Opportunities in Community Action

April 17, 2002
Bottom Line Energy Issues - April 2002 - Part 2
An interview with Carol Timms, Founder of EnergyNet. (http://www.energynet.net)Q. What is EnergyNet?A. EnergyNet is a standards-based, technology-enriched, energy education project for  students in grades 3-12. It teaches math and science concepts while combining student-run energy audits with teacher-led energy conservation curricula.Q. Why should building owners be involved?A. By sponsoring this program, they can help educate students to be energy-wise consumers, they can help influence energy modernization, and they can demonstrate benefits in energy career opportunities. Giving something like that back to the community cannot but help their bottom line.Q. How is the curriculum structured? A. The younger students  become “Energy Detectives,” who learn while solving “The Great Energy Caper.” They go into action by discovering, graphing, and comparing their school’s energy use and costs to other schools around the country; analyzing opportunities for energy savings; conducting online research; asking questions of “Secret Agent” experts; and developing, implementing, tracking, and reporting on their plans to increase energy awareness.The older students open an energy auditing business in their classroom, becoming energy consultants who learn and apply program content and skills. These students conduct physical, fiscal, and behavioral audits of their schools; interpret and graph data; research energy efficiency options online; persuade students and adults to change energy behaviors; present suggestions to their school board/administration; and track and report on their progress and success. A grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation extends the curriculum to support two new programs: Community Energy Consultants  and EnergyNetsEnergy Engineers. The first program provides materials and processes that support energy audits of businesses and public buildings within the community; the second allows students to evaluate new school construction proposed for their districts.Q. What is the response from students and teachers? A. They get really excited and enjoy the results they produce. Having their energy recommendations accepted is really empowering. Also, they experience what it might be like to work in energy-related jobs. One of the key benefits to teachers is that students are motivated to learn. EnergyNet’s project-based approach allows kids to pick up the program and literally run with it. Self directed students free up the teachers’ time and energy for quality instruction and individual guidance. Educators call this contextual education.Q. What results can you point to, both in energy savings and student learning enhancement?A. Some of our success stories are posted on the EnergyNet website at www.energynet.net. Among the results are reduced energy costs for schools. Schools spent an average of $120 annually per student on energy. This is more than most schools spend for textbooks and computers. Students also have transferred their knowledge into local communities, completing energy audits for businesses, healthcare facilities, various public buildings, and even their own homes. The benefits to sponsors are obvious.Q. You mentioned sponsors. What is the connection between the business community and the schools?A.  In the majority of cases, schools receive EnergyNet materials through a scholarship from a sponsoring organization. The sponsor pays the $500-$1,500 membership fee and often offers advice—energy expertise and career information --  to the schools. Sponsors benefit from their relationships with the schools and can also benefit from the students’ energy expertise in the community. We welcome the opportunity to work with building owners throughout the country.They may contact me at [email protected].Note: Financial incentives for improving energy efficiency may have been curtailed by utilities in some areas, but opportunities still exist in several states that have mandated funding for conservation improvements. These states include Montana, Oregon, California, Arizona, Texas, all of New England, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, Ohio, and Illinois and Michigan. Several organizations maintain World Wide Web sites that supply information on financial incentives. To see if your state is included, refer to the state energy office for contact information or consult with your utility provider. State energy offices are posted by the National Association of State Energy Offices, (http://www.naseo.org/links/states.htm).

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