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Class Saves Energy to Save Salmon

by Megan Thomas
Idaho Mountain Express, November 18, 2005

Famed cartoon character Captain Planet arrived at The Community School to reduce energy consumption. With his arrival, seventh-grade students launched an energy campaign. The campaign demonstrates the changes in energy that would be required to remove dams on the lower Snake River and save salmon.

"If we can prove our school can reduce energy by five percent, then the dams can come down and the salmon can be saved," Gracie Weaver, a seventh-grade student, said.

Scott Runkel's seventh grade class at the private school in Sun Valley studied the decrease of the salmon population on the Snake and Salmon rivers. Thinking about the salmon's slow course towards extinction, the class considered removing four dams on the lower Snake River in Washington. Realizing that the dams produce 5 percent of the Pacific Northwest's electricity, the class decided to test if the middle school could reduce energy consumption by 5 percent.

"This was common sense stuff that no one had ever done at our school," Runkel said.

The class made adjustments throughout the middle school over the last two weeks that significantly reduced consumption, when compared to the same period last year.

"We saved 25 percent of energy and it was really, really easy," seventh-grader Kyla Jarrett said.

Throughout the middle school the students lowered thermostats from 75 degrees Fahrenheit to 68 degrees. Temperatures were also lowered after school and on the weekends.

Students changed incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent and decreased the number of light bulbs in each fixture.

Runkel's class opted to turn their own classroom lights off, finding the natural light sufficient for classroom activity.

"We have enough light," Zana Davey, a seventh-grade student, said.

The seventh-graders are working to install occupancy sensors to turn bathroom lights off and better insulate the school. Efforts began with putting insulation pads behind light switches.

The project translates to daily lessons, with students required to read the meter each day. The readings enable students to calculate energy consumption figures per day, per month and compare the percent of energy saved.

A handful of seventh-graders debated the issue before the entire middle school. The class then conducted a vote of their sixth- and eighth-grade peers, finding 34 votes to remove the dams and 10 votes to keep the dams.

The class also held a modified bake sale, offering free treats in exchange for students to listen to information pertaining to the energy campaign.

Megan Thomas
Class Saves Energy to Save Salmon
Idaho Mountain Express, November 18, 2005

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