Friday April 27, 2012

WILLIAMSTOWN -- Walk or ride. Solar or wind. Air dry or dryer.

"Think about the power you have as individuals to change things," Laura Biddulph told a group of sixth-graders at Williamstown Elementary School on Thursday.

Then Biddulph, a community outreach specialist for the Pioneer Valley branch of the Center for EcoTechnology, and her CET colleague Wendy Penner sent students to measure the amount of energy it took to use various light sources, hair dryers, cell phones and other everyday electronics.

The exercise was part of an annual Energy/Green Living Day hosted by the elementary school. This year, in addition to in-school workshops and demonstrations, students visited various sites in northern Berkshire County and Pownal, Vt., to learn how home and business owners practice sustainable energy and building use.

"I’m hoping to learn some new things," said sixth-grader Beau James Lahey.

Ultimately, the school’s 56 sixth-graders will take what they learned on Thursday and apply their knowledge to their own projects, which will be presented to families and the school community on May 16.

"It’s a lot of fun," said Lahey of the assignment. Already, he’s begun working with his father to create a smaller-scale outdoor windmill project.

"There are so many incredible people in the community that are doing energy-related things, so this year we designed an afternoon that was seminar-style to help the students with their projects," said sixth-grade teacher Jane Culnane, who helped coordinate the school’s energy summit.

Site visits included the home of Bill Greenwald in Pownal, Vt., who has a small windmill helping to power his home, and the home of Bill and Margot Moomaw in William stown, which incorporates everything from solar and geothermal energy to non-toxic building materials and rain gardens.

The rest of the day’s activities included a keynote address by Rebekah Packer, a Mount Greylock Regional High School senior and environmental advocate; a workshop on radiation, convection and conduction; building green communities from a political perspective; low-emission transportation; growing and consuming locally; energy basics; and how to "green" a school.

"Hopefully the students make real-world connections with the information they receive, and understand that there’s a cost involved, not just in a monetary sense but also in terms of the planet," CET’s Laura Biddulph said.

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