Plugged In Kids ~ "switch on" energy efficiency

Websites offer fun ways to “switch on” youth to energy efficiency

Getting children excited about energy efficiency may seem hard—for some parents, it’s enough of a challenge to get them to do chores! But several websites have been designed with young energy savers in mind.

 Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives, the brand “ID” of the nation’s not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, offers Touchstone Energy Kids Zone (www.touchstoneenergykids.com) featuring a spunky energy efficiency mascot, CFL Charlie. The site is designed to teach children in kindergarten through fifth grade how to be Super Energy Savers in their homes. The Kids Zone also includes interactive games, videos, and surprises.

“The website is all about engagement,” explains Kristine Jackson, Touchstone Energy Cooperatives senior representative for business development. “This is a way for parents to interact with children so the family can focus on energy efficiency together, and help everyone develop energy efficient habits that will last for a lifetime. Through fun activities, students and their parents learn about renewable energy, electrical safety, and energy savings.”

For example, LIGHTS OUT!, an online energy saving game in the Kids Zone, challenges kids to speed through a virtual house, replacing traditional incandescent lightbulbs with energy efficient compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) and turning off lights and appliances as fast as possible. The less energy a player uses by the time everything’s off, the better their score!

“Playing the LIGHTS OUT! game and taking kids through a house with an energy efficiency checklist, which parents can find in the Kids Zone, are great ways to work together to get good habits started,” recommends Jackson.

Mascots asking kids to help their parents save energy are popular. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has employed Disney’s Tinker Bell character to encourage youngsters to use CFLs and energy-saving smart power strips, as well as closing doors and turning off computers and gaming systems when not in use. 

“The magical thing about using energy wisely is that anyone can do it,” touts the campaign in a video featuring Tinker Bell and her friends at www.energy.gov/tink.

The Alliance to Save Energy suggests “super powers” may help combat low energy efficiency. Project Super Powers at www.projectsuperpowers.com, highlights videos of super heroes trying to use their abilities to save energy at home, often with embarrassing results. Children are encouraged to help by suggesting fictional super powers that might successfully reduce energy use. The website’s overarching theme encourages researchers (children) to find a better way to be energy efficient.

ENERGY STAR’s website for youth, www.energystar.gov/kids, provides interactive ways to learn how to make small changes with a big impact in places like a child’s bedroom. The site gives guidance on what items use power even when they’re not on (cell phone chargers, certain TVs, etc.) and basic things like air leaks that kids can look for and help their parents fix.

Teachers searching for ways to help students focus on energy efficiency have several resources available.

EERE also offers lesson plans, science projects, and more for K-12 students at www.eere.energy.gov/education. For example, elementary and middle school students can make a ‘Draft-O-Meter’ from a pencil and plastic wrap to check for air leaks in their home. High school science and math students can use the lesson plan, ‘Watt Does it Cost to Use it?’ to learn the energy “price tag” for different electric household items.

No matter what website you point kids to, the message remains clear. Energy efficiency starts at home, and everyone in the family has an important role to play!

Have you signed up for the “Watt Savings” Contest?  All interested members must sign up in 2009 to qualify for credits  on your electric bill.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy Office of Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives, ENERGY STAR, Alliance to Save Energy

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