Cool School Challenge

Posted December 23, 2016 at 5:53 am by

San Juan Coun­ty Stu­dents are Sav­ing Ener­gy to Com­bat Cli­mate Change

Spring Street Inter­na­tion­al School 8th Graders — Con­tributed photo

Extreme weath­er events, ris­ing sea lev­els, melt­ing glac­i­er – oh my! While cli­mate change is an over­whelm­ing issue, there is cer­tain­ly hope, espe­cial­ly in the col­lec­tive pow­er of indi­vid­ual actions to reduce green­house gas emis­sions. That’s the under­ly­ing prin­ci­ple of the Cool School Chal­lenge (CSC), a cli­mate edu­ca­tion pro­gram that moti­vates stu­dents, teach­ers and admin­is­tra­tors to reduce car­bon diox­ide (CO2) emis­sions school-wide. At the heart of the pro­gram is the phi­los­o­phy that big changes start with small steps – and tak­en togeth­er, sim­ple indi­vid­ual actions cre­ate a world of difference.

“I am con­cerned about cli­mate change because it’s what I’m going to have to deal with in the future. I think the best thing is to start with small steps because peo­ple don’t real­ly like change, but if they are sim­ple and very straight­for­ward, peo­ple will under­stand and they can help,” said Ela, an 8th grad­er at Spring Street Inter­na­tion­al School, who has been par­tic­i­pat­ing in the CSC.

For the past two years, San Juan Coun­ty stu­dents like Ela have been con­duct­ing assess­ments of class­room ener­gy and iden­ti­fy­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to improve effi­cien­cy through the CSC as part of a larg­er com­mu­ni­ty ener­gy-sav­ing ini­tia­tive led by OPALCO, the San Juan Islands Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict, and the Ener­gy Round­table, as part of the nation-wide George­town Uni­ver­si­ty Ener­gy Prize ener­gy sav­ing competition.

“It is excit­ing to engage kids to know they can make a dif­fer­ence when it comes to ener­gy use! They love know­ing they can make pos­i­tive choic­es and actions to pro­mote a healthy earth,” said Lor­ri Swan­son, 3rd grade sci­ence teacher from Lopez Elementary.

Stu­dents at six coun­ty schools on San Juan, Lopez and Orcas Islands have par­tic­i­pat­ed in the CSC, tak­ing such actions as cre­at­ing ener­gy effi­cien­cy check­lists for class­rooms and homes, installing LED bulbs and smart pow­er strips in class­rooms, and edu­cat­ing their peers about con­ser­va­tion and cli­mate change.

“At Lopez Ele­men­tary, we esti­mat­ed that turn­ing off just one bank of lights in an aver­age class­room for 6 hours a day (if you’ve got plen­ty of nat­ur­al light com­ing in) can reduce CO2 emis­sions by 44 pounds every year and save $53. Imag­ine if every class­room in the coun­ty, state, and even nation did that? It could real­ly add up to sig­nif­i­cant change,” said Katie Flem­ing, Com­mu­ni­ty Engage­ment Direc­tor with Friends of the San Juans and coor­di­na­tor of San Juan County’s CSC effort. “These might seem like small steps ini­tial­ly, but as stu­dents mobi­lize at their schools, a new gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers will grow to active­ly par­tic­i­pate in the larg­er glob­al move­ment to help slow cli­mate change,” con­tin­ued Fleming.

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Categories: Education, Environment

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