Burning fossil fuels creates pollutions and contributes to climate change. Teaching students to conserve energy and understand the benefits of alternative energy sources will prepare them for a cleaner, safer future.
Conserving energy at school also saves education money. In the U.S. energy use and utilities account for 34 percent of a school’s maintenance and operations budget.
Two popular projects that teach students about solar energy are pizza box solar ovens and solar garden glove dryers.
- Ask older students to research and build solar ovens from cardboard boxes. On a sunny day, have students test their ovens by using thermometers to see whose oven gets the hottest. These students can then teach other students, staff or parents how they designed their ovens and demonstrate uses for their inventions: making s’mores melty cheese and crackers, baking cookies, or upcycling crayons. Follow these instructions on how to make a solar oven.
*Note: Encourage students to utilize previously used materials if possible like:
*used, but clean aluminum trays rather than new foil
*leftover laminating film rather than plastic wrap
*used black plastic produce trays or salad containers rather than black construction paperThese items will also be washable so students can use the ovens many times.
- Students of all ages can utilize a solar dryer (clothesline). Schools with gardens might consider using it for garden gloves. Ask students to rinse their gloves and clip them to the clothesline. The gloves will then be clean and sorted, ready for the next garden work day. You may find that brightly colored gloves hanging on the line can also serve as “art” in your garden.
Make a “Recycling Saves Energy” Game fro students:
1. Place items listed below into compartments of a cardboard cup caddie as shown.
2. Mark the estimated energy saving number on the bottom of each item.
3. Let the students guess how much energy would be saved by recycling each.
Ask the students to match the item with the correct percentage (this can be done individually or by taking a group vote).
Estimated Energy Savings by recycling these items:
Aluminum Can 95%
Steel Can 85%
Plastic Bottle 75% (depending on type of resin)
Glass Bottle 35%
Next, let students remove items, check their guesses and discuss how energy savings take place.
Much less energy is required to:
re-melt a metal can than to mine and smelt ore
re-melt a plastic bottle than to pump and refine oil
re-pulp paper than to log trees and “cook” wood chips
re-melt a glass bottle than to mine and process silica sand, limestone, soda ash, etc.
Discuss why saving energy matters:
1. Energy is expensive
2. Energy sources are often dangerous (think oil spills and nuclear radiation)
3. Many commonly used energy sources are nonrenewable (coat, oil)
4. Burning coal and oil contribute to air pollution and climate change.
When we burn less energy, we make less pollution keeping the environment cleaner for all living things!
Helpful websites for Kids Energy Games
- energy KIDS – Games & Activities from the US Energy Information Administration.
- KIDS Saving Energy – Games, tips, & facts just for kids who want to save energy! from the US Department of Energy.
- NASA Climate Kids
- Project Learning Tree Energy and Society Kit
- Lesson Plans from EnlightenSC
Conserve: Energy Web Resources
- SCDOT’s Safe Routes to School Resource Center
- Recycling, Glass, Metal, Plastic and Paper-Energy Savings
- Recycling by the Numbers
- The Center for Green Schools and their great resource guides
- ENERGY STAR Pledge
- How to choose the best bulbs to replace incandescent
- National Energy Education Development (NEED)
- Saving Energy from PowerHouse
- SCDHEC Science Fair Project Guidebook
- Touchstone Energy Cooperatives
- Long Term Actions Checklist
- Short Term Actions Checklist