Faculty & Staff Partnership – learning electricity from an expert

Frequent contributor Colin Fredericks provides yet another view of how we create learning opportunities in our classrooms using our own expert staff.

One of the best things about teaching at Hyde is how our faculty and staff support each other. The support can be professional, it can be emotional, or it can be, simply knowing that you have the right person for the job. Let me give a recent example.

Last week my “Explorations in the Sciences” course was focused on electricity. We took apart small electronic devices, learned about static electricity, and saw lightning bolts in slow motion. Since one focus of the Explorations course is the science of everyday things, I wanted to end the week with a discussion of household electricity.

This brought me to a conundrum. I consider myself an expert on electrical charge and current at the fundamental level, but the application of that to household wiring and electrical safety isn’t always easy. In other words, I can talk about a Van de Graaf* generator or electromagnetic fields with confidence, but I’ll have somebody else rewire my bathroom. It is strange how specialized we all can be.

Luckily, Hyde has an expert in electricity and electrical safety on staff: Gary Giambattista, the head of our Facilities department, has been working with wiring for over 30 years. Gary jumped on the opportunity to teach a class, and really came in prepared: he brought switches, fuses, wire testers, and even a transformer block for the students to pass around and look at. He emphasized the need for caution in dealing with electrical devices and talked about why schools are so strict when it comes to wiring in student rooms. The students recognized his skill and experience. They had a lot of questions for him, and seemed to really appreciate his presence.

Now they know, as I do: when you want it done right, go to an expert.

*For more information on Van de Graaf’s generator, go to: http://education.jlab.org/glossary/vandegraaff.html