By Gabriel Weinstein
Athens students learned about energy conservation this week during Energy Days 2009, an annual series of workshops for local schools hosted by the Ohio University Office of Sustainability to educate children about how people make and use energy.
Students grades three through six participated in several hands-on experiments Tuesday and Wednesday at Baker University Center to learn about topics such as energy and sustainability. The lessons were run by Office of Sustainability employees and local environmental leaders.
The workshops brought students and experts together to help students realize they are part of a larger global environmental system, said Energy Days organizer Erin Sykes.
“I really think the kids get a lot out of Energy Days,” said volunteer Matt Peters, who led the Energy Days workshop on biofuels.
Students rotated between stations learning about different energy and environmental issues in Southeast Ohio. To see the effects of acid mine drainage, students mixed acids and bases and tested the acidity of different substances. Students learned about electrical power generation by riding an “energy bike,” a bicycle modified to generate power when pedaled. At the hydroelectric power station, students observed a model stream to see how water can be used to make electricity.
The older the students were, the more advanced their lessons became. Those in higher grades learned about kinetic and potential energy, chemical reactions, circuitry and solar power.
Tom Parsons, director of curriculum and development for Athens City School District, said Energy Days is very educational for students because they can apply what they learn from the program to life outside the classroom.
Heather Skinner, a sixth grade teacher at The Plains Elementary, said she notices that some students use their new knowledge in classroom discussions and in their lives at home.
Joseph, one of Skinner’s students, said he plans to use what he learned from the Energy Days lessons at home.
“I will now try to use power saver plugs and try and turn things off more often,” Joseph said.
This year marks the ninth annual Energy Days series. The program has enjoyed wide support from students and teachers alike. Since its start, the program has been officially incorporated into the Athens City Schools’ curriculum. All students, grades three through six, from Athens’ five elementary schools now attend the program each year.