In the Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley school districts, 12 schools are competing to reduce energy consumption in their schools and nearby homes from Nov. 8 to Jan. 6. The school that reduces its energy by the greatest percentage will win prizes valued at $25,000. The contest is sponsored by the Center for ReSource Conservation.
Boulder Valley schools
High schools: Arapahoe Ridge, Boulder, Broomfield, Centaurus, Fairview and New Vista
Middle schools: Broomfield Heights, Summit
Kindergarten through eighth-grade: Horizons
St. Vrain Valley schools
High schools: Erie, Niwot and Silver Creek
Middle school: Coal Ridge
How you can help
Homes near the competing schools can sign up for the EnergySmart program to help the schools win.
For more information
On the web: renewourschoolsenergycenter.com
FIRESTONE -- Ryan McDonald's eighth-grade science students have been running around Coal Ridge Middle School, turning lights on and off, unplugging and plugging in televisions, projectors and appliances, and measuring light.
They are auditing the classrooms' energy use with the aim of reducing it and possibly winning prizes for their school.
Student Jacob Spencer said he was surprised to learn that appliances use energy even when they are turned off.
"If you have the opportunity, why not just unplug it?" Jacob said.
Applying what he's learned, Jacob said he spent some time last weekend to reduce his electricity consumption in his bedroom.
Instead of individually plugging in his television, cable box, two video game systems and radio, he put them all together on one power strip, which he can turn off when he leaves his room, he said.
He also was planning to audit his own house and talk to his parents.
"My parents are really bad about turning off their TV," Jacob said.
To cut energy use at school, Jacob suggested officials change light bulbs and unplug projectors, he said.
"I've learned that the school is wasting a lot more energy than it needs to be," Jacob said.
McDonald and sixth-grade science teacher Megan Bacelli opted to have the Center for ReSource Conservation make presentations about energy use to their classes and compete against three other St. Vrain Valley School District schools and nine from the Boulder Valley School District to see which can save the most energy between Nov. 8 and Jan. 6.
The school that saves the most energy during the eight-week contest could win a solar array, according to the contest website.
As McDonald's students audited classrooms, they suggested ways for the school to save energy, such as turning off lights or installing motion detectors to control lights, and lowering the thermostat, the teacher said.
"It definitely brings awareness," McDonald said. "A true culture change is going to take time."
Like Jacob, several students said they are making changes at home.
"I've learned how to save energy by turning off lights, using less hot water and turning down the heat," said Mayra Osorio.