Students at McFarland High School, Lourdes Academy Elementary School, and Northland Lutheran High School took home cash prizes for successfully reducing their energy use. FOCUS ON ENERGY® and Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP) sponsored eight schools this spring to compete in the Renew Our Schools energy challenge. This six-week program, offered by Resource Central, motivates students and staff to implement behavioral changes around their school buildings.
McFarland High School won Wisconsin Cohort 1 while Lourdes Academy and Northland Lutheran High School tied for first place for Wisconsin Cohort 2, all of them earning $2,500 for future energy-efficiency projects. Lourdes Academy and Northland Lutheran completed every activity available, earning the same number of energy-saving points. These two schools received an additional $200 for completing two mini challenges where students investigated their home energy use and dedicated one entire school day toward saving energy by 3%.
McFarland High School signed up for the spring competition after seeing it promoted by KEEP a year ago. The “Eco Club,” composed of approximately 10 students spanning grades 9-12, took on the leadership role of this challenge. The group brainstormed ways to promote this initiative to their classmates and teachers through morning announcements, artistic posters, and email communication.
Students at McFarland also helped the school receive $700 through the Green Team Mini-Grant from KEEP. As a result, the school has been able to install 22 advanced power strips throughout the building.
“Renew Our Schools has positively affected our students,” commented Raquel Knops, Science Teacher at McFarland High School. “Individuals who previously would have shied away from public speaking volunteered to make announcements about the challenge over the intercom to the entire school.”
This challenge has planted a seed in McFarland High School’s energy efficiency potential. The school has already installed LEDs in the cafeteria, gym, and auditorium, now, there are plans to expand the installation of LEDs with motion sensors into the classrooms. Additionally, the staff are analyzing the current lighting schedules to find opportunities to reduce the number of lights on late at night.
A team of 50 third graders led the challenge for Lourdes Academy. Inspired by their school’s mascot, the students dubbed their group Knight, Knight, Turn Out the Lights. While the school had explored some renewable energy options in the past, they were not practicing sustainability consistently.
“It’s impressive how quickly our students sprang into action with this challenge,” quipped Third Grade Teacher Becky Piechowski. “They were so excited by all the terminology and energy-saving methods they learned in the classroom that they also took these concepts home. The students enjoyed plugging household appliances into watt meters to discover how much energy they were consuming at their house.”
During the challenge, students also had the opportunity to tour the University of Oshkosh’s Biogas Systems facility. Here the students were able to learn how compost and yard waste can be converted into energy.
Students developed news segments to promote the challenge using their school’s broadcast media lab. Here they developed weekly updates on the challenge including their ranking and how much energy the school was saving in real time.
Moving forward, Lourdes Academy intends to continue the spirit of the competition by labeling light switch covers with conservation reminders and putting equipment like computers and smart boards into sleep mode. They are also interested in exploring a hydroponic school garden and growing vegetables that could be served at lunch.
Northland Lutheran High School’s 22 sophomores participated in Renew Our Schools as part of their science course. Given that Northland Lutheran has a smaller population, the students were able to easily keep the school updated on the challenge. Opportunities included making midday announcements, presenting at the morning teacher-faculty meetings, and designing decorative posters and light switch covers to display in the hallways.
Students found an additional opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint by applying for the same grant as McFarland High School. This funding has allowed them to:
“Our students genuinely enjoy solving problems,” remarked Rick Grundman, Engineering and STEM Instructor at Northland Lutheran High School. “They did a great job working together during the challenge and finding innovative ways to save energy around the school. The audit portion allowed them to apply an engineering mindset to their calculations.”
Other participants in the Spring 2023 challenge included:
While a lot of electricity costs can be out of your control, Renew Our Schools has proven that small changes can have a great impact. By making behavioral changes and completing energy actions to save electricity, the schools were able to reduce their kWh usage by up to 5.5% during the six-week challenge.
Wisconsin schools are gearing up for the Fall 2023 challenge. Learn more about the challenge and future competition dates by visiting Renew Our Schools.