By Eileen Hardy
Department for Energy Development and Independence
There was no shortage of energy or inspiration when 200 students and teachers converged April 27 in Frankfort at the Kentucky Green and Healthy Schools (GHS) and the Kentucky National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project Youth Summit and Awards Luncheon.
The program combines an academic competition with a recognition of everyone involved in NEED and GHS who achieved excellence in energy education in their schools and communities.
“I am so proud of the outstanding students who participated in our Youth Awards for Energy Achievement program,” says Karen Reagor, State Director of the Kentucky NEED Project. “They amaze me every year. Their creativity and hard work to educate others about energy is inspirational.”
The student projects on display were the result of a year-long exploration of energy in science, technology, engineering and math and were evaluated by an independent panel of educators and energy experts.
The Kentucky NEED project presented top honors to seven student energy teams representing both public and private schools for their exemplary leadership, energy knowledge and community involvement.
Schools were recognized in four categories and included: Sacred Heart Model School, Louisville, for the Most Outstanding Primary Level Project. Virginia Chance School of Louisville for the Most Outstanding Elementary Level Project, and Julius Marks Elementary of Fayette County Public Schools, first-year participant Rookie of the Year. Ockerman Middle School, Boone County School District, for the Most Outstanding Junior Level Project, and Anchorage Public School, Anchorage Independent School District, Junior Level Rookie of the Year. Hardin County High School’s Early College and Career Center, for the Most Outstanding Senior Level Project and Central Hardin High School, Senior Level Rookie of the Year.
Five public schools were recognized by Kentucky Green & Healthy Schools (KGHS), a project-based program that uses the entire school building and grounds as a learning laboratory for students.
Recognized as Model Kentucky Green and Healthy Schools for 2017 were Kit Carson Elementary, Madison County School District; Morton Middle School, Fayette County Public Schools; Pikeville High School, Pikeville Independent Schools; West Hardin Middle School, Hardin County School District. Green and Healthy School in Progress, Lloyd Memorial High School, Erlanger-Elsmere Independent School District. The KGHS teacher of the year award was presented to Carla Trisko of Morton Middle School, Fayette County Public Schools, Lexington.
In addition to recognition by the state affiliate NEED Project, two Kentucky schools have been chosen by NEED as recipients of its four national level awards. Teachers and students will be recognized for their accomplishments next month in Washington, D.C.
Kentucky’s Virginia Chance School, in Louisville, earned the national recognition for its energy education and outreach projects within the school and community.
The Hardin County’s Early College and Career Center (EC3) energy team received the award for the most outstanding senior level project for their “EcoCharger” project; a charging station that is activated by recycling of empty beverage containers.
The EC3 Energy Team includes 12 students from three Hardin County high schools. The students are enrolled in a dual credit energy management program that is a partnership between Hardin County and Madisonville Community College. The students are also studying and working toward industry certification with the Center for Energy Workforce Development. The EcoCharger project was one of six goals identified by the energy team that included team building, educating other students, solving an energy problem, community education and partnerships.
Gabe Oelschlager, high school junior, explained all the students collaborated on the project. “One problem we wanted to solve was how to create a recycling program. We knew we had to come up with a way to encourage students to recycle, so we looked for other things that are important to students. We are all so connected to our phones and a dead phone is devastating, and it’s hard to find a place to plug in your phone. That’s when we decided that we needed to pair the two issues.”
The machine looks like a large box. It gets its powers from an electrical outlet. When someone places a plastic bottle into the machine, the machine’s 32 USB ports are powered for 15 minutes. The station plugs into a wall outlet, but students said the wattage it uses for charging devices and running its green LED lights is well below what would be used if the same number of devices was plugged in separately.
The device has encouraged students to recycle and gained media coverage around the world.
Joe Stuecker, the EC3 instructor and his energy management students have been contacted by people interested in marketing the idea on a large scale, including a bottled water company in Poland that would like to place a charging station next to its vending machines.
“No one has done anything like this before,” said Stuecker. “We started the project as a fun way to encourage students to recycle and raise awareness about the energy used by cell phone chargers. For the students to be able get credit for the work they’ve’ done, to know they are truly making a difference, is a huge accomplishment.”
During the Youth Summit, students and teachers were recognized by Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt, the Kentucky Environment Education Council and Energy and Environment Cabinet officials for their participation in energy and environmental education.
“We are extremely proud of the schools that completed KGHS projects,” said Billy Bennett, executive director of the Kentucky Environmental Education Council. “The students, with the support of their teachers, have made significant improvements to the environment in a variety of ways. We are also grateful to Commissioner Pruitt for speaking and taking part in today’s celebration of their efforts.”
The Kentucky NEED Project provides teacher workshops and age related energy curriculum materials for K-12 schools. The program is supported in part through a grant awarded by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet to provide energy education and curriculum materials to teachers in hundreds of schools and to thousands of students. Details about the Kentucky NEED Project can be found online at http://www.need.org/kentucky.
KGHS is administered through the Kentucky Environmental Education Council and the Kentucky Department of Education. It is a project-based program that uses the entire school building and grounds as a learning laboratory for students. All grade levels of any public or private schools are invited to join KGHS. By making improvements on campus, students can help the school save energy costs, decrease absenteeism, increase student test scores and create a more sustainable learning environment, among other benefits. For more information, contact http://greenschools.ky.gov/Pages/default.aspx.
2017 Kentucky NEED Student Energy Teams:
Most Outstanding Primary Project of the Year – Sacred Heart Model School of Louisville,
Elementary Level Rookie Project of the Year – Julius Marks Elementary School, Fayette County Public Schools
Elementary Level, State and National Outstanding Project of the Year – Virginia Chance School, Louisville
Junior Level, Rookie Project of the Year – Anchorage Independent School
Junior Level, Most Outstanding Project of the Year – Ockerman Middle School, Boone County School District
Senior Level Rookie Project of the Year – Central Hardin High School, Hardin County School District
State and National Most Outstanding Senior Level Project of the Year – The Early College and Career Center Energy Team, comprised of students from three high schools, Hardin County School District
Kentucky Green and Healthy Schools Awards
Model Kentucky Green and Healthy Schools:
Kit Carson Elementary School, Madison County School District
Morton Middle School, Fayette County Public Schools
Pikeville High School, Pikeville Independent
West Hardin Middle School, Hardin County
School in Progress:
Lloyd Memorial High School, Erlanger-Elsmere Independent
Teacher of the Year:
Carla Trisko, Morton Middle School, Fayette County Public Schools