EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Wisconsin Public Service linesman Jessie McDonald demonstrates why you should stay in a car if you have been in accident involving a power pole with live power lines with Sue Zahorik and Beth Meyers’ sixth-grade classes Wednesday at Wausaukee High School. By staying in the car, you don’t let your body conduct electricity when touching the ground.
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard

Wisconsin Public Service linesman Jessie McDonald demonstrates why you should stay in a car if you have been in accident involving a power pole with live power lines with Sue Zahorik and Beth Meyers’ sixth-grade classes Wednesday at Wausaukee High School. By staying in the car, you don’t let your body conduct electricity when touching the ground.

WAUSAUKEE — Wausaukee Elementary School’s sixth-grade classes were treated to Wisconsin Public Works’ Path to Ground presentation Wednesday. The program’s aim is to teach students the basics of electrical safety.

The Path to Ground program’s name comes from the nature of electricity to seek the fastest route possible to the ground through conductive material — including the human body, which is made up of about 50 to 60 percent water, making it a great electrical conductor. Through the presentation, students learn how to avoid becoming a path to the ground for electricity to pass through by respecting all caution signs, always calling the utility company before digging, assuming all wires are energized and never climbing near power lines for any reason.

As a part of the presentation, students are shown small-scale demonstrations of what can happen if, for instance, a kite being flown by someone gets caught on a power line, or what can happen if a person digging a hole strikes a buried utility wire. WPS presenters run an electric current through a diorama, and electricity crackles and sparks through the models as they come in contact with the current.

Students also spent time learning what to do if they’re in a car that strikes a utility pole and comes in contact with the wires. Many of the students’ questions revolved around this point, and WPS linesman Jessie McDonald gave them the advice to, in general, “stay in the car and wait for the utility company to get there. They know best when it’s safe to get out.”

Sue Zahorik, one of the sixth-grade teachers in attendance with her class, said that WPS has been presenting Path to Ground for at least as long as the school has been there. “At least 15 or 20 years, before I even taught here,” she said.

She also said that, in her opinion, the most valuable advice her students receive from the program is the advice dealing with electrical safety in the home. “The advice about appliances near water and the metal fork in the toaster, things involving daily life. The car safety things are intriguing, and they could happen, but the more immediate things deal with the home.”

Ashley, one of Zahorik’s sixth-graders, said that her favorite part of the presentation was the use of actual electricity to demonstrate what can happen if proper precautions aren’t taken. “We wouldn’t know exactly what would happen if they didn’t use the model to show us,” she said.

As part of the presentation, McDonald also passed around chunks of glass which were made from a live wire coming in contact with sand for an extended period of time to show how hot the wires can get with a current moving through them. Several of Ashley’s classmates said that getting to hold the glass was a highlight for them as well.

WPS will continue presenting the Path to Ground program in Marinette and Oconto county schools throughout January.