Physics students at Columbus Signature Academy New Tech High School learn about electricity, magnetism, power and energy.
But the lessons do not stop there.
Physics teacher Gail Nowels said she is always looking for real-life applications for the skills students learn in the classroom.
So for two years, she has taken a group of students to New Orleans to help rewire homes still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
Ethan Crough, executive director of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Foundation, said it is that type of project that has earned Nowels recognition from the New Tech Network — and from the foundation.
Nowels was awarded the 2014 Innovation Award, which is in honor of the late longtime educator Ross Wallace.
The $500 award is administered through the school foundation and goes to an individual in the BCSC district who has an impact on the life of students.
The Building Community Bridges Across the Mississippi project included 50 physics students, 30 Principles of Engineering students and 30 hospitality students from Columbus, as well as students from the Satellite Center in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana.
The Columbus students spent their entire spring break working on New Orleans homes while building relationships.
Crough said Nowels’ project stood out because it provided multiple opportunities for service learning, was authentic by design, was multifaceted in content and involved multiple schools.
“She is an amazing teacher, and she is an inspiration to all those around her,” Crough said.
Nowels said her own inspiration is finding a way to have an effect on the world.
“It’s fun having the community connection,” she said. “Are the students doing something bigger than themselves? Are they giving back in some way? I like it to have some piece that’s a community connection.”