Teaching students about the benefits of energy efficiency gets the conversation started early and is an effective bottom-up approach to educating entire families. These programs inform students and reach other members of the family with the ultimate goal of reducing household energy use. All of these energy efficiency education programs include energy (and sometimes water) education lessons and often come with “take home kits” that have free energy efficiency devices. For utilities, these programs provide a triple win: a cost effective way to generate energy savings, a means to become connected to the community in a tangible way and an act of generosity that generates goodwill with their customers.
Currently, 21 states have active utility-sponsored school-based energy education (EE) programs. The structure of the programs varies from a one-time presentation/workshop to an ongoing energy curriculum, and the content varies depending on the availability and access to take-home kits. The programs are most frequently targeted at fifth and sixth grades, with some programs working with a broader range of grades.
In order to get this demographic of students engaged—and on board—with EE education, you need to get their hands, hearts and minds involved. It is finding the right balance of these interrelated aspects that determines the students’ degree of engagement. Only hands-on activities but no cognitive understanding doesn’t cut it, nor does resonating with a student on an emotional level but not channeling that energy into a learning activity.