Education

Elementary Students Conduct Their Own Lighting Audit

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Elementary Students Conduct Their Own Lighting Audit

At Hazeldean Elementary School in Edmonton, Grade 5 students created an energy efficiency program through the Innovative Elementary Program. The students were able reduce the energy consumption and cost of lighting at their school and teach other students and teachers about energy efficiency.

“Elementary kids are often overlooked about their ability to make changes and advocate to the things that they care about,” said Grade 5 teacher James Stuart, who manages the Innovate Elementary Program at Hazeldean. This project is one of many ways students have demonstrated the impact they can have in their school community.

They were able to go out into the school and make a measurable difference. [There were] real reductions and it was really rewarding for the kids.
— James Stuart

The first step was to learn about electricity, energy efficiency and light bulbs. Stuart along with some energy experts taught the students about different kinds of light bulbs and how much energy is used for each. They also learned about electricity, how it is produced in Alberta and the environmental impacts of the different types of production.

Next, students used their new knowledge to calculate their school’s electricity consumption by determining the types and consumption of light bulbs, and the number of each type of bulb throughout the building. From there, they monitored how many lights were on in each classroom, checking in at various times of the day to determine when classes were in session, when they were empty, and at the end of the day.

After collecting data, the students had to decide how they would present it. To make their information accessible to everyone, including the youngest students, they used made posters with photos and simple info boxes to teach their peers about the energy consumption of objects in their classroom. They included images of smart boards, desktop computers and lights with the amount of energy each consumed. The posters were distributed throughout the school.

The students also decided to create a contest for the classroom who was able to reduce their lighting energy consumption by the greatest amount. Using the information they had about each room’s energy consumption, they created a poster for each classroom showing its energy consumption. They continued to monitor the energy consumption of each classroom at random times until the end of the contest, with the winners earning hot chocolate made from the students’ self-made solar oven.

At the end of the lighting audit the Grade 5 group presented their findings during the school’s morning announcements. Over that time, they saw a reduction of 40 kWh. That is the equivalent of a 43-inch’ plasma TV running 32 hours a week for a month.

Through this project the students in Stuart’s Grade 5 classroom educated themselves, creatively engaged their school on the topic of energy efficiency, and were able to make changes in their school’s lighting electricity consumption.

“They were able to go out into the school and make a measurable difference,” said Stuart. “[There were] real reductions and it was really rewarding for the kids.”


For more information on education projects and opportunities in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

Project Footprint Helps Young Newcomers Take the Lead

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Project Footprint Helps Young Newcomers Take the Lead

Project Footprint is a program aimed at young newcomers to Canada, offering environmental programming at a school and housing development in Calgary. The program, run by the Calgary Immigrant Women's Association (CIWA), combines its programming and expertise to reach girls aged nine to 13 with environmental sustainability content.

Project Footprint, now in its third year, came about as a way to encourage and engage young immigrant girls in the global conversation about the environment and climate change, said Project Footprint’s program coordinator Amarjit Parmar.

We wanted to start the program up to get the conversation going, and develop some leadership skills in the girls to let them be global ambassadors
— Amarjit Parmar

“We wanted to start the program up to get the conversation going, and develop some leadership skills in the girls to let them be global ambassadors,” said Parmar.

 There are two parts to the program: regular weekly events with guest speakers, which focus on a wide range of environmental and sustainability topics. In addition, a mentorship program is held twice a month and connects the Project Footprint participants with older students, who work together to create and run sustainability projects.

Project Footprint participants also share their work with their community and peers. At CIWA’s annual youth forum the girls taught participants how to make reusable plastic wrap replacement using beeswax, coconut oil and fabric. Another year they flexed their green thumbs, teaching participants about gardening.

 The team mentorship projects vary each year depending on the interests of the participants. In the past, the young girls have run recycling programs, worked to reduce their plastic waste, and started an upcycling project to turn used clothing into new items.  

 “It was fantastic to see,” said Parmar about the upcycling project, which ended with a grand finale fashion show at school to show off the clothing they had redesigned. “The kids were so creative – they took shirts and made them into handbags.”

 The creativity and passion put into their projects may be fueled by the freedom and ownership they have. Parmar said the projects are based entirely on what the girls want to do, from conception to execution, while the youth mentors are there to support the implementation of the ideas and the creativity.

 “We are a girl’s program at heart,” said Parmar. “So self-confidence, sense of belonging and encouraging leadership is all there.”


For more information on education projects and opportunities in Alberta, see our resources page.

Submit your own new energy story here.

Nurturing Students on the Innovation Front

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Nurturing Students on the Innovation Front

The Innovate Program is a way for high school students to learn outside of a traditional classroom setting and do hands-on projects based on real world problems. The students are able to take on a project of their choice and are supported by educational staff, connected to resources and provided education credits for their work. Most projects emphasize sustainable development, emerging technology, reimagining citizenship for a rapidly changing world and entrepreneurship.

Aaron Dublenko, teacher at Queen Elizabeth High School in Edmonton and mastermind behind the project says, “this program assists students in developing mindsets that empower them to confidently design and implement solution oriented projects.” It also creates an opportunity for them to develop skills through hands-on trial and error and collaboration with peers and experts.

Innovate provides an opportunity for students to explore their interests, creates an encouraging space to make mistakes and troubleshoot designs as well as be creative in what they produce. Here are some of the projects students created.

Green Career Fairs

Students and staff organized five “Green Career Fairs” in Edmonton Public High Schools. Each school hosted 30-40 vendors per fair, with a total of more than 6,000 youth learning about environmentally focused career options. Students in the Green Career Fairs program created questionnaires, informative maps, and fundraised through grants for shirts, snacks and door prizes for the events.

Buildings that Teach

Through this program students explore, learn and change the way energy and resources are used in their school. In the past, students installed Smart Meters in a local arena to analyze electricity consumption. Another group researched their school’s solar passivity potential, natural light, and air quality. Others have completed energy audits, thermal analysis and used DENT meters to record light use over time in their schools. They use their research to inform necessary groups and work to cause infrastructural and behavioral changes in order to reduce the carbon footprints and costs of building operations in their schools and other large buildings.

The Mosaic of Youth Voices on Climate Change

Innovate Students are creating a series of podcasts titled “The Mosaic of Youth Voices on Climate Change.” In these podcasts, students write questions and interview their peers to create discussions about climate change and their future in Alberta. In collaboration with Edmonton’s historian laureate, the students are working to strengthen and illuminate the youth voice on climate change, as well as generate discussion about these topics among their peers.


For more information on how to undertake your own education project, check out the resources page.

Submit your new energy story here.


Building your own Sun-In-A-Box

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Building your own Sun-In-A-Box

After electrical engineering students Nathan Olson and David Roszko completed a research project involving medical electronics at the University of Alberta last year, they decided to try their hand at solar technology. They figured it would just be another project that began and ended in the classroom. But Roszko’s wife Ashley, a graduate student in Community Engagement at the University of Alberta, had a bigger idea.

“I was like, [this project] is so cool; we could use it to teach people about renewable energy and how solar power works,” says Ashley Roszko.

In turn, the trio began a year-long interdisciplinary project teaching people how to build personal solar units, which they called a Sun-In-A-Box, with the broader goal of driving grassroots engagement with solar technologies.


“There were kids working with seniors … someone holding a screwdriver while someone else screwed in a panel. It was just so neat.”


Practically speaking, a Sun-In-A-Box is a beefed-up solar-powered charger. The wooden frame, about the size of a shoebox, contains a battery pack, a pivoting solar panel and a small computer that can be programmed for various tasks. The box’s 12-volt rechargeable battery can charge or power anything that plugs into a USB port.

“It was designed to support itself for two days without any sun,” said Olson, one of the two electrical engineering students who designed the box.

That means it can charge about five phones before it needs a new dose of sunlight. In addition, with a few modifications, the wooden box can be rugged and weather proof, and can be used camping, or left outside for longer stretches to harness the sun’s energy for daily use.

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Sounds cool, and maybe you want one of your own, right? But you can’t buy a Sun-In-A-Box. You have to build it. That’s the point.

The venture was created as an education project – a way to get kids and community members excited about solar energy, and to scale the power of the sun down to something people can understand and use themselves.

Once the two engineers had developed and finalized the unit specs – the parts cost about $350 and can be found at Canadian Tire, Home Depot, any electronics shop, or just lying around your house – Ashley kicked her community engagement skills into action. The trio gave presentations to elementary schools and community groups in the Edmonton area, showing participants how the Sun-In-A-Box works. In July, thanks to the support of EcoCity Edmonton, they put on a workshop through the Alberta Green Economy Network with the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, Relay Education and the Riverdale Community to teach people how to build a Sun-In-A-Box.

Ashley Roszko said the workshop participants’ diversity and cooperation was inspiring.

“There were kids working with seniors … someone holding a screwdriver while someone else screwed in a panel,” she said. “It was just so neat.”

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From an engineering perspective, Olson said it was interesting to work with an interdisciplinary team, sharing solar technology with people who aren’t technical, and helping them make it a reality.

“It’s easy to get siloed and you don’t see what’s on the other side of the fence,” he said. “As engineers, we didn’t really consider the community engagement aspect.”

Being able to share their knowledge and passion with others who haven’t thought much about renewable energy was an exciting opportunity, Ashley Roszko said, especially when it came to hearing people’s ideas for what to do with a Sun-In-A-Box. Beyond charging phones, people suggested hooking up a wildlife camera, or powering a pump to use the water from a rain barrel or plugging in a soil sensor.

“[It was cool to see] what sustainability looks like to them when they realized that they could actually build their own,” she said.

Equally important, she added, is that there isn’t just one way to make a Sun-In-A-Box.

“We’re trying to show people something you can do, but you don’t have to do it exactly as we did,” she said, pointing out there are plenty of improvements people can make. Indeed, the project is open-source, and they are continuing to update documents and directions online, so that people can make their own suggestions and customizations.

“That’s one of the areas we hope it will continue to grow,” she said.


Detailed instructions on how to build your own Sun-In-A-Box can be found here.

For more information on how to undertake your own education project, check out the resources page.

Submit your new energy story here.

Gener8ting Environmental Leaders

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Gener8ting Environmental Leaders

Each year, Inside Education hosts its flagship environmental education event at the lodge in beautiful Kananaskis Country for one reason – to “inspire students.”

“At the Gener8 Youth Energy and Climate Summit, we have students from all over Alberta learning with and from experts on energy and climate change. At the end they will go back to their schools and communities and effect change,” says Steve McIsaac, executive director of Inside Education.

In the “Energy Dialogues” session, 16 experts in solar, wind, oil and gas, parks, air quality and climate change came together. Students got to pick seven tables they would visit to learn from and pick the brains of the experts in 10-minute sessions. It’s high-energy and very intense for both presenters and students.

Part of the take-away is for students to undertake an action when they go home.

“While we do provide some parameters, it’s student-directed and student-driven. Afterwards, students have done everything from upgrading toilets in their school’s staff room, to conducting stream bank rehabilitation after the 2013 floods, to installing solar panels on their school rooftops,” says McIsaac.

Former Medicine Hat High School student Jasveen Brar’s experience at Gener8 inspired her to study sustainability when she enrolled at Dalhousie University. She got involved with Students on Ice studying climate change in the Arctic and Antarctic and a few months ago took a group of students to the United Nations in a follow-up project. “It wasn’t until I visited Antarctica that I realized I knew so little about how the world works, and the real impact that we, humans are having on the planet,” Brar says.

“In 2016 we directly connected, in classrooms and field trips, with 23,000 young people, ranging from Grade 4 to Grade 12. Two hundred teachers participated in our teacher professional development programs and 500 students participated in our youth summits,” says McIsaac.

Inside Education was founded by McIsaac’s mentor Jim Martin in 1985. Martin was a teacher and principal in Indigenous communities. “He believed in taking the students outside,” says McIsaac. “He wanted to provide them with learning experiences… that will be life changing.”

In professional development programs Inside Education takes teachers to wind farms, the oil sands and elsewhere to provide hands-on experience. Other Inside Education student alumni got involved with the Centre for Global Education. That’s the same program where students wrote a white paper that was delivered at the Paris Climate Change Summit by Premier Rachael Notley. More recently, students prepared a white paper on climate change education and the programs schools can undertake to take action on Climate Change.

McIsaac says one of the differences in students these days is they don’t want to wait until they graduate to make a difference – they are taking action now.


Read the full story on Green Energy Futures here

For more information on how to undertake your own education project, check out the resources page.

Submit your new energy story here.