In 2013, Sofala Public School decided to reconsider how it used energy.
With the help of an Eco Schools grant, the school started a student-focused energy-efficiency project that was designed to promote both student learning and sustainable energy use.
The school started by doing an energy audit and learning about why it’s important to reduce electricity consumption. Students identified the everyday appliances that use electricity, such as computers, air conditioners and lights, and discussed how to reduce their use. They also looked at where heat was escaping from their classrooms and how this loss could be reduced. They then:
used thermomotors and made a temperature gauge to help them decide if air conditioning was needed or not
used iPads to measure light levels to decide if the lights needed to be switched on or not, and made a graph of the weather and the light levels in the classroom
studied renewable and non-renewable energy
visited a power station to learn more about where power comes from and how it is produced.
The students shared what they’d learned with the community. They made posters to promote practices such as saving water, saving energy and managing waste responsibly. They also shared the results of the monitoring program for their new solar pump. This attracted considerable interest from local farmers.
By the end of our project, our students were demonstrating a heightened awareness of sustainability, and incorporating sustainable practices into their daily lives.
Make student learning the central focus of the project. Looks for ways to provide action-based learning opportunities delivered through the curriculum, and structure the project around student learning outcomes.
Before 2009, the staff and students at Kingswood High had little idea of how much power they were consuming. The school used a 2009 Eco Schools grant to buy 6 plug-in energy monitors called Power-Mates, allowing students to monitor the power being used by various appliances in ‘real time’.
Staff from 3 faculties (Science, Mathematics, and Human Society and its Environment) were trained to incorporate electrical monitoring into their classes.
Students in Years 7 and 8 used the Power-Mates to measure the energy consumption of common appliances.
Senior science students in the Environmental Science program used the Power-Mates to look at the connection between power demand and environmental impacts such as mining resources, pollution, and greenhouse gases.
Mathematics classes used the Power-Mates to illustrate real applications of mathematics by getting students to undertake conversions from power to energy to carbon-dioxide generation.
The Power-Mates were a simple and effective way of studying energy consumption and raising awareness of students about how they can minimise energy use at school and at home. Some teachers used the Power-Mates to measure the energy use of their own home appliances. This gave them further material to teach with.
Students presented the results of their monitoring to the School Principal and the P&C (parents and citizens) Association to support changes in the way that the school used electricity.
One of the biggest challenges the project faced was inertia – it was hard to break this and try to enforce energy reduction in both staff and students. It took quite some time and repetition to get the message across to staff about energy use, consumption and waste. The Power-Mates were fantastic. They were very simple to use, although the cost calculation function was a bit clunky. The only thing was that the students mocked the interface because it was ‘so five years ago’ – no colour screen meant the students thought they were using an old piece of equipment.
Incorporate energy monitoring into a variety of different classes and curriculum areas. You need a team of teachers from a variety of subject areas for a cultural shift to be successful.
Teachers at the Illawarra Environmental Education Centre provide specialist support, expertise and equipment to schools in the Illawarra and Southeast region to help them address sustainability issues. In 2011 the centre received an Eco Schools grant, which helped it outfit a trailer, turning it into a mobile sustainability interpretation centre that helps students learn about energy.
The trailer’s equipment includes weather meters, soil thermometers, solar ovens, light meters, Power-Mate electrical meters and an energy bike which demonstrates the conversion of mechanical energy to electric energy.
The trailer has now reached thousands of students. It has featured at educational expos in southern NSW and travelled to 20 schools across the region.
The trailer gives students hands-on experience in environmental monitoring. It also builds the capacity of students and teachers to identify, investigate and act on sustainability issues. Students and teachers have been trained and helped to monitor electricity use in their schools and take actions to reduce it.
The trailer is a community resource that will continue to inspire students, teachers and the community to engage with sustainability issues in their school and local environment.
Students need to be engaged before they can apply the higher order thinking skills required for investigating environmental issues such as energy. Catalysts for engagement in sustainability education include fun and excitement. Sustainability education around environmental issues such as the reduction of greenhouse gases provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate their motivation and commitment to learning as they develop attitudes and values conducive to environmental citizenship.
Make learning fun and exciting by providing a range of hands-on equipment to understand different forms of energy, and how it is created and measured.
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