ANSONVILLE — Justin Jones helps his class blow up pumpkins, create fire tornadoes and burn butane bubbles — all in the name of science. This summer, Jones will intern with Pee Dee Electric to learn about aspects of working in electricity to take what he learns back to the classroom.
Jones, a fourth- and fifth-grade science teacher at Ansonville Elementary School, was one of more than 130 applicants to apply for the fellowship. Only 41 teachers in the state were selected, and Jones became the first teacher from Anson County to receive a Kenan Fellowship since the program began in 2000, according to Amneris Solano, communications manager for the Kenan Fellows Program.
The fellowship, offered through the Kenan Fellows Program for Curriculum and Leadership Development, gives fellows a chance to learn about science, technology, engineering and math fields.
Program fellows will work with different companies from a variety of fields. Jones will intern with Pee Dee Electric through a fellowship sponsored by Pee Dee Electric and North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives.
The program will begin with a week of professional development training through the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching at the PA Institute. Jones will then intern with Pee Dee Electric for three weeks this summer before completing another week of professional development training in Raleigh in October. This fall, he will take what he learned and integrate it into lesson plans to pass on his knowledge to his students.
“The real focus for the Kenan Fellows Program is to prepare teachers to prepare students for the real world through hands-on experience with actual companies,” Jones said. “This isn’t just theoretical aspects, but real-world application that we can take back to students.”
Jones will continue to work with his mentors at Pee Dee Electric after the internship throughout the year-long program. Representatives from the electric company may visit the classroom to speak to the class.
The teacher said he wants to learn about the various aspects of working with the company — from engineering and planning to customer service — to help his students learn.
“That’s one thing we really talked about — the concept of if you buy property and want to run power to it, what are all the processes that go into that,” Jones said.
Jones said he is still working out his schedule and internship specifics with Pee Dee Electric, and that he was going to complete his students’ testing before finalizing details. He said he may see the solar farm and potentially other sites with a focus on renewable energy.
“Something I try to really stress in this is a real-world approach to learning science,” Jones said. “I think getting that real-world approach this summer will be extremely valuable. The question you always hear from kids is, ‘How will I use this?’ And when you can take that back and say, ‘This is how you will use it in the real world,’ that’s always valuable to them.”
Jones already uses a hands-on approach in his classroom. His YouTube channel, Epic Science, documents some of his class experiments and is available to watch at youtube.com/epicscience.
In the videos, Jones demonstrates making dish soap, water and butane bubbles catch fire, exploding pumpkins that were carved and filled with calcium carbide, using calcium carbide in water to light flammable gas to make a container of water look like it caught on fire and more. He explains the chemical reactions as he performs the experiments with the students’ assistance.
Jones is a third-year teacher at Ansonville Elementary. Originally from Winston-Salem, he now lives in Locust. He began at Ansonville as a student teacher while completing his degree at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His adviser was from Wadesboro and recommended the position to him. After he got his degree, the school principal called him and offered him a position.
To apply for the fellowship, Jones had to complete an online application, submit two referrals from the school principal and a fellow teacher and interview with representatives from Pee Dee Electric and the Kenan Fellows program.
“It was kind of extensive, but I think it will definitely be a rewarding experience,” he said.
On top of the internship, mentoring and 80 hours of professional development, Jones will receive a $5,000 stipend, according to a press release from the Kenan Fellows program.
The program began in 2000 through the Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology and Science at N.C. State University.
To learn more about the program, visit kenanfellows.org.
Reach reporter Imari Scarbrough at 704-994-5471 and follow her on Twitter @ImariScarbrough.