New Berlin, Wis. – Students at Eisenhower Middle School in New Berlin are studying energy as part of their science unit.
“Yeah, it’s been really fun to … see how much water and electricity I use in the house,” said 7th-grader Ashley Bonin.
Their assignment involves studying ways to reduce energy use.
“At this time, pollution, greenhouse effect, all those big climate change things … this is teaching us to help conserve energy and save it, instead of wasting it,” added 7th-grader Dhruva Kalyani.
This part of the curriculum includes much more than books. The School District of New Berlin’s collaboration with several groups is helping Dhruva, Ashley and their classmates get hands-on experience in energy savings.
In their Friday morning science class earlier this month, the students went through a series of stations manned by representatives from STEMhero and the K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP), performing experiments. They tested the difference in temperature loss between insulated and non-insulated water pipes, the energy use of different kinds of light bulbs and the difference in water use between normal and aerated faucet heads.
The work that led to these classroom experiments started in the Fall of 2018 with a meeting between the district’s Director of Secondary Teaching and Learning, Kelly Kwiatkowski, and STEMhero, a group that works to empower Wisconsin students to collect and analyze data about their electricity, natural gas and water consumption.
“The lessons are important to the students for a few reasons, but one compelling reason is that energy efficiency can be a fiscal savings opportunity,” Kwiatkowski said. “It is important our students know that energy-efficient actions, such as changing the light bulbs in a home, can save money over time.”
“We had just realigned the curriculum,” said 7th grade teacher Alisa Arts, “and we wanted to add to it; to add more experiences for our students. So, we thought it would be a great addition for our new science curriculum.”
The addition includes a multi-week “homework” assignment. Before the in-class experiments, each student started monitoring energy use in their home and logging it on a web platform provided by STEMhero.
“Most are very excited to go out and check their meters and then add their data to the computer program,” Arts
said. “And, once they get at least three meter readings, they can see a graph of their data.”
“[STEMhero provides] an excellent platform, [along with] the energy-tracking and meter-reading curriculum,” said KEEP’s Annie Baker. “And then we can provide the in-classroom support with our tools and our hands-on resources.”
The Focus on Energy Program is also providing resources, giving each student a Simple Energy Efficiency (SEE) kit that contains items like LED bulbs, faucet aerators, high-efficiency shower heads and pipe insulation wrap. The kits are available to any customer of the 107 Wisconsin utilities that fund and participate in the Focus on Energy. Visit the website to see the different SEE kits available and to check if your utility participates.
Students took the kits home last week and will install some of the items in their homes to test their hypotheses on energy use.
“I work in a lot of schools where we’re talking about electricity and water, we’re talking about energy and we’re talking about ways to experiment with that in your home,” said STEMhero’s Kelly Ibarra. “But, again, we’re just talking about it; looking at pictures… To actually get those materials into kids’ hands – it completely changes the perspective.”
“I think most students were surprised that we actually have to pay for electricity. I keep telling them, ‘When you turn on a faucet, you pay for that water. When you turn on that light, you have to pay for that,’” said Arts. “They’re now starting to think, ‘If I want my room warm and I turn up the heat, that’s [going to] cost money.’ All the actions, they can either be positive or negative with our energy use.”
About Focus on Energy
Focus on Energy is Wisconsin utilities' statewide energy efficiency and renewable resource program funded by the state's investor-owned energy utilities and participating municipal and electric cooperative utilities. Focus on Energy works with eligible Wisconsin residents and businesses to install cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Focus on Energy information, resources and financial incentives help to implement projects that otherwise would not be completed. Its efforts help Wisconsin residents and businesses manage rising energy costs, promote in-state economic development, protect our environment and control Wisconsin's growing demand for electricity and natural gas. For more information call 800.762.7077 or visit focusonenergy.com.
STEMhero is a website and curriculum that empowers students to collect and analyze their electricity, natural gas, and water consumption. Through the program, students create a baseline of their home and/or school's consumption; then, they decide on and measure the impact of efficiency behaviors and technologies. The students' findings of which efficiency practices worked best are shared with family and the community.
The Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP) was created to promote energy education in Wisconsin schools. With support from Alliant Energy, Madison Gas & Electric, We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service, WPPI Energy, and Xcel Energy, KEEP leverages teacher education to improve and increase energy literacy in Wisconsin's K-12 schools as a means of contributing to statewide energy savings. KEEP is part of the College of Natural Resources (CNR) at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
New Berlin, Wis.