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South Burlington Middle School Rocks Energy

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South Burlington's Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School
Photo credit: SB School District

Source: Fred Kosnitsky, The Other Paper

This article is part of a South Burlington Energy Committee series entitled "Hometown Energy Heroes"

When South Burlington first decided to enter the Georgetown University Energy Prize (GUEP) national competition, Linda McGinnis of the city's energy committee gave a talk to the faculty at the Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School (FHTMS) about how the school's participation was a major component of the city's effort.  Evidently, this talk struck a chord with a number of science faculty and administrators at the school, and for the past couple of years there have been some very impressive activities going on.  

I spoke with Amelia Lutz, and eighth grade science teacher who became the point person for the Middle School signing up for the Green School Energy Challenge.  This statewide program is coordinated by VEEP (The Vermont Energy Education Program) and entails the school putting together many projects to reduce the school's energy use by 10% in one year.  One project was to form a "Green Team" of students to develop useful ideas for both the school and the broader community.  Three efforts emerged:

  1. Information Technology Integration Specialist Steve Webster leads a group of students to create a map and data base of all the solar installations in South Burlington;
  2. Sixth grade teacher Deb Paul guides students in identifying ways in which the school can reduce its electricity use (for example, cutting back on the number of mini-refrigerators in classrooms); and 
  3. Assistant Principal Paul Yoon works with students on waste reduction and management issues, which not only reduce what goes to the landfill but also saves energy. 

The FHTMS science department is also introducing creative and sophisticated ways in which students can learn how energy is used and how, through conservation and increased efficiency, our energy related impacts can be reduced.  One example was an electricity unit where students created spreadsheets of different electronic devices and watts required to operate each of htem.  They then studied how much was being used in their homes.  The assignment?  How can each household reduce its electricity use without giving up needed services?

Another area of study was thermal energy - the heating and cooling of our homes and buildings.  Students built model shacks: high quality and low quality, insulated and uninsulated.  They then were given infrared imaging thermometers to see how construction quality and insulation affected heat loss.  The students then had to improve and insulate the shacks in the most cost effective manner, balancing energy savings within a limited budget.  This project in Lutz's class was such a success that science teacher Christopher Towle's class is now doing the "Shack Challenge" too, and ALL 8th graders will get this valuable energy and economics experience.  Students have also been producing 30-second and 60 second public service videos to spread their newly acquired knowledge. 

The bottom line is South Burlington taxpayers will be saving lots of energy dollars through reducing the schools consumption, our efforts in the GUEP competition are given a big boost, and most importantly of all, we are educating our children to be energy literate and able to make smart energy decisions, both for themselves and their families, and for their broader communities.

For more information, contact the Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School