Killington Elementary Students built sailboats out of classroom materials to “sail” across a pair of strings powered by wind. The students worked in groups and were able to make engineering adjustments to their design after the first trial run. The experiment was part of “Energy Week” at KES
Last week was “Energy Week” at Killington Elementary School.
Laura MacLachlan, a representative from Vermont Energy Education Program (VEEP), spent last week with students at KES. VEEP is part of the non-profit organization, Efficiency Vermont, and its role is to educate children and community members on energy literacy. VEEP brings experienced energy educators, like Laura MacLachlan, into classrooms and community groups, to provide hands-on presentations that teach the science behind energy and efficiency.
MacLachlan met with teachers from KES last spring, to discuss ways to incorporate energy education. KES decided to participate in the Whole School Energy Challenge. This year-long program teaches how the school can become more energy efficient and empowers students to take action in real-life energy issues.
One of the ways KES students are saving energy this school year is by packing “waste free lunches.” The school has been encouraging students to save resources, and therefore energy, by packing snacks and lunches in reusable containers, or having school lunch.
The KEEPERS, Killington’s parent teacher organization, sponsored the Energy Week, which brought Laura MacLachlan into the school to give presentations to students, and doing hands-on experiments with them.
The Mountains Times visited the school twice to see what the students were learning. Killington’s third and fourth graders made sail boats on Tuesday, Nov. 18, and tested how well their sail designs moved their sailboats when blown with a fan. This project demonstrated how wind produces energy by moving objects. Students made predictions on how well their sails would perform before testing them. After observing the first test, students were allowed to make engineering adjustments to their sails, and see how those improvments affected the performance of the boats. Observing which boats moved the fastest and farthest, helped the students make decisions on how to adjust to their own design to make their boats work better. This type of hands-on learning; making predictions, observing, and making adjustments, help solidify the concepts of energy for the participants.
On Thursday, fifth grade students were paired with first-graders to learn about energy loss. MacLachlan had brought in cardboard houses, designed with different elements of construction and weather proofing, to see how insulation and construction design impacts heat loss. Students made predictions on which of the four cardboard home designs would hold in the most heat. They tested their theories by first reading the ambient temperature inside the houses without the addition of a heat source. Then MacLachlan heated up the homes with a container of hot water, and the students re-read the temperatures inside the homes to see which design held in the most amount of heat. This taught the kids how insulation and construction design can help a home to save heat, therefore keeping energy costs down and minimizing environmental.
MacLachlan told the Mountain Times that the programs and experiments VEEP provides used to be geared more towards high school and middle school students, but they did some adjustments to the curricula to accommodate different ages. “The sooner you teach kids, the stronger their foundation in energy literacy,” she said.
When asked what the most rewarding part of her job was, Laura MacLachlan answered, “Seeing those ‘ah-ha’ moments. When kids get to learn hands-on, they really get how something works… I really enjoys my job, and learn a lot from the kids too.”
By Robin Alberti
Photos by Robin Alberti