Ninth-graders at Columbia’s three junior high schools are learning an important lesson about energy.
The Energy Challenge program, a collaborative effort between the Water and Light Advisory Board and Boone Electric Cooperative, takes place each year as part of the schools’ science curriculum. The program is in its 11th year.
“I think (the program) is important because energy is a topic that’s becoming more important as time goes on,” said Jay Hasheider, energy services supervisor for the water and light board.
Representatives from the two utilities visited Oakland and West junior high schools last week, with a visit to Jefferson Junior High set for today. The first visit to each school consists of a teaching session about energy use and conservation, an infrared camera demonstration and an experiment using a furnace model. The students also are given take-home surveys to assess their families’ energy use.
The surveys, which focus on heating, cooling, hot water and appliances, will be compared with the actual utility usage from each student’s home over the past year. Students will use a computer program to compare and decide how to better manage personal energy consumption.
“I guarantee there are going to be things in this report that your parents did not know,” Hasheider said to students in Kory Kaufman’s science class at West.
The program aims to make energy a topic of conversation within families in order to implement conservation techniques learned in the classroom.
Kaufman, a West science teacher for the past 14 years, welcomes the program as a real-life lesson.
“I think a lot of times we’re looking for any kind of practical application for what we’re trying to teach,” he said.
The practical application was evident when an infrared picture of Kaufman’s house appeared on the screen. The utility employees showed examples in which heat can commonly escape buildings while the students puzzled over what could be done to help Kaufman reduce heat loss.
Conservation is not only a means of keeping utility bills down, but also a way to protect and preserve the environment and increase utility efficiency, Hasheider said.
“In your lifetimes you’re going to see some severe shortages of these fossil fuels, especially if we keep increasing our usage of them,” he said while holding a piece of coal.
While tracking the students’ energy habits at home is difficult, Kaufman said he has seen the benefits of the program at work. Previous classes have performed energy audits for the West school building.
“Some of the things the kids have come up with we’ve actually adopted in our building,” he said, mentioning a programmable thermostat to reduce heating costs as well as a policy to turn off lights in empty rooms.
Utility representatives will return to each school in two weeks to help students analyze their home audit surveys.