Students brainstormed ways they might further “green” their school, following the installation of solar panels, and decided to improve lighting efficiency in areas where the school was wasting money and emitting unnecessary carbon dioxide.
Students teamed up with their school’s custodian and a staff member of the nonprofit Efficiency Vermont to identify the school’s most inefficient lighting and to calculate replacement costs and benefits.
Students were introduced to service-learning, in part through the KIDS Consortium What Is It? game and then began gathering data on which bulbs were least efficient and what replacement bulbs might save in kilowatt hours. Students calculated potential energy savings and reduced carbon dioxide emissions, but still had a major challenge to implementing their solution: securing the necessary funding. While more efficient lighting could save the school $6,000 a year, there was a substantial up front investment of nearly $20,000.
Students decided to pursue several avenues of support, including a grant application to Efficiency Vermont and a request for help from the school district maintenance board. Five small student groups worked on different facets of a PowerPoint presentation for the board, which highlighted potential electricity savings and reduced carbon dioxide emissions. “I was so impressed with how the kids listened to each other and offered great insight into decision-making,” reflects their teacher Wendy Moore. “Having the groups share information or work they’d done at the beginning of every class gave them a sense of unity and helped them see the big picture.”
Senator Bernie Sanders presented a Green Community Award from the Waterbury Local Energy Action Partnership
Their presentation convinced the board, and the students took great satisfaction in seeing the bulbs replaced later that year. Students plan to monitor the performance of the newly installed lighting during their eighth-grade year. They presented their project at several conferences and public events.
Students’ reflections confirmed their mastery of the prescribed curriculum content and their great satisfaction in making a difference.