Wisconsin K-12 schools are playing a vital role in incorporating innovative climate and energy solutions in the state. One initiative, the K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP), equips educators with place-based energy education resources to help students and teachers increase their energy literacy and make their schools more energy-efficient and climate-resilient. KEEP is a program of the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education at UW–Stevens Point and is funded by the six major utility companies in Wisconsin: Xcel Energy, Madison Gas and Electric, WPPI Energy, Wisconsin Public Service Corporation, Alliant Energy, and We Energies.
KEEP offers professional development, place-based activities, and hands-on resources that help teachers incorporate energy education into their schools and encourage responsible energy use. KEEP also supports schools across Wisconsin participating in the national Renew Our Schools Competition. The activity is hosted by Resource Central, a nonprofit resource conservation group in Colorado. The competition is a five-week energy conservation challenge to improve energy efficiency in schools. KEEP hosts meetings during the year for student green teams across the state to meet, collaborate, and share ideas. KEEP also offers mini-grants for high school students exploring energy education. The mini-grant process gives students experience with grant proposal writing and provides funds to explore topics in energy.
Students from Chippewa Falls High School’s Green Team, the “Heat Punchers,” wrote the following report on their mini-grant funded project.
“We used thermal imaging technology via drones and cameras to find problematic areas in our school. We began by identifying areas of heat loss, with a focus on the building’s envelope openings, like doors, windows, and vents. We’ve identified that most of the school's doors lack proper sealing and heat is escaping, causing a waste of fossil fuel and money. Now, we’re organizing and analyzing the data, prioritizing areas of low expense versus high expense. Low expense solutions include better weatherstripping for windows and doors. Higher expense solutions include new roofs and HVAC systems. Using thermal imaging, we’ve identified places, such as a roll-up door in the band room and most of the tech-ed classroom windows, that are losing a substantial amount of thermal energy.
“Our goal is to apply for a grant through the Energy Innovation Grant Program (EIGP) to allow us to implement the higher cost solutions to conserve heat and energy in our school. Reducing our school’s use of natural gas will decrease the amount of methane being emitted, leading to an increase in air quality, reducing health issues in humans, animals, and crops. The EIGP grant would support improvements in our school’s energy efficiency, reducing the amount of money spent on heat by up to 10%. This would improve our school along with the environment.”
Nicholas Gagnon, science teacher at Chippewa Falls High School, and these students contributed to the project and this article: Iverson Beckwith, Monte Brown, Evelyn Kelly, Karson Balsinger, Bella Biederman, Kam Glamann, Adia Hardt, Maddie Hunt, Nate Mason, and Taylor Simonson. Resource Central notes that energy is one of the highest operating costs for schools and that schools participating in this competition have saved their school districts thousands of dollars. Like these Chippewa Falls students, many others around the state are taking on the challenges of energy efficiency in their schools, learning how to produce, consume, and conserve energy responsibly. UW–Stevens Point’s KEEP program supports energy education in Wisconsin schools through hands-on opportunities and career explorations that increase student knowledge and self-confidence as they strive to become more energy efficient and climate resilient.