June 23, 2018
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Conservation-minded Maine students teach each other how to save energy

Heather Steeves | BDN
Heather Steeves | BDN
Noah Gillen, 14, a ninth-grader at Deer Isle-Stonington High School, rode a bicycle made in his applied physics class. As Gillen pedaled, he was able to charge a cellphone. The project was brought to the Energy for Me conference Friday in Belfast, where students from 10 coastal schools showed off energy-conserving projects.
By Heather Steeves, BDN Staff

BELFAST, Maine — About 150 students decided if their schools’ energy consumption is going to change, they had better change it themselves.

On Friday, the students presented energy-savings projects they created this school year as part of the Energy For ME conference at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center. Some students said the projects already have changed how they live.

Some take shorter showers now that they know how much electricity a hot water heater can consume. Others changed out the lightbulbs in their homes for more efficient ones.

“We learned kids are powerful. We can impact our communities,” said 14-year-old Peter Jacobson.

“We can’t wait for others. We have to do this work ourselves,” added classmate Emma Forthofer, a seventh-grader at Pemetic School.

The conference was hosted by the Island Institute, which runs the Energy For ME program, encouraging students from 10 coastal schools to find innovative ways to save energy.

As a 13-year-old from Pemetic School explained a community energy consumption survey her science class did, another teenager’s ears perked.

“That sounds like your project,” whispered Camden Hills Regional High School teacher Margo Murphy, looking across the table at her student.

“They got a much better response,” Kiera Haining, 15, whispered back.

“Find out what they did,” Murphy said.

Haining nodded and looked back at the Pemetic School’s slide-show presentation.

Each of the schools has worked for the past few months on an energy project for their schools. Camden Hills students discussed a wind turbine recently erected at their school, Vinalhaven students talked about analyzing a household’s energy use and Washington Academy students discussed a bicycle-powered blender they made.

The Energy For Me program armed the students with energy sensors that allow them to track their schools’ energy use — down to each light bulb.

“They give you minute-by-minute feedback. It gives very detailed information. It will say if someone left a light on down the hallway,” said Suzanne MacDonald, the community energy director at Island Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Rockland. “It shows them where they can make a difference and it translates it into a dollar figure.”

The energy trackers recently were installed and now the 10 schools will compete in an effort to reduce electricity consumption by the end of the school year.

“This encouraged students to play a role in their communities. They can have an impact on adults’ decisions. It also prepares them to be responsible adults,” MacDonald said.

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