AmeriCorps Story of Service: Helping students turn the topic of energy efficiency into a real-life learning opportunity

December 21, 2016

The next generation of scientists, engineers and energy users are in school every day, learning reading, writing and math. What about teaching the children of our community where the energy comes from to turn on their bedroom light? And what the consequences of that energy use might be?
My name is Lindsey and I am a Washington Service Corps/AmeriCorps member serving at RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, where I teach elementary-aged children about water conservation, waste reduction, energy efficiency, and climate change through workshops and action projects through our Green Classroom program.
Recently, I hosted an hourlong workshop on Energy Efficiency and Climate Change in a third grade class at Lowell Elementary. Though I probably brought up topics a little too advanced for them — carbon producers, carbon consumers, renewable energy, nonrenewable energy, dirty and clean energy, and greenhouse gases — the kids were super engaged with the presentation.
One student compared clean energy to electric cars and said they do not put any pollutants into the air. Another student added that unless you bought a Tesla car, electric cars are hybrids and those cars do put pollutants into the air. Even though I was in the classroom talking about this big picture of energy efficiency, these students were able to make a connection to a real scenario that impacts their daily lives.
Talking about dirty energy sources like coal, crude oil, and gas and clean energy sources like wind and solar opened up the platform for these kids to engage in a conversation about sustainable sources of energy, and in particular, sustainable transportation. I was so proud in this moment, because I realized the students were carrying on the conversation without me. They were knowledgeable and excited to talk about electric cars, and the impacts they have on our air quality.
Serving for teachers and students in my community and teaching them about water conservation, energy conservation, and waste reduction, makes me feel hopeful about our future generations.

I am hopeful that some of these kids will go home and talk to their parents and guardians about turning off the lights when they’re not in use. I am hopeful the students will think about how they shouldn’t leave the faucet running when washing their hands so they can conserve water, even the smallest bit. I am hopeful that when they go to the grocery store with their family, they will say it is better to buy something with less packaging to reduce waste.

I am hopeful the facts I relay to students about conservation and sustainability translate into real-life moments in their lives — even if just for a moment, a day, or throughout the whole year.
About the Green Classroom program
The Green Classroom program for elementary school students is a free program that provides teachers with a meaningful, simple way to integrate conservation education into their curriculum and initiate sustainable changes in the classrooms and beyond. Through workshops, pledges, and action projects we challenge students to think critically about their use of natural resources while providing them the opportunity to brainstorm solutions and take action to promote conservation.
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Photo © Buff Black