyday lives.
Before seeking out the bad alien, Nissley explained to the students that electricity starts with energy that makes things work. To that, Murphy asked about jelly donuts, chocolate pudding and even grilled cheese sandwiches, which the kids laughed at his questions.
Instead, Nissley informed Murphy that electricity is generated in power plants, where fuels such as coal, oil or natural gas are burned to bring water to a boil and the steam turns a turbine that is attached to a large fan with a magnet surrounded by cooper wires, which makes the turbine spin creating electricity. Or, running water can make electricity which is also known as hydropower. Then, bringing the lesson home to the kids, Nissley said once the electricity is made it travels through power lines to utility poles and goes to homes, schools and businesses.
As the bad alien, Murphy showed an overloaded surge protector, and explained how dangerous it was, while also informing the students how his “evil boss” sent him to earth where he stole “dangerous high voltage” signs that tell people to “stay away” from transformers or substations.
But, as an agent of Safety Incorporated, Nissley informed the Murphy how electricity can be dangerous because thousands of people are hurt every year or killed by electricity even though, it’s used to power computers, ipads and other electronics.
Wires found in a home, are covered with rubber Nissley said, to protect people from the flow of electricity, but sometimes they get frayed and worn so they should not be touched. Because water is a great conductor of electricity, it means that “water and electricity don’t mix” so electronics such as hairdryers or ipads should not be used near water. Or, electrical devices shouldn’t be turned on, when hands are wet.
By plugging too many plugs into an outlet, Nissley said sparks could be created or a fire and so, only one plug should be plugged into an outlet. Knives, screwdrivers, fingers and such should not go into outlets as well, because metals and the body are good conductors of electricity.
If they were to see powerlines on the ground, people should “stay far away” said Nissley because they may still have electricity flowing through them. If there are “danger high voltage signs” people must stay away, especially when found on transformers or substations.
As the show went on, the students were quite receptive to the performers, laughing and responding when able. Nissley said relaying this message is “very fulfilling” because she is able to present the arts while also telling an important message, which is important because some kids don’t learn about how to be safe around electricity.
After the show, Roberts said PPL has tried to reach every elementary school in the company’s service territory with this show, which means 65,000 elementary school students saw the performance.
Twice a year NTC visits the region from Minnesota to share the message of what electricity is, how its made and why it needs to be used safely. PPL hosts the show Roberts said, because safety is the company’s “top priority” for employees and the communities served since it can be “dangerous” despite it being used every day.
While the National Theather for Children created the storyline, Roberts said PPL decided what concepts needed to be told through the performance, such as how electricity is generated or distributed, the dangers and more. Although students learn about electricity in school, the show gives the information “more context.”
Through the show, Roberts said the realization of what electricity is and the importance of safety presented together have potential to save lives.