More than 15,000 Students Experience Think! Energy Program

With the completion of the second year of our Think! Energy elementary education program, we’re excited about how many kids and families are now talking about energy use in the home.

“It’s a conversation that may not occur without this program,” said Mike Kanser, energy efficiency programs manager. “The program provides kids and parents with a new way to look at energy because they see how it directly affects their lives and the environment.”

During its second year, Think! Energy reached 15,848 students and teachers in Consumers Energy’s gas and electric service territory. Thirteen part-time, unemployed and retired Michigan teachers were hired to deliver the program. The teachers made 230 presentations at 172 schools.

The Think! Energy program starts with an hour-long classroom presentation that teaches kids about the importance of energy, water and related environmental issues. As part of the program, thousands of fourth-grade students receive a take-home kit that includes a nifty shower timer designed to keep hot water hogs mindful of water use during morning scrub downs. The kits also include an energy-efficient showerhead, faucet aerator, plus compact fluorescent light bulbs and an energy-efficient night-light.

An energy-saving tool kit, lets families examine how energy is used at home to get the best value from services provided. In addition to the energy-saving items, each kit includes a booklet that guides kids and parents through hands-on experiments that evaluate how they use energy inside the home and can become more environmentally responsible. For example, the kit includes a digital thermometer that is used to check both hot water and refrigerator temperature settings.

Participating teachers can qualify for a $100 classroom mini-grant if more than 80 percent of their students return take-home surveys. In survey feedback, parents said their kids now act like “energy police,” reminding them to turn off lights when they leave a room and not to exceed the five-minute shower timer.

 “We really enjoyed the presentation and were really impressed at how it kept the kids engaged and learning about all those conservation concepts,” said Lori Hutting, a fourth-grade teacher at Scott Elementary School in DeWitt. Students also learned about gas and electric safety, and were given a scratch-and-sniff card that simulates the smell of leaking gas.”

“The program helps students become sensitive to how they use energy, and it resonates with parents and teachers as well,” Kanser said.

In fact, 92 percent of surveyed teachers reported they were satisfied with the Think! Energy program.

The program is part of Consumers Energy’s comprehensive, six-year energy-efficiency plan to help lower customer utility bills and reduce environmental impacts.

— Anne O’Dell