Two local schools win $5,000 grants through the PECO Natural Gas Safety Challenge

PECO recently recognized two Bucks County elementary schools with $5,000 grants for their student-created videos bringing PECO’s natural gas safety messaging to life. Part of PECO’s Natural Gas Safety Challenge, these winning videos highlighted important steps to take when smelling the distinctive rotten-egg odor of a potential natural gas leak.

PECO delivers natural gas via underground mains in Philadelphia’s four suburban Pennsylvania counties to 548,000 customers.

PECO piloted the safety video contest this winter with elementary schools in its natural gas service area. The goal was to raise awareness about natural gas safety among young people by engaging educators, students and families.

Students at Afton Elementary in Yardley recorded a live-action video of a chant-based dance routine.

Afton Elementary – Yardley

K-5 SPARK (STEM) Teacher Kristin Slota and Kindergarten Teacher Emily Kopchinski (co-advisors for the Green Team/The Environmental Protectors’ Club) challenged the after-school club to find a creative way to communicate and share the message, Scoot. Run. Bolt. Flee…

First, they taught the “Gas Smells Like Rotten Eggs” safety chant to their fifth-grade leaders, who then taught it to members in the younger grades, demonstrating how important it is to spread the word that gas leaks can be dangerous and require prompt action.

Then, the entire club (about 30 students from the third to fifth grades) created and choreographed a live-action video, acting out each step. Showing their video at a school-wide assembly to about 500 students helped spread this important safety message even further.

“We learned how important it is to spread the word about detecting a leak and taking immediate action,” said Slota. “This was a memorable experience for all of the students, and it helps them to remember that natural gas leaks need prompt attention when noticed.”

If you smell gas, leave immediately and call 800-841-4141.

Slota said the funds would be used to purchase items for the club’s community outreach events, purchase tools for gardening, gloves and bags for community cleanups, kits for hands-on learning about energy and conservation. “The kids would also like to use the money for litter cleanup, better trash receptacles in our cafeteria and to try to promote other kids to dispose of trash and recyclables better. She said the kids have big ideas, like composting and maybe even solar panels of some sort. “The last one is a big ask,” she added, “but it is what they want!”

J.M. Grasse Elementary – Sellersville

At the J.M. Grasse Elementary School in Sellersville, Gifted Support and STEM teacher Chelsea Lewis presented the challenge to students in her Advanced Challenge and Enrichment (ACE) classroom. “I’ve been teaching my classes to use the Stop Motion Studio app,” Lewis said, “they’ve enjoyed it. I knew this would be a good creative challenge for them as well as being very eye catching.”

Students at J.M. Grasse Elementary used clay-animation/stop-motion techniques to create their winning video.

After learning the safety message, the class discussed how they could share the concept using clay animation/stop-motion video. Using Playdough and other classroom items, they got to work. The video took about four weeks to produce – including building the objects, photographing them at each step, then editing it all together.

“Before, when [the students] thought of a gas leak [they] thought it was like the liquid gas we use to power our cars,” said Lewis. “[they] learned that natural gas that we use in our homes is not a liquid and it’s invisible. Now we know what kind of smells to look out for and exactly what number to call in an emergency.”

Not only did they learn the meticulous process of clay animation and stop-motion video, but they also began to understand how to detect a potential natural gas leak and what to do about it – and why it’s important to share that information.

The students have big plans for using the $5,000 grant. “We wanted to do something that would benefit the whole school,” she said, adding that J. M. Grasse is home to the district’s Emotional Support Program. “This is a unique and special part of our school and community. Having more flexible seating and other sensory management tools is beneficial to all students, but especially our beloved emotional support kids.”

Lewis added the students would also like to obtain more resources for the school’s STEM lab, including building materials, robotics kits, and technology-based design tools for projects that increase students’ math and science skills.