In conjunction with their energy curriculum (and meeting state standards for skills of inquiry), eighth graders sought to reduce the “vampire energy” being sucked by school electronics and lights that were not in use. They developed an awareness campaign to help lower the school’s carbon footprint, ecological impact and financial expenditures.
Students began their inquiry with explorations in the community, learning more about electricity and energy use through field trips to the Ocean Explorium, a “green” building, a coal-fired power plant, and a trash-to-energy incinerator. According to their teacher Lisa Pratt, “we literally launched into this project by having a catapult design and distance competition to explore the ideas of energy. Students worked in small groups to design their catapults.” The class reviewed group norms, and enjoyed team-building, brainstorming and jigsaw activities.
Students conducted home surveys of energy consumption and went on a scavenger hunt (which, like the catapult design contest, involved celebratory prizes) throughout the school, identifying perceived problems with energy waste. They collected data and pictures and, as a class, decided to focus their efforts on vampire energy.
Students researched into the annual costs of vampire energy and ways to reduce it without major expenditures (e.g., awareness campaigns, school policy on electronic use/operations, more use of natural light, and stickers by light switches). They collectively decided to raise awareness through posters and multimedia presentations.
Students then created pre-surveys (administered to other science classes) to assess peer knowledge of vampire energy. They found in the initial survey that about 95 percent of students had no idea what vampire energy was. Their campaign therefore focused on educating about what vampire energy is; why people should care about it; and what they can do at home and at school to lessen its environmental impact.
Students worked in teams to create posters, PowerPoint presentations, commercial scripts – filmed and announcements. Following the campaign, students completed a post-survey, which showed their efforts had made a difference, with 39 percent (compared to 95% at the beginning of the project) of students had no idea what vampire energy was.