After a visit from staff of the Maine Energy Education Program (MEEP), the eighth-grade class at Pemetic Elementary School decided to investigate how the school and area residents could reduce energy consumption.
With help from a College of the Atlantic intern, students conducted an energy audit using hand-held meters to measure the lighting throughout the school. Their data showed that most areas were lit at higher-than-recommended levels. Students asked the school custodian to replace incandescent bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescent ones in a number of hallways, bathrooms, and classrooms.
After investigating the potential benefits and costs of energy reduction measures, students brainstormed other strategies that might benefit the environment and the school. They calculated that the school could save $1,800 annually in energy costs by converting its continually-lit exit signs from incandescent bulbs to LEDs. With a mini-grant from MEEP and a financial bonus that Efficiency Maine provided for each sign that was replaced, the students determined that the school could convert without up-front cost. They presented their plan to the School Board, which readily lent unanimous support to the sign replacement. LED signs were installed.
To lower energy use in the larger community, the class also produced a video featuring “Ten Top Energy-saving Tips.” Students also launched a “Reduce the Use Challenge” that encouraged students and teachers to lower their home energy consumption. Through the school year, the class graphed the household KWH per month (from electric company bills) of eleven school staff members. All the households successfully cut energy consumption by instituting measures such as air-drying laundry and turning off lights.
Throughout the project, students gained experience gathering and analyzing data, discussing options and challenges, and working collaboratively. “I love science,” once student observed, “because we do real work in our school and community.”