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Highlighting Schools & Teache​rs
Furthering Energy Education

​​Schools and teachers across Wisconsin are accomplishing amazing things by introducing their students to real-world experiences that will prepare them for life after school. These stories highlight just a few of the energy education successes that showcase how energy literacy is increasing in Wisconsin. ​Share your story here!

KEEP's Energy Education Activities Have Big Impact in River Falls Schools

Aleisha-Miller.gif


Meet Aleisha Miller, a consultant in River Falls who provides Environmental Science, Conservation, and Public Education programming to area schools. Aleisha is contracted by the River Falls Municipal Utilities to provide energy education to River Falls elementary schools. Her work began in the District in the 2010/11 school year when she made seven visits to each of the 2nd and 4th grade classrooms at Rocky Branch, Westside, Greenwood, and the Montessori Elementary Schools. In 2013, she added St. Bridget’s Catholic School 4th graders to her schedule and in 2015, the St. Bridget 2nd graders joined in as well. The goal of the services she offers is to provide River Falls School District 2nd & 4th grade students with the best possible science-based education in the areas of water and energy conservation, efficiency, and renewable energy.  She does this mainly by providing hands-on energy education programming which she obtained through KEEP.
In 2nd grade, Aleisha uses the following KEEP activities:
  • Evidence of Energy
  • Where Does It Get Its Energy?
  • Fueling Around
  • What Renewable Energy Does for Me
  • Various sparks found in the KEEP Activity Guide
In 4th grade, Aleisha uses the following KEEP activities:
Mike Noreen, Conservation and Efficiency Coordinator at River Falls Municipal Utilities, says, “Aleisha has become a staple of the elementary school’s science curriculum. She proactively works with the teachers and school administration to meet their needs and provide value to the district. Her educational work in the schools meets state science standards so the teachers see the value in her classes. Her classes are held outside when possible, so it’s a unique leaning environment that is eagerly anticipated by the students and teachers.“

Each year, Aleisha provides energy education to approximately 500 students in the River Falls School District. These students have learned the importance of energy in our lives, how to use it more efficiently, and the impacts it has on our environment. Thank you to Aleisha and River Falls Municipal Utilities for supporting energy education at the K-12 level. 

 

 District saves money, improves student and building health

Jim Beckmann, director of operations for Glendale–River Hills and Maple Dale–Indian Hill School Districts, was determined to maximize the performance of his school buildings and reduce the overall cost of operations, improve the health of the students and staff members, and lower the schools’ environmental impact. Through incremental changes – large and small – Beckmann resolved to improve student outcomes and lessen the burden on the districts’ taxpayers.

Today Jim Beckmann (second to right in photo) oversees operations for two LEED certified school buildings. In April of 2013 Glen Hills Middle School (v3 LEED), located just north of Milwaukee in Glendale, Wis., became the first pre-existing school to be named Gold-LEED certified. This was no small task, as the school, a 178,000 square foot brick building built in 1970, is air conditioned, has a heated pool, and no operable windows. A year later in 2014, Maple Dale School, in Fox Point, Wis. just to the east of Glendale, was the first school in the World to be certified Gold LEED EB v4.

LEED certification was not Beckmann’s original goal; he wasn’t initially certain that the dollars spent certifying the schools would pay off in the end. However, when Glen Hills Middle School’s ENERGY STAR® rating came back as a 65, Beckmann was convinced that the schools could do better, and following LEED protocol could help him achieve that objective. 

At first he and his team went to work improving Glen Hills Middle School. The first year they upgraded dampers and air handlers and sought to find the right mix of indoor and outdoor air, efforts which resulted in a jump in their ENERGY STAR rating to a 91. The savings from that first year, and a U.S. Green Building Council grant, offset the cost of applying for LEED certification. 

Saving energy, reducing consumption, improving health

The districts’ efforts have resulted in energy savings, reduction in water usage and improved resource stewardship leading to healthier, more efficient school buildings – and in turn healthier staff and students, which was always Jim Beckmann’s primary goal.

The schools use toxin-free cleaning products, purchase post-consumer recycled products (a total of 20% based on cost), promote clean air, and take advantage of natural light whenever possible.

The school has saved money by reducing water consumption through low flow, automatic shut-off faucets and lowered natural gas and electricity usage by turning down the thermostat in the winter and running the air conditioning less during the warmer months. Additionally, Glen Hills Middle School uses a solar collector to heat the school’s pool in the spring and summer, saving the district roughly $5,000 per year. 

These efforts also provide a learning opportunity for the Glen Hills students. Mr. Beckmann teaches the school’s fifth grade classes the basics of how the solar collector that is housed on the roof of the building heats the school’s pool. He explains what a BTU is and how these units are measured. He shows them the piping and supply lines, and they see how the inner workings of the entire system operate together to heat their pool. 

The students have also conducted a thorough waste audit of their school. Students at Glen Hills and Maple Dale collected all of the garbage and recycling from an entire day and dumped it in the parking lot. Sorting through the waste, students saw what was correctly disposed of and what was not, giving them a hands-on, minds-on lesson and a better understanding of the schools’ waste stream.

Sustaining the sustainable practices

Jim admits that it is easy to have lofty goals and ideas, but he says the hard work is maintaining the desire and energy to continue the efforts.  

Of course, staff members play a major role in continuing the schools’ efforts. And, courses through the Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP) have helped maintain an interest in, and ongoing education for, their efforts. In the spring of 2014, about a dozen teachers participated in NRES 634 School Building Energy Efficiency Education, which focuses on evaluating the energy use in school buildings and guiding PK-12 faculty, staff, and building and grounds personnel towards utilizing the school building as a learning tool for energy education. The course also requires teachers to write and implement energy action plans, giving them ownership of the direction of the school’s energy saving projects.

While the schools’ staff members and programs like KEEP play a vital role, Mr. Beckmann says that giving students the responsibility to take care of and monitor their buildings has been the key to sustaining their efforts. Glen Hills Middle School’s student-led Green Team judges the school’s classrooms, scoring each on energy usage, recycling, cleanliness of the room, and general appearance. This friendly competition serves as a reminder that every little action is part of the larger plan to improve the performance and environment of the entire school.

Jim admits that coordinating so many working parts takes commitment and partnerships, but says that districts like his are fortunate to have so many strong and dedicated groups that make energy education in Wisconsin a possibility.

 Colby School District Saves Money by Going Green

Colby School District Saves Money by Going Green

Of Colby School District’s three-year-long sustainability initiative, Dr. Steven Kolden, the school district’s superintendent who spearheaded the efforts, said that fiscal and environmenta​l responsibility and sustainable practices “just make sense.” Dr. Kolden believes that being a steward of the district’s resources, from tax dollars to students, is the responsibility of the public school system.


To that end, the Colby School District partnered with CESA 10’s Sustainability Service in July 2011, and later developed a Sustainability Team, in order to identify goals and create a district-wide action plan.

To ensure buy-in from all involved parties Melissa Rickert, CESA 10 Sustainability Specialist, facilitated staff and community member presentations that helped identify a common vision for the school. Seventy-six percent of participants said creating a ‘financially stable school district’ was their top priority followed by ‘improving student achievement’ and ‘increasing staff collaboration’. It was agreed they would accomplish their goals together by reducing their schools’ energy use and modifying their recycling and waste management. This shared vision would serve as the foundation for changing behaviors and creating a sustainability-minded school culture.

By all measures their collaboration has been very successful. From 2011-2014, the school district substantially reduced its waste stream in the elementary school by recycling milk cartons and composting food scraps. This reduction in waste has significantly reduced their waste management costs, which is based on cubic yards and number of scheduled pickups.


In addition to being taken out of the waste stream, the compost has been used in the high school’s greenhouse and agriculture education vegetable plots as well as in the elementary school’s cold frame growing systems.

Energy reduction has also played a major role in the district’s sustainability efforts. By reinforcing the message that ‘every little bit helps’ the district has saved significantly by consistently improving their energy-saving behaviors like turning off the lights, closing blinds and doors, and shutting down computers when not being used.

Director of Building and Grounds, Dennis Wenzel, admits he was skeptical at first but says he’s seen great benefits from the district-wide efforts. In fact, he says, last year the district saved more than $16,000 through the combined efforts of students and staff. He hopes to broaden the efforts to include a visit to the Waste Management facility in Plover and to educate students about products produced from recycled materials. This, he says, will help students to understand the entire lifecycle of products we often take for granted.

Far from seeing the sustainability plan as an added burden, Colby staff and students have embraced these efforts. To many, the program is a way to educate students about long-term, sustainable practice that not only save money and benefit the enviornment, but simply make sense.

 ​Veronica Campbell - Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) Teacher, Clintonville

veronicaCampbel.pngLIKE MANY OF US, FAMILY AND CONSUMER SCIENCES (FACS) INSTRUCTOR Veronica Campbell's interests and passions were formed from childhood experiences. Veronica credits her family, especially her paternal grandparents, for her conservation ethic. Newlyweds during the Great Depression, her grandparents passed on their household policy of making sure every item that entered their home had two uses before it was discarded and her grandfather told Veronica how he walked to work in order to "save the car".

 

For those of us with family who lived through the hard times of the 1930s this message of conservation is familiar. However, for many of today's students, lessons of economy are often only part of the social studies curriculum. Mrs. Campbell seeks to change that by incorporating energy education and lessons about smart consumption into the courses she teaches within the Clintonville School District.

 

After graduating from UW-Stevens Point with a degree in family and consumer sciences and a teaching certification, Veronica pursued her passion for environmental education by taking courses offered by the Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP) and found that she was able to integrate much of what she learned into her FACS curriculum. While we often think of energy education as a component of technical education, Veronica found that the themes of energy efficiency, overconsumption, and conservation fit naturally into her classes.

 

By incorporating these themes, Mrs. Campbell teaches her students to think about future generations and about their own consumer habits and carbon footprint. In her Chefs Class, students learn to read EnergyGuide labels on appliances and how to shop for energy efficient appliances, like the refrigerator her classroom received through a KEEP grant, and the savings, in both money and electricity these appliances provide. Students taking Creative Foods and Fun, Food, and Fitness courses learn about the benefits of eating organic, locally grown foods. In her Culinary Arts class students are challenged to think about what they discard in the kitchen by finding other uses — soup stock, stew, casserole ingredients — for what is often relegated to the compost bin.

 

The impact of Mrs. Campbel​l's classes has extended beyond her classroom lessons, as many students actively work to reduce their waste, recycle as much as they can, and reuse items whenever possible.

 

Mrs. Campbell allows students to use pitchers of water instead of plastic water bottles and requires them to recycle all cans, aluminum, paper, and glass used in class — a practice many have extended to their lives outside her classroom. Additionally, her Fashion and Design students, using donated yarn and unfinished yarn projects, knit and crocheted scarves and afghans which were donated to local food pantries.

 

Clearly the lessons learned in Veronica Campbell's FACS courses are impacting her students and providing lessons they will carry with them for their entire lives. Parents, too, have noticed the effect and their feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Mrs. Campbell's work proves that, with creativity and passion, energy education and the lessons of reducing, reusing, and recycling can be integrated into nearly any activity, subject, or curriculum.​​​

 District Highlight: Greendale School District's Sustainability Focus Reflected in Classroom Operations

GreendalePhoto.jpgGreendale Schools’ District Administration and Sustainability Committee, in cooperation with CESA 10, engaged staff and students in an energy conservation campaign to help reduce District energy use, waste, and utility costs over a 12-month period. The program, called the Kilowatt Challenge, had a goal of a 5% reduction in District energy use (a value of approximately $20,000 in cost avoidance) in the period from May 1, 2013, through April 30, 2014.

By reducing energy use by 5%, Greendale can save $20,000 of community taxpayer dollars and the money that typically goes to the utility each month can be redirected for use within schools for student benefit through instruction or services. Eighth graders from Greendale Middle School (GMS) have been working this year on saving energy here at the middle school as part of the program. Teachers from Greendale participated in a professional development course focused on School Building Energy Efficiency through the Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP), which included a visit from We Energies and Focus on Energy representatives this fall.

GMS students studied the current use of energy through guided inquiry labs using KEEP’s curriculum and carried out energy action plans designed to reduce energy use by students and staff. Students then had the opportunity to participate in the Cool Choices game this spring available to Green & Healthy Schools, a collaborative program between the State of Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education. The game reminded students about best practices to keep GMS on a green and healthy track. It also brought up new topics and opportunities to learn about energy policies in the District.

This initiative follows efforts in recent years to reduce energy costs in Greendale Schools. Over the past several years the District shaved about 20% permanently from its utility bills through multiple energy-saving efforts, which include upgrades to facilities and mechanical equipment and through the introduction of alternative energy sources (solar) used to heat domestic water and the pool at the high school. As a result, Greendale’s school facilities have transformed from among the worst in energy use to the top of the efficiency ratings for public buildings in the State, according to a benchmark study by CESA 10.

Saving energy through the Kilowatt Challenge and Cool Choices game are just a few sustainability initiatives in Greendale’s schools. The District recently earned “Sugar Maple” certification from Green & Healthy Schools program after completing extensive data collection and reporting in nine focus areas: energy, water, transportation, environmental health, school site, recycling and waste management, health and wellness, environmental education, and community involvement. A state-level team of education consultants and content experts reviewed the application and lauded the District’s efforts to reduce the schools’ environmental impact and costs, improve the health and wellness of students and staff members, and provide effective environmental and sustainability education.

“We strive to operate and educate our students in the most sustainable way possible and have been working hard to do so for more than a decade,” said Erin Green, Director of Business Services for Greendale Schools. “In addition, sustainability concepts are continually being integrated into the curriculum and we are expanding opportunities with outdoor classrooms, such as the school gardens at the high school and Highland View, as well as in our community forests.”

Late in 2013, Greendale Schools’ Canterbury Elementary and the Middle School woods and Greendale High School woods became registered as school forests in the Wisconsin Community Forest Program. This certification will allow for the expansion of the District’s outdoor classroom space and increase opportunities within the existing curriculum at all grade levels and across disciplines. This designation means Greendale Schools will be eligible to receive free forest management assistance from the DNR and free seedlings from the state nursery program. The District will also be able to apply for grants from the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board (WEEB), and to receive assistance from the statewide school forest education specialist. As the forest management plan is implemented, the additional outdoor learning spaces will expand opportunities for students to see first hand how species interact and how living and nonliving things work together to support a healthy ecosystem.

A visionary Business Manager (Green) and motivated staff sustainability committee has helped Greendale to successfully reach its first sustainability goals. With the support of the Board of Education and administration, the District continues to make plans to meet the needs of its diverse population of students and continuously enhance curriculum with a focus on growth and achievement. A grant from the Greendale Education Foundation helps to provide financial support for the efforts of the sustainability committee.

News Release Courtesy of Greendale School District.​

Also printed in the Greendale NOW (4/15/14).

 School Highlight: An Energy Expedition at the Milwaukee Environmental Sciences Charter School

The Milwaukee Environmental Sciences (MES) Charter School is a year-round charter school servicing grades K4-5, whose academic program is guided by the Expeditionary Learning (EL) philosophy. Students will be prepared for college and career success with a program that combines engaging projects, academic rigor and character development in​ a safe, child-centered environment.

MES recently embarked on an Energy Expedition, which lasted seven weeks and engaged students in learning opportunities focused on energy concepts appropriate for their grade levels.

Instead of learning about energy through textbooks or even experiments, the Expeditionary Learning process involves the development of Case Studies that make generic curriculum specific, compelling, and relevant to students.

The energy Case Study for grades K4 and K5 allowed students to discover energy using simple machines, such as the one pictured here where they made ice cream! The first and second grade Case Study immersed students in sound and light waves by focusing on the Coast Guard and navigation of the Great Lakes.

The third-fifth grade Case Study empowered students to take action to use energy more efficiently every day. The school is utilizing various energy resources from the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education's Resource Library including the Pedal Power energy bike, hand-crank generator, and solar oven.


Doug Janssen, a 3rd/4th grade teacher at MES, stated, "We see and use energy each day...when I approached my students and asked them what energy is, they didn't have a clear understanding or definition." He went on to say, "With the partnership of KEEP and UW-Stevens Point, we were able to use the Pedal Power and the Hand-crank to power certain appliances. This gave the students a hands-on approach [to learn] how much work actually goes in to powering something as simple as a light bulb."

Students in Doug Janssen's 3rd and 4th grade classes are getting hands-on experience using real energy audit equipment, including light meters and infrared thermometers which they checked out from KEEP.

A light meter is a device used to measure the amount of light in a room/building. This tool is helpful to determine that enough light is present in classrooms so students aren't straining their eyes; however, too much light can also cause glare on surfaces and can cause students to squint, which may cause headaches. 

Having just the right amount of light is beneficial to student learning and can also save energy. 

An infrared thermometer measures the temperature emitted from objects. They are sometimes called laser thermometers if a laser is used to help aim the thermometer. This tool is helpful to determine if there are cold spots in walls or if pipes carry hot or cold water and what the temperature of those pipes might be. 

Students are collecting and interpreting their school's energy data to enable them to provide a report and recommendations to their administration in regards to the school's efficiency and ways to improve it. 

Expeditionary Learning (EL) schools inspire the motivation to learn, engage teachers, and students in new levels of focus and effort, and transform schools into places where students and adults become leaders of their own learning. EL schools provide a model that challenges students — even those starting with low skill levels — with high–level tasks and active roles in the classroom. This model succeeds in urban, rural, and ​suburban schools at every grade level.

To learn more about Expeditionary learning, visit elschools.org.

 School Highlight: St. Bronislava School forms Energy Team with Focus on Energy and Wisconsin Public Service

In the fall of 2012, St. Bronislava in Plover, Wis. formed an Energy Team with Focus on Energy & Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) to help make the school and connecting church more energy efficient. Through Focus on Energy and WPS grants and incentives, St. Bronislava was awarded over $42,000 to assist in purchasing and installing new light fixtures throughout the school and church. Overall, St. Bronislava was able to replace and recycle over 1,200 inefficient lamps and claimed approximately $3,000 in energy savings. 

As part of this effort, students at St. Bronislava learned about energy and lighting costs with help from staff of the Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program and Gary Oudenhoven of WPS (who played a big role in helping to implement the lighting changes). These lessons provided the students with an understanding of how to calculate energy costs, efficient lighting and how and why appropriate lighting is measured. Students used math skills, hands-on activities and read light meters to accomplish this. 

 School Highlight: Pittsville High School Hydraulic Fracturing Forum

CURRENT EVENTS AND CRITICAL THINKING are familiar concepts in education. But, the current events studied in the classroom are often happening in conflict zones and capital cities and involve world events or political upheaval.

However, students at Pittsville High School recently took part in a school-wide learning initiative designed to connect their community to a subject with state and national implications. The project, spearheaded by Pittsville High School Principal Mark Weddig, taught students about the topic of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the frac sand mining that is taking place in much of western Wisconsin, including Wood County where Pittsville is located. 

The controversy over hydraulic fracturing, the process of using highly pressurized liquid to shatter rock, often large deposits of shale, in order to extract the fossil fuels contained within, is largely centered in the eastern and western states and parts of Texas where it is practiced. In those regions opponents of fracking are largely concerned about the effects on local and regional water supplies. Each year the process of hydraulic fracturing in the United States uses billions of gallons of water and treatment and disposal of the wastewater produced is problematic as it has been shown to contain "high levels of salinity, toxic metals, and radioactivity."1

However, fracking has equally strong supporters who feel the energy independence and job creation the practice may yield outweigh any potential risks. These proponents point to estimates that show fracking could ultimately yield nearly a century's worth of natural gas2 and the creation of more than 1.7 million jobs.3

While Wisconsin does not contain the fossil fuels that hydraulic fracturing extracts, the state is rich in the silica sand that is vital to the process. The "frac sand" as it's known, is high purity quartz that is prized for its uniform composition and durability which allow it to hold the fractured rock open, permitting the sequestered natural gas and oil to flow to the surface.

It is the mining of frac sand that connects Wisconsin to the national debate. And though the environmental concerns are less extreme in Wisconsin, frac sand mining has sparked debates similar to those heard on the national level. Concerns over the quantity and reclamation of water used for washing and preparing the sand as well as air quality in the areas surrounding the mines are met with claims of increased job creation in a down economy.

To bring the topic to the entire student body, Pittsville staff assigned objective materials that allowed students to better understand the issues that surround both hydraulic fracturing and frac sand mining, ultimately dedicating an entire school day to studying the topic.

The block-style schedule used by Pittsville High School allowed intense examination, enabling teachers and students to delve deeply into the material. A week before the forum was held, all students read the same articles in class at the same time of day, providing context for a larger, school-wide discussion.

To provide a complete understanding of the issue, staff members chose articles and resources that covered four initiatives important to students' understanding of the subject: The basics of fracking and frac sand mining; The effects of fracking and frac sand mining on human health; The effects of fracking and frac sand mining on the environment, and; The history of hydraulic fracturing and frac sand mining.

The project concluded with a school-wide discussion forum with Patricia Malone, professor of community resource development at UW-Extension who presented Frac Sand Mining in Wisconsin: Understanding the Issues.

During the forum with Professor Malone, students demonstrated their understanding of the subject, asking questions about economic and environmental implications as well as the history of the industry.

Principal Weddig says the school plans to continue learning forums, stating the forums develop "higher-level thinking skills, which will lead to greater success in any field that the students choose after high school."

Though the initiative was brief, staff members agreed that it provided an excellent context for learning and advancing critical thinking as well as providing for a school-wide conversation.


1 Environ. Sci. Technol., 2013, 47 (20), pp 11849-11857; DOI: 10.1021/es402165b; Publication Date (Web): October 2, 2013

2 "What Would Be the Impacts of Shutting Down All Fracking?." RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. http://theenergycollective.com/jemillerep/274626/what-would-be-impacts-shutting-down-all-fracking.

3 "Fracking Will Support 1.7 Million Jobs, Study Shows." Bloomberg Business Week. Bloomberg, n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-10-23/fracking-will-support-1-dot-7-million-jobs-study-shows.​​​​

 Teacher Highlight: Nels Lawrence, Technology Education Teacher, Kaukauna High School

UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION teacher Nels Lawrence, Kaukauna High School students are learning and using the technologies that are destined to define our future. Since arriving at Kaukauna High School in 1996, Mr. Lawrence has seen technology advance by leaps and bounds and continually adapts and changes his curriculum to prepare his students for the future. As Nels designs his courses he thinks about the questions: what kind of jobs will his students have in the future and what tools will they need to learn in order to be successful? This kind of thinking led him to introduce innovative technologies like Vex robotics and a three-dimensional printer called the Maker Bot, as well as design new courses such as a sustainable architecture class, which was inspired by a course he took on humanitarian law as well as the Better Buildings: Better Business Conference (more about this conference below).

While 3D printers and cutting edge robotics may be expected in a technology education class, the connection between sustainable architecture and humanitarian law is less obvious. That is, until Nels explains that one of his goals is to teach his students that many of today's issues - and the issues they'll certainly face in the future - rarely exist in isolation. The problems of the modern world often encompass energy, logistics, and architectural solutions that will require collaborative problem solving skills and holistic thinking. So, to prepare students, Mr. Lawrence encourages them to learn to communicate their ideas effectively and to use a "big system approach", such as LEED's cradle-to-cradle philosophy.

 

To stay inspired and on the cutting-edge of technology, Nels continues to learn and remains active in Wisconsin's technology education community. He credits the many grant opportunities and courses provided by KEEP and professional development opportunities such as those provided by the Wisconsin Technology Education Association (WTEA) and Better Buildings: BetterBusiness Conference with providing funding, motivation, and ideas that help his courses and curriculum evolve.

 

“KEEP has been a catalyst for a lot of what the technology education department has accomplished."

 

His hope for his students and future teachers is that technology education continues to evolve and maintain the high standards set by Wisconsin's education community. Nels mentioned that in order to complete his many goals he will need to keep teaching for many years; and while he continues to teach, each student he guides through technical education in Wisconsin will be better for having been in Mr. Lawrence's class.

 Teacher Highlight: Lynn Scala, Sixth Grade Teacher, Arkansaw Elementary, Durand School District

FROM EARLY ON, LYNN SCALA, A SIXTH GRADE TEACHER at Arkansaw Elementary School in Arkansaw, Wisconsin, was aware of the natural resources she was consuming. She recalls her father pounding on the bathroom door, telling her "That's enough water Lynn" as she drew her bath as a girl. When she started teaching, she got involved with Pepin County's youth education program, Pepin County & the Big Woods, and became interested in bringing resource conservation into her classroom. Eventually she began incorporating Earth Day lessons and activities and took KEEP's School Building Energy Efficiency Education course, which helps teachers understand their school's energy consumption and helps them use their school building as a tool to teach energy education.

Through a KEEP mini-grant (available to course participants) Lynn started a project called Operation KARE. Operation KARE, which stands for Keep Appliances Ready for Electricity, teaches students how to help reduce energy consumption at school and home. Lynn's personal experiences — she found an enormous amount of dog food blocking her refrigerator's grille causing it to run non-stop — became her motivation for the project. Through Operation KARE, students learn how to keep furnaces running efficiently by changing air filters and cleaning the grilles covering air ducts at home and school. They also learn the importance of making sure air returns are not blocked, windows are tightly closed, lights are switched off when no one is in the room, and how to reduce phantom energy consumption (referring to the energy consumed by some devices when they are in standby mode or turned off.)

To prepare her students for Operation KARE, Mrs. Scala taught a variety of lessons about where energy comes from as well as energy consumption and production. Digging for Coal teaches students about how coal is formed, where it is found, how it is mined, and how it is used, while Light and Your Load helps students understand the costs associated with lighting at home and school. Additionally, Lynn used the Energy Action Assessment put out by the National Energy Foundation and created her own lesson to look for phantom load appliances. The students also did a little research of their own and created poster presentations on various types of lighting, such as incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs, Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) and halogen lights, to name a few.

Ultimately, Lynn wants to make the lessons meaningful to her students so they will incorporate energy awareness into their everyday lives, not just in the classroom. So far, students' enthusiasm for the project has been high and many have already made positive behavior changes. One student reported doing something he'd never done before — he unplugged the charger to his Nintendo DS. Operation KARE is proof that meaningful learning can help students have a better understanding of how minor changes in behavior can lead to major reductions in energy consumption.

 Facilities Staff Highlight: Lynn Landre, Dimensions of Learning Academy, Kenosha


FACILITIES MANAGER LYNN LANDRE'S
passion for improving the 100+ year old school building that houses Dimensions of Learning Academy is unmistakable. Her dedication to the students and staff of the Kenosha, Wis. charter school is evident in the joy she takes in caring for the building, which opened in 1911 as the home of the St. Thomas Aquinas parish. While many believe there are limits to the energy efficiency that can be achieved in older buildings, Lynn Landre isn’t one of them.

Lynn first became concerned with the energy consumption of the school when she determined that her building’s 1950s era boilers were not running efficiently. She discovered a hairline crack that was causing increased water consumption and excessive firing during operating perio​ds; fixing the problem saved the school a significant amount of money in water costs and inspired Lynn to look for ways to save money in other areas.

While Lynn's passion has been the driving force behind many of the energy and money saving changes the school has made, she credits the administration and staff for the successful implementation of the long range plan. The Dimensions of Learning Academy community, including the students and their families, the entire staff, and administration, has embraced Lynn's desire to connect her primary role as facilities manager to her desire to improve the students' learning environment.  This expanded role has allowed her to thoughtfully and deliberately strategize solutions and work with the entire school community to reduce energy consumption. Through collaboration with the principal, Ms. Diana Pearson, and the school's teaching and custodial staff, the school developed a larger, more comprehensive plan called the Smart Energy Management Program. 

The Smart Energy Management Program is a multi-dimensional – and ongoing – campaign that involves the entire Dimensions community in making the school as energy efficient as possible. By reviewing reports provided by the Kenosha Unified School District, Lynn and her team were able to better understand their energy consumption. This understanding allowed staff to set the guidelines that define the program. The solutions range from simply turning off lights when not in use and setting the water heaters to 120 degrees to larger projects like exchanging "energy hog" appliances with more efficient models and replacing exterior fixtures with Energy Star Smart Fixtures.

Partnerships outside the school have proven to be incredibly valuable, too. A five-year-plan to utilize financial incentives offered by Wisconsin Focus on Energy helped Dimensions phase out older, less efficient lighting and replace much of it with energy efficient T-8 fixtures. With the help of another Focus on Energy incentive the school replaced its outdated steam traps.

Buoyed by success, Lynn was given the nod to investigate a plan to replace the boilers that provided the initial spark for her efforts. After studying boiler options and learning to understand the industry from an installer's point of view, Lynn was able to guide the project to a successful conclusion. Ultimately the boilers were replaced and much of the money saved was reinvested in the school, directly impacting the instructional needs of the school.

Lynn says she is most proud of the improvements in her school and the money savings those improvements have generated. The accolades, she says, have been a bonus. By 2009, Kenosha Unified School District had set an energy reduction goal of 11% for all buildings. While the goal was not known to the schools at the time, a handful of them – including Dimensions – were recognized as Energy Star rated buildings. With this acknowledgment came a plaque and rebate check that was shared with the classroom teachers to promote their continued commitment to the Strategic Energy Management Program and other energy saving initiatives.

Outreach and education are staples of Dimensions of Learning Academy's approach to energy efficiency. While the care Lynn takes of her “second home” is inspirational, what makes Lynn’s efforts truly remarkable is the way she interacts with, and teaches, the students and staff, without whom she says the school is “just a building”. While it may not be the norm, Lynn says her desire to connect her work as facilities manager to the business of learning and student development is fully backed by the staff, the district, and the students and their families.

 

As we recounted last month much of Dimensions of Learning Academy’s energy efficiency is due to Lynn’s work in updating boilers, replacing inefficient light bulbs and fixtures, and developing a Strategic Energy Management Program. However, in addition to her own efforts she credits programs like the Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP) and Green & Healthy Schools Wisconsin with providing the resources and education she uses to connect with students.

Through KEEP’s professional development offerings Lynn found a valuable supply of resources and education. KEEP courses like Energy Education in the Classroom and Doable Renewables satisfied her need to connect with students and staff and School Building Energy Efficiency Education helped her in her role as facilities manager.

Likewise, KEEP’s Bright Idea Fundraiser provided an opportunity for her students to earn money for the school by selling compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to members of the community. The program provided the students with the knowledge and resources to inform others about the energy savings that could be achieved by simply switching from incandescent bulbs to the more efficient CFLs. In addition to education, the program allowed students to keep 2/3 of the proceeds and provided the seed money for the school’s ‘green library’. Though the program is no longer running, it is an example of how seeking outside resources can provide a boon to both a school’s and a community’s education, environmental, energy efficiency efforts.

Beyond the material resources and education provided by KEEP courses and fundraisers, Lynn found the networking opportunities afforded by the program to be invaluable. Connecting to like-minded facilities managers and educators allowed Lynn to see what others were doing in their schools, generating ideas and providing inspiration for her own efforts.

It was with educational resources, framework, and knowledge from programs like KEEP and Green & Healthy Schools Wisconsin that she has been able to galvanize the individuals who make up the Dimensions of Learning Academy’s Green Initiative (GRIN). GRIN is composed of students and staff in order to support the Smart Energy Program and serves as the umbrella under which to explore and implement all environmentally focused initiatives within the school community.  From an after school environmental enrichment club to raised planting beds that are part of a type of farm-to-table program within the school, the school’s Green Initiative continues to grow and thrive.

Of all Lynn’s efforts, she says she most enjoys working with students, finding joy in seeing students take responsibility for their school and take action to conserve energy. “I love it when they engage in keeping the building up as a community,” she says. And, she knows her efforts have reached a student when she sees them take action without direction, like stopping to pick up a piece of paper and place it in the recycling bin or closing open doors to conserve energy.

 

In the end, Lynn says that she is driven by the challenge of operating a safe, healthy and successful school building that connects with forward-thinking people who want to contribute to sound environmental practices. While every school is different, and not every facilities manager has the freedom to work in all the facets that she does, Lynn feels that by accepting responsibility for a building’s energy efficiency and seeking out resources, like those she found with KEEP, that all schools have the ability to reduce their energy consumption and their environmental impact.   ​​

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