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Innovation

Kids can sure give us an education about energy behavior

A New York school turned a push to cut energy consumption into a hands-on learning project.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

This is the sort of hands-on teaching experience that every school should strive for, what with President Obama now attempting to tackle our sorry mess of a public policy for education.

A Manhattan school (PS166) has won the four New York City regional part of the annual Green Cup Challenge, which is basically an inter-school competition focused tactically on reducing energy use but also a great demonstration of a hands-on learning project. Overall, the school cut its energy consumption by 17.75 percent during the four weeks that the challenge ran (during the peak winter energy usage period from January 15, 2010, to February 12, 2010). That translated into a decrease of 15,380 kilowatt hours, or $1,845 lopped off the electricity bill.

The school adopted the usual behavior you would expect associated with this sort of effort, including a push to shut down its computers during non-school hours.

The coordinators at PS166 turned the whole project into a hands-on learning project, creating a Green Team that included students, parents, staff and administrators. Some of the 5th graders became Climate Captains, who were assigned to check in on weekly progress. The kids also turned the project into homework, with many parents emailing the coordinators to say that their children were bringing their energy-saving behavior home.

So, OK, this is just one school, but consider the possibilities here: Why couldn't carbon footprint math or energy education be part of the core math and science curriculum at the elementary level? This is the sort of hands-on project that children appreciate and remember. "If one school can have this kind of impact in four weeks, imagine if all the 132,600 schools across the United States joined the Green Cup Challenge. That is our hope for the future," says Katy Perry, the program coordinator for the Green Cup Challenge.

Think about it.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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