Energy Monitoring Programs Teach H.W. Smith Students How to Conserve

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H.W. Smith Science teacher Beth Walsh has 24 AVID students. Fifteen participate in an energy monitoring program, KiloWatch, at the school. The others participate in the Classroom Energy Challenge, a program designed to help them learn how to save energy at home. Students in both programs are, in essence, becoming trained energy reduction experts.
H.W. Smith Pre-K-8 School is a fitting home for these programs, having agreed to an energy conservation pledge which now hangs inside the school’s main entrance.
Charles Rivers travels to the school once or twice a week to help guide KiloWatch students through the curriculum: a 6-step action plan toward reduced energy use school-wide.
The group of 7th and 8th grade H.W. Smith students is currently on Action #3: change energy behaviors. This requires them to monitor energy use in the school so they can later recommend changes.  To do this, students break into small groups and travel through the school. With them, they carry two documents: one, a record sheet to maintain a log of energy ‘infractions’ in each classroom. The other: a door hanger to leave on classrooms where these missteps occur, to notify the teacher and students of areas where they can improve. Students take note of if the classroom is vacant or in use, if the lights are on or off, if blinds and windows are open or closed, and if projectors and other appliances are on but not in use.
Eighth grader Shally Thaw Da explains, “I’ve learned that energy use is wasteful. We’re trying to go to every room in school to make sure the lights are off when they’re not in use.”
The students’ enthusiasm for monitoring energy use has made quite the impression on their KiloWatch instructor. “The students are remarkable,” Charles observes. “They enjoy doing this and getting out in their school by themselves to measure these things. They’re responsible for hanging and taking down door hangers on their own and have really taken accountability for the project.”
After each classroom has been observed, students will work together to create a spreadsheet of data that they can use to come up with specific recommendations for what their peers and teachers can do to improve the most common energy eaters. Students insist that most classrooms at H.W. Smith are already pretty good at saving energy, and they claim it is in large part because of the door hangers they leave.
Seventh grader Ahmed Al Mohamed says, “Because of the hangers, some teachers will only use half the lights in their classroom now, or they’ll close the blinds.”
On the last day of the month, students ever get to assist with meter readings to measure the efficiency of the program to date. Ahmed has enjoyed these more technical aspects of KiloWatch.
“I really like learning how to use the light meter and water thermometers,” he says. “Oh! And seeing if things are phantom energy suckers, which means they use energy even when they’re turned off. Our job is to find them, record them and brainstorm how we can change things so we can lower our energy payments.”
Seventh grader Nariah West, a Classroom Energy Challenge participant, says the phantom usage meter is what helped her change her energy habits at home, too. “We took kill-a-watt meters home to measure how much things use when they’re turned off. One thing used so much! Now I turn off the water and the lights. I’ve also learned that [compact] florescent lightbulbs can save more energy!” she shares.
Her peers agree that the KiloWatch program and Classroom Energy Challenge have made them aware of how they can reduce energy use, even at home. Seventh grader Michael Floyd says that at home, he now turns down the thermostat to save energy.
Classmate Khadija Musa adds, “Now, I turn off the lights upstairs at my house when no one is there.”
“When I’m brushing my teeth, I don’t leave the water running anymore,” Shally interjects.
The KiloWatch and Classroom Energy Challenge programs began this year in H.W. Smith as well as Ed Smith Pre-K-8 School, thanks to a plan created by the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board and a partnership with Energy Training Solutions.
And the potential for the programs to expand are countless: other schools have found ways to offer incentives for classrooms to maintain good energy use, such as presenting a “Best Energy Reduction Classroom of the Year” award and adding rewards for classrooms with low energy use. Thanks to these diligent KiloWatch and Classroom Energy Challenge students, our Syracuse City Schools are already on their way to becoming leaders in energy conservation!

Photos available on Flickr >>>