School news

Electrifying field trip ‘powers up’ student minds



Recently, Mrs. Wood-Sponsel, Social Studies teacher at Spring Branch Academic Institute (SBAI), set out to spark her students’ understanding of the energy infrastructure and how it is used to generate, transmit and distribute electricity through real-world experiences. Her goal was to help them better understand the systems in place that allow them to simply turn the lights on, while also introducing them to possible career pathways.  

Enter Richard Vaughan, senior vice president at Quanta Services, a construction engineering company that provides integrated infrastructure solutions for the electric power, underground utility and communications industries. 

Like Wood-Sponsel, Vaughan was also interested in helping give students insight into how Quanta Services connects people to the energy they need to live and how they can be part of that industry one day. 

Together, Wood-Sponsel and Vaughan organized a field trip where 35 SBAI sixth, seventh and eighth graders toured the Quanta Services Advanced Training Center, known as the Lazy Q Ranch, near La Grange, TX on Friday, Oct. 21. 

The center is a 2,500-acre ranch that has been converted to the most advanced training facility in the industry, where employees receive specialized training and skills to maintain the nation’s infrastructure. 

This was the first time a group of students had the opportunity to visit the facility.  SBAI is SBISD’s school for highly gifted children, and study trips like the Lazy Q Ranch support their school’s goal of delivering a world-class education for their students. 

“I am so grateful to Richard and Quanta Services for allowing our students to visit and learn about the energy industry,” said Wood-Sponsel. “At SBAI we strive to give students real-world experiences that expand their Limitless Curiosity. Field trips like this also help promote T-2-4 success.” 

Spring Branch ISD’s T-2-4 vision guides district teachers, schools and leadership as they work together to shape the future and ensure every SBISD graduate attains a technical certificate, military training or a two-year or four-year degree. 

The field trip kicked off with an introductory session where students had the opportunity to meet their tour guides and learn about Quanta Services and its role in the energy industry. Students were split into three groups and each took turns visiting stations, including the Underground Network, Distribution and Climbing Yard, the Quanta Energized Services Building and Test Lab and the Lazy Q Lineworkers Museum. 

“It is important for students to explore various careers and learn about systems in place from a young age,” said Vaughan. “When Mrs. Wood-Sponsel mentioned wanting to give her students a different experience, I knew Quanta Services could provide just that. We collaborated to organize the field trip and it was a success.” 

Wood-Sponsel, who was SBISD’s Secondary Teacher of the Year in 2020-21, visited the Lazy Q Ranch a month prior to the field trip to gather information and create materials for students to engage with during the different stations. 

Students were given activities to complete with a partner as they went through the stations. During the sessions, they learned about the history of linemen, electricity, how Quanta Services began and even got insight into the land they were on. 

At one of the stations students learned about cable splicing and the technical skills needed to work on underground power transmission lines. 

“I have learned about this before!” said Benjamin, a sixth grade student. “I remember learning about this in one of my science classes. It is interesting to see how it ties into electricity, but on such a big scale.” 

During the field trip, students learned about a wide variety of career paths including line work, engineering, pipeline construction, and managing a business.  

Experiences like this support SBISD’s Career and Technical Education (CTE), which provides challenging career pathways for all students utilizing real-world practices and evolving skill sets, attitudes and behaviors. CTE programs of study include Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, Architecture and Construction, Health Science and Hospitality and Tourism, among many others. 

“This was such a wonderful experience,” said Laura Ripple, ELA teacher at SBAI. “It is important for students to understand how energy is created and how we can turn on the lights in the morning. But it also gives them a better understanding of the different careers out there and how certifications can enhance their career pathways.” 

The field trip was made possible by a grant from the Spring Branch Education Foundation, which covered transportation to the facility. 

Patricia Kassir, Director of SBAI, expressed her gratitude to the SBEF, “We are grateful to the generosity of the SBEF in supporting the learning goals of our students. This type of experiential learning not only makes lessons more memorable, but also feeds our students’ intellectual curiosity, and opens their eyes to the possibilities out there.”

In the future, Wood-Sponsel hopes to take students on more field trips to further explore infrastructure. 

“This was an eye-opening experience for many of our students,” concluded Wood-Sponsel. “They learned so much! They will never look at a utility pole the same.”

View the full photo album of the field trip!