Education column: Students going green with conservation programs

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy: Clovis Municipal Schools

Ever had cookies baked in a solar oven? How about cooking your own solar personal pan pizza? Students in the Clovis Municipal Schools have.

The CMS Energy Program and other energy conservation projects headed up by our own Mike Thomson, district energy manager for Clovis Schools, are teaching students about energy awareness, conservation, and renewable energy sources.

Our programs have been recognized at the state level as leading the way among school districts.

Energy conservation presentations, as part of science lessons and activities, are offered at participating schools within our district: Sandia, Mesa, and Zia elementary schools as well as at Yucca Middle School volunteered to pilot.

After participating in the solar presentations in the fifth grade classes at Sandia with the help of innovative teachers Molly Smith and Roxanne Mitchell, Mrs. Smith invited Thomson to come back during summer school this past summer and do the same thing.

Thomson helped summer school students make their own solar ovens in which they baked pizzas. As part of the presentation, he brought a solar balloon that the students were able to experiment with to see how the sun could heat the air inside the balloon sufficiently to cause the balloon to expand and rise, similar to large, hot air balloons.

That’s not all. Thomson’s C.A.S.H program (Conservation Altering Students’ Habits) is an after school program where students form “Green” teams that go through schools looking for ways to save energy.

These teams originally developed by teachers Doug Schwartz and Callene Zapalac at Mesa Elementary, connected with Thomson’s C.A.S.H program. When the teams reach their pre-established goals, they receive a cash award of $1,000, funded through the energy savings of that specific school site, and can be used at the school for anything education-related.

For example, Mesa used their money, together with BP’s “A+ For Education” grants, written by Schwartz and Zapalac, to go toward the purchase of a greenhouse.

Zia’s Karen Harcrow used their award towards improving school landscaping that’s more efficient to maintain; she rotates students through the program so everyone is involved.

Then, there’s the Solar Project in progress at CHS Freshman Academy. Photovoltaic panels are installed to store solar energy that is being put back into the grid as a renewable source through a partnership with Excel Energy. Before long a web cam will be able to share the workings of the solar panels with other schools in real time for their science lessons.

For additional information or to learn how to get involved, contact mike.thomson@clovis-schools.org.

Sounds like a perfect example of Benjamin Franklin’s words: “Tell me, and I forget. Teach me, and I remember. Involve me, and I learn.”

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at cindy.kleyn-kennedy@clovis-schools.org.