Education and Engagement

Connecting with Our Community

At the gateway to Holland on Chicago Drive is Holland Energy Park with its iconic red spine. Inside the spine, you’re likely to find a group of middle schoolers exploring the Visitor Center to learn about energy and electricity. Down the street, you may also find a group of college students getting up close and personal with the new anaerobic digester on a tour of the Water Reclamation Facility. Even further down the road toward Lake Michigan, 2nd graders may be watching a filter backwash and learning how they can use water wisely at the Water Treatment Plant.

During its first year in operation, the Visitor Center at HEP hosted about 600 school-aged children. Fast forward to 2023, and Holland BPW has hosted 1,500 students from January to November 2023 between all three of our facilities with more field trips on the books. With the help of plant superintendents and staff, teacher and student feedback, and existing partnerships with local organizations, Holland BPW has expanded educational programming beyond the HEP visitor center to give the community a glance at the wide variety of work we do at Holland BPW.

Making Education A Priority

Through growing education programs, Holland BPW creates awareness about the work they do so people have a better understanding of how their utility serves their community. Utilities provide essential services like power and water and creating awareness means community members better understand how Holland BPW makes informed decisions about services that affect them every day. Plus, learning about essential infrastructure inspires interest in utility-related careers.

Holland BPW continues to foster partnerships with local school districts that focus on creating career-ready students. Two examples of these partnerships are Hamilton’s Prep4Success and Careerline Tech Center’s futurePREP’d program. Both programs aim to offer students the opportunity to explore future career possibilities and experience solving real-world business problems. Through work-based learning, students build skills that will prepare them for the future workforce.

“We, at OAISD in the futurePREP’d Program, absolutely value our connection to Holland BPW”, says futurePREP’d Program Developer Nicole Gitler. “Our students have been able to work on authentic challenges with employees of BPW. They have been able to practice their Design Thinking skills and put them to the test. [Holland BPW] has been a gift to our educators and students across the area. From providing quality lessons, giving tours, coordinating panels of experts, and providing support for authentic learning, the BPW has helped prepare students for the next step – not only are students better prepared, but local educators get tools and resources to make their classrooms better from BPW. We are fortunate to be part of this partnership.”

Connecting Through Field Trips

Along with increasing participation in local districts’ career programs, the demand for field trips also increases as teachers look to bring their students out of the classroom and into the real world. When students engage in real experiences, they make life-long connections to the world around them. Due to this demand, Holland BPW created over ten structured field trips across its three facilities. Created with state curriculum and Next Generation Science Standards in mind, the field trips are designed not only to allow students to experience a working facility but also to offer hands-on games, crafts, or activities that ignite a sense of exploration and play.

Through field trips, community events, and partnerships with local schools, Holland BPW has become an essential resource to teachers and the community. “We look forward to continuing to expand these opportunities to foster a greater understanding of the important work we do,” said Ashley Day, Education and Visitor Programs Specialist. “Our education programs and partnerships have created a tremendous opportunity to connect with customers, students, and teachers in a whole new way.” These unique experiences increase utility awareness from an early age which will encourage, and hopefully inspire, future generations to engage with their local utilities.

Next Article: Improving Energy Efficiency through Education  〉