Energy Department challenges students, encourages home energy conservation
In an effort to simultaneously encourage energy conservation and increase students' interest in science, the Department of Energy announced its Home Energy Education Challenge on Tuesday. Administered by the National Science Teachers Assn., the challenge encourages third- through eighth-grade students in individual schools and classrooms to compete against each other by monitoring their homes' energy use for three months and comparing it with the same period one year earlier. The challenge will begin in September and yield $200,000 in prize money.
The goal "is very simple. We want to help families save money by saving energy and we want to socialize this in every way we can.... Students can play more roles in encouraging their families to seize the energy-efficiency opportunity," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
"Reducing energy waste is good for our environment, our economy and for families' pocketbooks."
Using actual energy-use data will help students become more familiar with their families' home energy bills and better understand their own energy use. Using "friendly competition" will also motivate students to achieve the greatest energy savings possible, Chu said.
In conjunction with the challenge, the Energy Department is also introducing an Energy Fitness Award patterned after the Presidential Physical Fitness Award introduced in 1966. An online learning platform, the award is designed to educate students about energy use in buildings, to identify specific energy savings in their homes and to teach students how to calculate energy use. The website, energysavers.gov, is integrated into the program as a research tool.
"Part of our challenge in education is to make what we do in the class relevant. Here's a way for students to really be engaged in science and think about things in a different way, to have a direct impact on their homes and communities. Whenever we can make those ties, school becomes much more interesting to students," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. "Our school and educational institutions are uniquely poised to influence the current generation of children to make good choices to help save the future of our planet."
-- Susan Carpenter
Photo: Fourth-grade students at Cahuenga Elementary. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times