SEVERAL MEMBERS of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute visited Bath Middle School on Dec. 18 to watch the public service announcements presented by students and have a dialogue about the energy management project.

SEVERAL MEMBERS of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute visited Bath Middle School on Dec. 18 to watch the public service announcements presented by students and have a dialogue about the energy management project.

BATH

Students are learning about math and science as they explore energy management through an evolving online tool that taps the growing network of “smart meters” attached to Maine households.

The pioneers of the program, eighthgraders at Bath Middle School, have taken their work with the PowerHouse initiative even further and created public service announcements promoting electricity conservation.

PowerHouse is an educational initiative launched by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in partnership with Central Maine Power Co. and the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance.

Its website states, “to put the real world challenge of energy conservation at the center of learning in classrooms across Maine, GMRI has orchestrated an extraordinary partnership among Maine’s electric utilities, education organizations, state agencies, and the states largest environmental organization.” Additional partners include Bangor Hydro Electric Co., Maine Energy Education Program, Maine Learning Technology Initiative, Maine Department of Education, Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

Several members of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute visited Bath Middle School on Dec. 18 to watch the public service announcements presented by students and have a dialogue about the project.

Gayle Bodge, the program manager for PowerHouse, worked with science teacher Jennifer Galasso, one of 25 teachers who tested the tool in the classrooms. Galasso emailed her in July with her idea to do the exploration unit with her students, ending with the PSA project.

Late last school year, testing of PowerHouse began, which involved getting families on board and students connected, and the project went even further this year.

Bodge said she has come into Bath Middle School twice a week since November to sit in on classes, observing Rick McGuire’s math class learning about linear equations and data collection. In Galasso’s class, she learned about global warming and how carbon emissions are contributing, “and putting all those pieces together, then introduced PowerHouse.”

Students did home investigations to gather data focused on areas where they could save 5 percent, and used that evidence to create proposals to their parents for family conservation plans, Bodge said. The plans detailed how a family can continue to move forward continuing to save 5 percent in energy costs.

The public service announcements were just a piece of the unit. Already posted on the school’s website, Bodge said if parents grant permission, student’s PSAs will be posted on the PowerHouse website too, adding, “Our job now is just to really share this story and use that as a leverage to inspire other teachers and schools as to how to meet their learning goals.”

Tom Farmer of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute explained that PowerHouse is in the prototype stage. Within the next year or so, depending on the ability to roll out technology, the tool will be available to the general public.

Farmer said the project aims to provide a deep math and science learning experience for middle school students to help manage home electricity use and to focus ultimately on climate change and ways anyone can have a direct impact on climate change.

One student group’s PSA for example, states “the United States used 461 billion kilowatt hours in 2011 to light our homes and work environments,” accounting for only 17 percent of the total electricity use in the U.S. Most of the world’s electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels, which releases harmful greenhouse gases into the air, “resulting in global warming.”

“In Maine, residents spend on average $85 in electricity every month. If every household in Maine reduced their electricity use by 5 percent, Maine could save $37,230,000 per year” the PSA continues.

When asked if 5 percent was a large enough reduction and if they could save more, students agreed they could save even more. Two students said they saved 8 and 10 percent during the project by not using their dryers at home and a third shut off lights and unplugged items when not in use, used cold water to wash clothes and dried them on drying racks instead of in the dryer, saving 32 percent in energy costs.

After watching presentations, Farmer said he recognized a deep understanding of behavioral change, “and ultimately, to them, what’s important. They were focused on climate change. Their presentation was brilliant,” and stayed on topic while presenting stories as opposed to just facts. The vision is to ultimately have 10,000 households in the state of Maine actively using PowerHouse, kids learning and families reducing electricity usage.

Central Maine Power currently offers its account holders with SmartMeters an energy manager, which lets them view their energy usage by year, month, day and hour; manage energy use with tools and actions, and compare their usage against other typical users.


Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: