by Elyse Kaner
A junior Girl Scout troop’s quest for a bronze award has sparked an energy-conscious group of kids, which could lead to energy savings and lower costs at Westwood Middle School.
Troop 13216 recently went on a hunt of sorts, an energy audit, at the Blaine school to identify and help stop the wasting of valuable power.
The building audit, part of a Scouts service learning project, was meant to spur an awareness for energy use for both the school and the 14 fourth- and fifth-grade girls who participated.
“The girls were really being diligent and working very hard,” said Ann Arney, energy efficiency coordinator for SEE (Schools for Energy Efficiency®), with whom Spring Lake Park District 16 is partnering in a five-year initiative to save on energy costs.
Armed with light meters, an electronic thermometer and a thermal camera, the Scouts combed classrooms, bathrooms and other spaces at Westwood the night of Feb. 10.
They performed light readings, checked for leaky faucets and took thermal energy readings in search of drafts leaking air into the doors and windows at the school.
But they didn’t rely strictly on electronic meters for their conclusions. They also used the old tried-and-true observation technique – the naked eye, when they took an electric plug count.
When finished with the audit, the girls planned to compile their findings and issue a report for the principal.
As part of earning the bronze medal, which calls for 20 hours of work from each Scout, the girls also created and distributed 800 bookmarks to kids at Westwood Intermediate.
On the bookmarks were energy-saving tips, such as pictures of how to turn off faucets and light bulbs or how to dress in layers to stay warm.
Scouts who participated in the project were Lindsay Alguire, Rachel Brodie, Amy Fleck, Katie Fort, Abi Furlano, Sarah Genet, Allison Hjulberg, Lilly Jacobs, Taylor Saastamoinen, Victoria Sandberg, Isabella Varani, Maggie Weigold, Alison Wilcox and Alexia Willis.
The Scout troop meets monthly at Camp Locksley in the Fridley area.
Beyond the bronze
Beyond earning a bronze medal, the highest award a junior Girl Scout troop can jointly earn, what does such an audit accomplish?
“It’s important to get the students involved and to have them understand where energy comes from,” Arney said.
“As adults, we understand we pay for energy use. This is more of a tangible thing for them. They learn we can save money, we can help the earth and we can help the schools.”
In an official tally, Scout leader Cindy Fleck said the girls found only three leaky faucets throughout the school.
WWMS has 40 regular-size classrooms, 20 larger-sized classrooms (used for such classes as band, art and science) a gymnasium, and media center. The school also has 10 multi-user rest rooms plus staff rest rooms and multiple office and small instructional spaces.
Using a thermal camera, the girls took photos of air leaks. “I think they were surprised at how the windows could be improved, especially the exterior windows compared with the interior windows,” Fleck said.
The girls also came to a room with cords plugged into the walls with no computers attached.
Cindy Fleck’s daughter, Amy Fleck, 10, a fourth-grader at Westwood Intermediate School, has been in the Scouts for five years, starting as a Daisy Scout.
In conducting the energy audit, Amy learned about vampire energy.
“Even though it’s not on, you’re still using energy,” she said.
Arney calls the reference to a vampire, a fun word. “It helps them know that energy is being sucked out by electronics,” she said.
For Amy the best part of the audit was measuring the energy output of lights with a light meter.
Amy has taken her newly learned knowledge into her home. She unplugs the computer and other appliances when not in use. The same with battery chargers and lamps.
Cindy Fleck lauded what Amy’s participation in the energy audit has meant to her own home.
“My daughter is turning off lights, making sure she’s not wasting water when she’s brushing her teeth,” she said.
The evening of the audit, the Girl Scouts met for four hours and had hoped to nail an audit for both Westwood Middle School and Westwood Intermediate School. But their time was taken up visiting rooms in the vast middle school and taking the energy measures.
“I was kind of amazed,” Fleck said. “The girls are only eight to nine or 10 years old, but they’re capable of doing it and comprehending the results. And they’re able to apply the changes into their own lives.”
Elyse Kaner is at firstname.lastname@example.org