Blogs  |  11.14.2017

Students Take on Energy and its Alternative Forms at the Youth Energy Workshop

Last month, Challenger Center brought a Youth Energy Workshop to 9th grade students from E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington, DC. The day-long workshop, sponsored by Constellation, an Exelon company,  introduced students to the principles of energy literacy, allowed them to investigate the energy usage of their school, and learn about the benefits of switching to alternative energy. The Youth Energy Workshop also gave the students the opportunity to explore possible energy careers.

The students began the day by completing stations with hands-on activities that showed them how energy is involved in every aspect of their lives. The ninth-graders created a cloud in a jar to show how energy fuels Earth’s processes and used fruit punch to demonstrate the amount of energy lost through energy transfer in the food web. Students also tested the efficiency of energy-efficient light bulbs and analyzed if they are worth the money. One student mentioned, “the LED light bulbs are the most expensive at first, but you end up saving over $500 in a year, so it’s definitely worth it!” The students’ favorite activity was transforming cups of water, orange slices, and even their friends, into bongos using Makey-Makey circuits. Students quickly got over their initial fear of getting electrocuted (which wasn’t possible!), then eagerly tested common objects to determine if they were insulators and conductors and learned about how energy travels through closed circuits.

With a basic understanding of energy and electricity, students then set off around their school, testing the power output of electrical devices. Using a Kill-A-Watt meter, they tested the wattage of devices, such as the microwave in the teacher’s lounge, the copy machine, and pencil sharpeners. After estimating the electricity usage of a room, they analyzed a real electricity bill from their school building. Shocked by the amount of electricity the school uses in a month (and the cost of the bill!), students began thinking of ways the school could use less energy, like turning off lights in classrooms, turning down the air conditioning, and unplugging items when they are not in use. To share their newfound energy knowledge, the students wrote letters to their school administrators explaining the importance of conserving energy and gave specific steps the school could take to reduce the amount of energy used.

To conclude the Youth Energy Workshop, the students worked in groups to research forms of alternative energy and explore careers associated with alternative energy. The groups learned about solar energy, wind energy, hydropower, biomass, nuclear energy, and geothermal energy and created poster presentations to display in the classrooms and share at parent-teacher night.

Thank you, Constellation, an Exelon company, for making our Youth Energy Workshop possible and to the students of E.L. Haynes for their participation in this program.

– Lauren Phipps, Academic Manager