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Educating duo all about energy
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All it takes for two women to teach children about energy is a rubber band, with some humor and creativity mixed in.

Mary Nix demonstrates potential energy by stretching out a rubber band.

As her character, Petunia Garner, she lets go of it to show kinetic energy.

"I shoot the boys in the hiney with it," she said.

"Or her business partner in the head," said Denise Carleton with a laugh.

Carleton and Nix form Reaping Nature Productions, an educational company that teaches younger children about the environment and how to protect it.

The duo brought one of their programs, "All About Energy," to the Sawnee Mountain Preserve Visitor Center on Saturday.

Carrie Toth, program supervisor at the center, said the class is a good fit with the mission of Forsyth County Parks and Recreation’s outdoor division.

"We try to teach the community about conservation," she said.

For Carleton and Nix, this was one of many performances at a variety of places since forming their company in 2008.

The two met at Daves Creek Elementary, where both volunteered for years.

A friend suggested Carleton’s Green Team and Nix’s popular character, Petunia Garner, join forces.

"It’s so special that we really felt and saw a need to bring it to other children," Carleton said. "We both believe learning should be fun, and that’s what Petunia does for our company."

From little funny tidbits that brighten up a long string a facts to a song at the end of each performance, "humor and color" are important parts in how each class runs, Nix said.

The energy program will feature a humorous poem, some hands-on stations and lots of mooing.

"We believe a whole lot in any programs that we put on to make it very interactive," she said. "We get the kids involved in it and ... they actually respond very well to it and seem to want to learn a little bit more about it."

Along with the energy program, the two also have programs on water and recycling, among others, all of which focus on environmental issues.

"We simply present the facts to kids and want them to make their own decisions so that at least a segment of green behavior might become a staple in their lives," Nix said.

The energy class, like many of their programs, is aimed at teaching elementary school-aged children.

"If we teach them at this young age, it’s a seed planted that they’ll carry with them," Carleton said.

Adults often benefit from the performances as well, she added, recalling feedback from parents on how they learned something new.

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