Local students go on energy diet

A St. Albert class is getting top marks for energy efficiency this week as it takes part in a national energy diet.

Students in Monique Waters’ Grade 3 class at Muriel Martin Elementary school are taking part in the Energy Diet Challenge — a national event organized by Shell Canada and Canadian Geographic that asks students from some 500 classes to get charged up about energy conservation.

The challenge has been running since Feb. 6, says Waters, and her class is leading the pack in Alberta.

“We are currently in fourth place in Canada,” she says, and they’re gunning for first.

It’s all about saving energy and making less waste, says student Kennedy Love, who designed the class logo for the contest.

“If the landfills keep filling up, then one day the world might be a huge landfill like in [the movie] Wall-E,” she says.

Energy challenge

The contest is a joint project that aims to promote energy literacy, says Ellen Curtis, educational consultant for the Royal Canadian Geographical Society that publishes Canadian Geographic.

The challenge asks classes to complete 25 events designed to teach students about energy conservation, such as going an hour without electricity, learning about renewable power and planting a school garden. Each event gives them five points, with bonus points awarded if they take extra steps, such as getting other classes involved.

Classes that earn more than 30 points are entered in a draw for a new smart-board. Whichever class has the most points by March 30, which, coincidentally, is the day before Earth Hour takes place, gets $500 for a party, $500 for school supplies and $500 donated to the charity of their choice.

Waters’ class has completed 19 out of the challenge’s 25 activities as of March 12, according to the contest’s website, and is currently 37 points behind the leader — Mr. Vickers’ Grade 8 class at Ontario’s A.V. Graham Elementary School.

The class has done daily announcements about energy conservation, Waters says, and written a letter to the editor to promote its importance. Students have also drawn blueprints (in pencil crayon) of various energy-saving devices, such as pressure plates that turn off lights when you leave a room, audited their trash, electricity and water use, composted, recycled and held a swap meet.

It’s been really fun, Kennedy says, especially the poster campaign. “We had to create a poster of how to conserve energy,” she explains, and post them around the school.

Waters has linked the contest activities in with the rest of the curriculum. Discussions on the carbon footprints of imported food led to talks on India, for example, while energy audits get students to flex their mathematical muscles.

“They’ve learned a lot, and they’ve been sharing [the knowledge] with others as well.”

Waters says she’s learned to unplug her cellphone charger when she’s not using it as a result of this contest (chargers often drain power even when not in use) and has started making double-sided photocopies. One girl even told her mother to park her car instead of using the drive-thru to get coffee in order to burn less gas.

“I’m amazed at how much they’ve gotten out of this.”

Love says she hopes the class can get up in the rankings, but notes that Mr. Vickers’ class has a big lead.

“We’ll probably end up in third or second.”

The contest winner will be announced on April 23, Curtis says — the day after International Earth Day. For details, visit energydiet.canadiangeographic.ca.

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