New London-Spicer and Minnewaska Schools

Lights! Water! Action! Students turn learning into energy savings

CERTs Seed Grant

Taking action on energy

 

When’s the best time for young people to learn how to reduce their home energy use?

Right now!

With a little help from a CERTs seed grant, Youth Eco Solutions teamed up with staff from local utilities – and CERTs – to help 48 students take steps to save energy and water in their homes. As an extra incentive, each student had the opportunity to earn a $30 installer fee for installing the measures in their "Lights! Water! Action!" kit.

 

This project was a great example of a partnership project with CERTs, YES!, local schools, utilities and local cooperatives. The students learned about how energy is used in their home and they had the tools and knowledge to reduce their energy impact in their own home.

Shelli-Kae Foster, Director, Youth Eco Solutions! at the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center

Hands-on….during distance learning

Empowering youth to create solutions to today’s ecological challenges through hands-on projects.

Youth Eco Solutions (YES!) takes its mission seriously. So as they were thinking about how students might learn about reducing energy and water use, they knew they wanted it to be hands-on.

But it was 2020. According to Shelli-Kae Foster, YES! Director, “Due to distance learning, we wanted a project that students could do at home.”

The solution? The “Lights! Water! Action!” kit. Area utilities – Great River Energy, Kandiyohi Power Cooperative, and Runestone Electric Association – provided materials for each kit: 9 LED light bulbs, a faucet aerator, a water flow test bag, and leak detector tablets. Jacob Selseth, West Central CERT Coordinator, created a 19-point survey to help students conduct their own home energy assessments. The survey covered water heating, showers, baths, clothes washing and drying, HVAC (heating, ventilating & air conditioning), refrigerator/freezers, lighting, home building envelope, and utility bills.

Real results

Before the kits were distributed to students, utility staff members Ryan Rooney and Dan Tefler hosted online workshops to share their expertise on energy saving techniques. Jacob Selseth provided details on how to install the devices in the kits, as well as on tips for filling out the survey. He also helped students understand how these seemingly small measures have a big impact: “Time can be your biggest multiplier in saving energy. There are 8,760 hrs in a year: find the most savings with items being used the most amount of time.”

48 students from the New London-Spicer School District and WIN Academy in the Minnewaska Public School District participated in the project. They went through the training, installed the items, and completed the survey. Each student’s work on the survey and installations took under an hour but the estimated energy savings add up to over 25,000 kWh!

Time can be your biggest multiplier in saving energy. There are 8,760 hrs in a year: find the most savings with items being used the most amount of time.

Jacob Selseth, West Central Coordinator, CERTs

Inspiring action

According to Foster, it was important to value students’ time. “We thought from the start that we needed an incentive to encourage students to complete the installation of the Kit and to complete the survey." Each student completing the project received a $30 installer fee. One student commented, “I think the money motivated the kids.”  At the same time, most students also enjoyed the program, with a post-project survey finding that over 90% of students “loved” or “liked” the project.

Perhaps best of all, the project inspired additional action. Foster explained, “During our spring judging [when YES! Teams have the chance to show off their work], the Minnewaska YES! team enthusiastically talked about the Lights! Water! Action! project and how it inspired them to do an energy audit of their whole school. The students have created a checklist and they are doing the audit themselves. This is a level 4 mental health facility, and the coach was very impressed with how this project spurred participation!”

“This project can be replicated in any classroom or club, provided you have a partner that will provide the products in the kit.” Foster continued. “We…learned that the local cooperatives are great to partner with. REA and KPC both provided their expertise, time, and resources to put together a quality product and a very impressive workshop for the students. I would look to partner with them again on a similar project. This project was a great example of a partnership project with CERTs, YES!, local schools, utilities and local cooperatives. The students learned about how energy is used in their home and they had the tools and knowledge to reduce their energy impact in their own home.”

Take your next step

Is your school interested in saving energy or going solar? CERTs can help!

Are you interested in starting a YES! Group at your school? Check out the YES! website to learn more.

Project Snapshot

 

Clean Energy Focus: Low / no-cost energy saving actions in students' homes
West Central CERT Seed Grant: $5,000
Total Project Cost: $9,424
Other Funds: LYFT (Launch Your Future Today) Career Pathways grant and time and materials from cooperative utilities Runestone Electric Association and Kandiyohi Power Cooperative and Great River Energy
Project Team: Shelli-Kae S. Foster and Kory Klebe, Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center; Dan Tepfer, Kandiyohi Power Cooperative; Ryan Rooney, Runestone Electric Cooperative; Jeff Haase and Kelsey Kopp, Great River Energy; Taylor Templer, New London-Spicer Middle School; Manford Foster, Minnewaska Area Schools; Jacob Selseth, West Central Clean Energy Resource Team
People Involved and Reached: 455
Annual Energy Savings: 25,496 kWh

 

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