Student council makes video on saving energy at Westwood Middle School

by Elyse Kaner
Staff Writer

Watch your step energy wasters.

Student council members at Westwood Middle School have created a video that will help save energy in the school and at home. They are: (first row, left to right) sixth-graders Kelsey Williams, Yoo-Jin Hwang and Bennett Putnam. Middle row: seventh-graders Isaaclina George and Rachel Kraber and sixth-grader Delaney Herman. Top row: eighth-graders Rafay Hasan, Chelsea Young, Graisen Pearson and Laila Bensaad-Johnson. Not pictured are: Myah Ashley-Staple and Kallie Ward. Photo by Elyse Kaner

Because the energy heroes at Westwood Middle School could be hot on your trail.

Lights on? Doors open? Inappropriately dressed for the temps?

The heroes are on the scene to help. Especially for those who consistently waste energy.

A dozen student council members have created a three-minute video titled “Energy Super Heroes Save Westwood Middle School.”

The idea behind the video is to get students to become more mindful of saving energy.

“Anytime we can get kids involved at an activities level, it makes an impact. It has more meaning,” said Principal Paula Hoff.

Serious business

The video viewer quickly learns that saving energy at Westwood is serious business.

When lights remain on in a class room, super heroes swoop in to turn the lights off and chide students for wasting energy. Close classroom doors, they tell students, because the halls are set at different temps. Shutting a door keeps heat in during the winter time and saves energy.

And when a student in a sleeveless dress walks into the office and asks to turn up the temperature, the super heroes rush in and remind the student to dress appropriately in warmer clothing. During warmer months, don’t ask to up the air-conditioning. Take off your jacket. Dress cooler, the super heroes say.

And shame on the teacher who tells her class to leave their computers on at the end of the school day to ease the start of the next day. Enter the super heroes who handcuff her and take her away, but not without first admonishing her for the remarkable energy drain computers cause when they are left on overnight.

A premiere showing of the video was scheduled last week for the entire sixth- through eighth-grade school during Westwood’s Pride meeting time (similar to home rooms).

Taking ownership

When Westwood was asked if anyone was interested in partnering with SEE (Schools for Energy Efficiency®) to work on an energy-related project, student council advisor Mary Mohr-Senocca and her group jumped on the energy-saving wagon.

The student council decided a video teaching energy-saving tips would be appropriate.

“I love the fact that the kids took ownership of their own energy conservation,” Mohr-Senocca said .

For nearly two months, the students gathered every other week in 50-minute sessions. Under the tutelage of Ann Arney, energy efficiency coordinator for SEE, they learned how to write a script. They created dialogue and came up with a logo. They discussed casting and settings. They rehearsed. Finally, with a few retakes, they shot the video in one session.

“They concentrated very hard,” Arney said. “I was amazed at how they were able to stay on task.”

Isaaclina George, a seventh-grader, particularly enjoyed coming up with ideas for the video and hearing other student’s opinions and thoughts.

Creating the video taught her that keeping classroom doors shut during the winter months keeps warm air in and saves energy. (The school’s halls are set at a different temperature from the classrooms.)

But her newly learned knowledge extends beyond the school day. Especially with light fixtures and lamps.

“I shut them off way more at home,” she said.

Isaaclina helped to make the super heroes even more, well, electrifying. Using fabric paint, she decorated black T-shirts for the heroes with a logo created by the magnificent dozen. The design consists of an electric cord in the shape of an S for super heroes with an electric plug at the end of the cord.

Rafay Hasan, an eighth-grader, enjoyed writing the video script the best because it allowed him the opportunity to get to know his fellow councilors. He learned that performing little steps can greatly affect the world, he said.

“I hope that other schools follow and save energy and benefit the economy….” Rafay said.

“It will benefit your parents, too, and save them money,” Isaaclina chimed in.

Zero cost to district

Costs for the project came in at zero. Students donated their own T-shirts. SEE covered minimal expenses.

Arney said she hopes the video’s energy-saving message will reach the students and staff. Perhaps, other groups will want to partner with SEE.

“I think it was a good way to get the students involved, a good example of how the SEE program can be built into the classroom on the student level,” Arney said.

District 16 in 2010 entered into a five-year partnership with Hallberg Engineering of White Bear Lake, creator of the SEE program, to save energy costs and teach responsible energy usage. In the first nine months of tracking program results, District 16 avoided costs for over-all gas and electric usage by more than $22,000, according to Arney.

To watch the “Energy Super Heroes” video, visit www.facebook.com/WestwoodMiddleSchool. You need not be a Facebook subscriber to visit the page.

Elyse Kaner is at elyse.kaner@ecm-inc.com

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