Two Wisconsin Schools Triumph in Energy Conservation Challenge

Students at OH Schultz Elementary School (School District of Mishicot) and Oconomowoc High School (Oconomowoc Area School District) recently took home the cash prize for successfully completing energy-saving improvements around their school. This fall, FOCUS ON ENERGY® and Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP) sponsored a Renew Our Schools energy challenge. Seventeen Wisconsin schools competed in the five-week program offered by Resource Central, which encourages students to learn key energy concepts and make behavioral changes to reduce energy consumption.

To win the challenge, each school needed to reduce energy usage by at least six percent. OH Schultz Elementary School and Oconomowoc High School did just that, earning $2,500 for future energy-efficiency projects. Both schools also won an additional $200 for completing two mini-challenges where they investigated their home energy use and dedicated one entire school day toward saving energy by three percent.

OH Schultz Elementary School won the Wisconsin Cohort 1, consisting of nine elementary schools. Oconomowoc High School won the Wisconsin Cohort 2, comprised of eight middle/high schools. Both schools earned the most action points and reduced energy by the highest percentage in their respective cohorts.

OH Schultz Elementary School

16.94% Energy Reduction

OH Schultz Elementary School
OH Schultz Elementary School made numerous changes to get to 16.94% Energy Reduction

Since passing a referendum in 2017, Mishicot School District has implemented numerous energy-saving upgrades around their buildings, such as installing LED lighting and sensors. After performing a school-wide energy audit, OH Shultz Elementary School's fourth graders and their teacher, Ryan Kamien, determined the biggest way they could save energy would be by using less electricity.

The classrooms were over-lit, so students performed two campaigns focused on behavioral actions. In the first activity, students monitored classrooms and assigned rooms with yellow light bulbs if one to two lights were turned off during class. These actions quickly added up, and classrooms received an opportunity to sign their name on a large poster display in the main hallway after they earned so many bulbs. The other campaign used lightning bolts to illustrate when lights were turned off in empty classrooms. The compounding effect allowed rooms to gain multiple bolts demonstrating their energy conservation efforts for the whole school to see.

"Our focus during the challenge was to get the whole school on board. It was great to see students and teachers actively involved in the competition," said Ryan Kamien. "We communicated daily how we were progressing by using colorful poster boards in the main hallway. Students were in charge of updating our total points, tracking energy savings and energy use, and providing updates on how we ranked overall. The end goal is not only about saving energy in the classroom and around the school. It's about maintaining those good energy-saving habits at home as well."

High School Students at Oconomowoc HS
High School Students at Oconomowoc HS won their second Renew our Schools Competition

Oconomowoc High School

8.25% Energy Reduction

Oconomowoc High School is a returning champion, having won the competition in the Spring of 2022. The school found great success by turning its air handling system to an occupancy-only setting, so it would only run when the building was occupied. However, as colder weather started approaching, there was a concern about the impact on the school's energy use during the fall competition.

Having a proactive AP Environmental Science class, students worked closely with facility staff to explore ways to shift and tighten up the heating and cooling schedules. Students were also able to tour the school's boiler room. This opportunity gave them a comprehensive understanding of all the equipment operating unnoticed throughout their school day.

During the challenge, students visited the City of Oconomowoc Utilities. They were given a first-hand view into how energy is monitored and gained a deeper understanding of how their home and school are powered. Representatives gave insights on career opportunities in the utility sector and educational possibilities to explore post-graduation. Students attending this tour shared this knowledge and background by developing a lesson and presenting it to younger grades in the district.

"We have found the Renew Our Schools program to fit our curriculum perfectly. Giving our students the opportunity to use energy-tracking data and learning how to interpret the results is a profound skill to develop at their age," said Kelly Holtzman, AP Environmental Science and Biomedical Science teacher at Oconomowoc High School. "Energy is a topic that affects everyone. We need to ensure we are doing our part to educate others because, at the end of the day, we are all energy consumers."

Renew Our Schools has had such a positive effect at Oconomowoc High School that students will present on their experience at the 2023 Wisconsin State Education Convention in Milwaukee. In collaboration with KEEP and Focus on Energy, students will share the success they achieved in the competition, including how they effectively reduced their school's energy usage by:

  • Reminding classes to turn off unnecessary lights
  • Unplugging appliances when not in use
  • Adjusting the air handling system.

Other participants in the Fall 2022 challenge included:

  • Oaklawn Elementary School
  • Marathon Area Elementary School
  • Anthony Acres Charter School
  • Wakanda Elementary School
  • SAGES (School for Agriculture and Environmental Studies)
  • Haugen Elementary School
  • Eagle River Elementary School
  • Tainter Elementary School
  • Webster Middle School
  • Parkview High School
  • Silver Lake Intermediate School
  • Big Foot Union High School
  • Rosholt High School
  • Prairie View Middle School
  • Sheboygan High School

The Renew Our Schools energy challenge shows that small changes can contribute to huge savings for schools, the local community, and the greater world. In addition to the financial savings, participating schools saved a total of 30,383-kilowatt hours on their utility bills. This is the equivalent of saving 2,423 gallons of gasoline.

Wisconsin schools are gearing up for the Spring 2023 challenge. Learn more about the challenge and future competition dates.

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