Students at the Claremont Colleges involved in the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Energy Service Corps will take the bottom-up approach to promoting sustainability next week as part of Energy Education Week, which begins on Nov. 14 and aims to educate K-12 students about energy efficiency and environmental conservation.
“We’re going to reach out to 500 kids in the greater Claremont area,” said Ari Fink, Campus Organizer for PIRG Energy Service Corps.
The week will be the group’s largest effort since their start at the 5Cs this year.
“Energy Education Week is our first big push initiative in terms of becoming known in the Claremont area and the greater Inland Empire school area,” said Morgan Dolginow PZ ’15, Media Coordinator for PIRG Energy Service Corps.
The group will go to local schools and conduct a variety of lesson plans that they put together to make learning about sustainability more accessible for K-12 students. Their volunteer-designed lesson plans cover a variety of topics, including energy conservation at home, renewable energy, and alternative types of transportation. Through these lesson plans, the group hopes to promote consciousness and action regarding energy use and conservation among younger generations.
“We will send [the volunteers] in to educate K-12 students in the local community with lesson plans according to their age group and pretty much teach them how to be green,” Dolginow said.
The teaching sessions, which are designed by a group of 5C students, are 30 to 40 minutes long and based on Department of Energy information. The lessons involve many hands-on activities and objectives that students can easily include in their everyday lives.
“Sometimes it’s just small things, like riding your bike,” Dolginow said.
The week will end with a campus-wide blackout event at Pitzer College in order to promote energy efficiency within the 5C community.
“It’s going to be a wind-up of Energy Education Week, or a celebration, at the Grove House,” Dolginow said. “We’re going to encourage everyone to turn off their electricity, unplug their things, come out, and listen to just acoustic entertainment.”
To become a volunteer for the group, students must attend one education training session to learn the lesson plans. The group hopes that more students will volunteer in the coming week so that they can achieve their goal of educating 500 students in the area.
The group started as a project of California Student Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) and Americorps, both government-funded non-profit organizations. The two larger organizations set up smaller chapters across different states in order to spread energy efficiency education, especially among young people.
“Because they’re kind of a larger organization, they want to have people on the ground helping to oversee, distribute material, and help recruit students,” Frink said. “And they knew Claremont was a very active area and that the 5Cs [were] a very open community.”
The club’s weekly meetings at Pitzer are led entirely by student interns. The four current interns each specialize in different areas including media coordination, community coalitions, campus relations, and education. The club also has opportunities for volunteers to lead meetings and organize events.
“The program is new this year at the 5Cs, so the other volunteers and I have really built the program up on our own,” Community Coalitions Intern Jonathan Song PO ’14 said. “The work we are doing is vital and urgent, and I’m getting a lot of good experience making connections with the wider Inland Empire.”
Participation in the club has outside benefits as well. Because of the group’s connection to Americorps, the interns that commit to ten hours or more a week can apply for a $1,050 scholarship toward education costs.
“We have four students that are doing that right now and we’d love to have more,” Frink said.
The group also has a focus on the weatherization of homes and buildings in the Claremont community. As part of this goal, the group has conducted surveys of local homes and 5C residence halls.
“We assess what they’re doing already in terms of conserving energy and give them some pats on the back for what they’re doing, and also suggestions for what they can do,” Frink said. “So far we’ve completed 75 surveys between homes and residence halls.”
In addition to conducting surveys, the organization also has volunteers “weatherize” participating buildings. This includes changing light bulbs to CFL light bulbs, caulking windows for insulation, and weatherstripping doors.
“We’ll get donations from different Home Depot stores and such, like caulking guns and CFL light bulbs,” Dolginow said. “And we’ll actually have volunteers change out the light bulbs for them, weatherstrip the doors, and make sure that the windows are effectively caulked.”
By the end of the year, the group hopes to educate 1,000 or more students about energy conservation, efficiency, and their impact on the environment.