Illinois Middle School Students Create a Greener World--One Elder at a Time

An Illinois Grants in Place project tackles the issue of energy savings.

April 13, 2016 |

Twins Trey and Chase, M-V-K Middle School students, show off project hardware with their grandmother, Jody. Energy savings, a greener planet--what could be better! <\/p>"

Editor’s Note: Darcy Welsh, a science teacher at Illinois' Mazon-Verona-Kinsman Middle School, and her students received a 2015-2016 grant through RSC’s Grants in Place program. The students conducted an intergenerational, community-based science project aimed at reducing the energy consumption of elders who live in the community. Participants researched energy saving techniques, conducted energy audits on the seniors’ homes, and created powerpoint presentations on how the occupants can save money by reducing their energy usage. Students also kept journals documenting their thoughts and progress throughout the project. Project-based instruction, community service, and intergenerational collaboration; it just doesn't get much better than this!

Submitted by Darcy Welsh

Take 12 middle school students with little to no knowledge about energy /electric usage and conservation and add 6 senior families eager to learn how to cut their electric usage--what a great learning opportunity! The students couldn’t wait to start the project; in their first journal entry one student wrote, “I’m excited about this project. I want to improve my grandparents’ energy bills cost. This could help them retire earlier!”

Our first task was to learn about electric usage through internet research and testing with the Kill-A-Watt Meter. Students focused research on energy saving measures. Learning how to use the Kill-A-Watt meter was a challenge to some students. We proceeded to test various electric appliances and bulbs. While testing various light bulbs at school the students were surprised at how much energy incandescent light bulbs use compared to both CFL and LED bulbs. Another big surprise to the students was the phantom power draw of electric appliances turned off, but plugged into a power source. One student remarked in his journal that he learned “that you can save more power by unplugging all electronics when leaving a room. I need to work on that!” Another wrote, “Even the little LT computer and TV set” created an energy draw that would be on the electric bill as usage.

Students then took the meters to their seniors’ homes and began testing usage. They also began creating PowerPoint presentations with energy saving tips for their seniors. (Below is one example of M-V-K student powerpoints)

The final week was a busy week! Students completed their readings with the Kill-A-Watt meters and made final adjustments to their PowerPoint presentations that they created to make suggestions for the seniors to save energy. We also put together a package of gifts for our seniors including a LED bulb for the most used lamp/light, LED motion sensor nightlight, and timer power strip. The students spent quite awhile learning how to program the strips so they could be experts in setting them up for their seniors.

Many students were surprised that the service they were doing for the seniors turned into a learning experience with information they would use for life. In the final journal entry, one student summarized her feelings about the project, “I am happy that I helped out a senior with saving money. Hopefully, I can use these things that I learned to help out my own family so we have some extra money to do things.”

(Below is a slideshow of M-V-K Middle School students at work)

Please check out all of our 2015-16 Grants in Place recipients by clicking here. Stay tuned for an exciting array of 2016-17 Grants in Place projects, which will be announced in the coming weeks.

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