Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fruita 8/9 School wins Colorado State Energy Sustainability Award 2011

The "Green Team" at Fruita 8/9 School is the example
to follow in today's education of the youth who will be
the leaders of tomorrow.
Teachers Kent Main, Shan Mixon, Julie Blevins, Mrs. Wills, Shawn Gregg and some of the students involved, holding symbols
of their parts in the energy saving process; blog the news to the world, recycle paper products, recycle plastics,
save on electricity use through energy saving lights and such, being careful of water use, just some of their
It is an amazing feat, the fact that a school in Fruita, Colorado, has a team of students and faculty who have cooperated the past years in working for sustainability of energy, energy which America is running out of and seeks new horizons for sustainability thereof. Doctor Kent Main, teaching journalism and the Gifted and Talented classes at the school spear-headed this movement as he sought to teach youth to be our future leaders. What is ironic is now, that having helped the school and thus District 51, win this most prestigious award, his class is being eliminated as well as his position at the school. It is also ironic that this award has been kept silent so far in the District's media releases. Looking at cuts in other schools where gifted and talented have been so far preserved, why this particular cut at Fruita 8/9?
Please read the history behind the award which follows after the photos I have posted. It is somewhat lengthy, but best explains what this is all about. If you feel as I do, that cuts to teachers and thus to students are not okay, then start writing letters, go to meetings to ask why. This is not the day and age to cut education when American students have slipped to 17th and 25th in ranking among the world's industrialized nations. And, put the blame where it belongs...NOT teachers and kids!!!!!...instead blame our political system for whom only power seems to matter.  Scroll down and read.....
Main fully funded the $8000 expenses for 4 students and himself to attend the last Pearl Harbor reunion for which the students did fund raisers to pay him back. He took students to the 65th Anniversary of the Surrender of Japan last summer where he helped 3 FMHS students write a proposal to be presenters which they became while Main was one of the moderators. This took place on the Mighty Mo, just feet from where the Surrender Document was signed.
"The students wowed the conference attendees: historians, authors, college professors, veterans and families," said Main.
In 2007 Main took students to China during Spring Break. He has presented about Fruita 8/9 School programs at one state Gifted Conference in Denver and two national Gifted Conferences in St. Louis and Atlanta (2009 and 2010). He has submitted proposals to present for this year's state conference in Denver and will receive an answer mid summer. All this adds interest to the District's move.

The award for Sustainability
is made of recycled
materials as well.

Kent Main and one of his students
proudly hold the plaque which will
be mounted to the front of 8/9 School
recognized for energy saving efforts
since the new school was built.

Sustainability Program(s) at Fruita 8/9 School
Mesa County Valley School District 51
pictures at Denver conference where
the winner, Fruita 8/9 was announced.
                  Since the opening of Fruita 8/9 School in August 2006, a sustainable interdisciplinary community has been growing through several independent yet cooperative programs.
            2006-2007 … Dr. Kenton Main, who teaches the Gifted and Talented, challenged those students to answer a number of questions concerning their newly constructed building and why it wasn’t performing at levels commensurate with popular and scientific literature.
            More immediately clear to the GT students, however, was the fact that every classroom was swimming in paper. Main and his GT classes consulted with building and district administrators and launched a paper recycling program through the district’s maintenance department.  Arrangements were made for the weekly pick-up of paper from Fruita 8/9 School. The program was advised by Main but was totally the responsibility of the Gifted and Talented students.
            When the district’s recycling man failed to honor his schedule, the GT students wrote a letter of concern to the Superintendent of Schools.  That letter (and in some part because it was initiated by GT students) became the catalyst for change in the School District 51 recycling program. The next year (2007-2008), the district let a contract to a private company and the GT students, some now in their second year at Fruita 8/9 enjoyed a year of successful, campus-wide recycling.
2007-2008 … The campus-wide recycling effort at Fruita 8/9 caught the eye of upper classmen at Fruita Monument High School who also wanted to start a similar program.  Those students consulted with the GT students and Dr. Main at Fruita 8/9.  The all-volunteer recycling club at Fruita Monument High School has been on-going since that year and has been recognized for its excellence.
The original questions pertaining to new construction not meeting what should be nominal performance especially in the area of utility bills were revisited. The GT students developed a list of questions and a list of suggestions which was followed by an audience with building administrators. From this meeting the students learned that the building, now in only its second year, had been built for ‘human comfort’ not conservation of resources and especially not conservation of tax payer dollars as they related to the monthly utility bills generated by the building. ‘Not built for conservation,’ the students later learned also meant the building would never qualify for Energy Star status. The 8th grade GT students in 2007-2008 took the word never to be their greatest challenge. The ideas of Global Warming or Climate Change were discussed at length. Some agreed with the premise, some did not. What was agreed upon, however, was the fact that $12,000 - $15,000 per month for electricity in a new building seemed out of hand and should be reduced. In addition to maintaining the recycling program, the class became crusaders for lowering the school’s utility bills.
Students wrote an invitation to the district’s newly-hired Energy Conservation Officer, Eric Anderson. Anderson made several visits to the class and discussed with them a variety of ways they could attack what they saw as the biggest problem in the school, the waste of taxpayer dollars in the form of utility bills. Anderson registered the class in his Energy Star auditing software and showed them how to enter data from the school so that monthly billings could be tracked. Anderson left the class with the challenge of finding ways to reduce the energy usage and billing amounts at Fruita 8/9.
For nearly two months the GT students patrolled the school and lurked about classrooms looking for obvious and not-so-obvious ways to maintain ‘human comfort’ as well as reduce what they thought was an outrageous fortune being spent, especially for electricity.
Another meeting with building administrators and Anderson ensued with the students addressing their findings and offering solutions.
The first big item to go was parking lot lighting. GT students saw no need for a parking lot the size of the building to be lit when no one was using it. Lights were timed to go off after the night custodial shift left the building and on weekends when no one was using the building. The savings were noticeable on the following month’s utility bill.
Students also hounded teachers to turn off the lights in their rooms when they left.  Computer monitors were addressed and teachers began turning off their monitors when they left their rooms. These three items; parking lot lights, classroom lights, and computer monitors, when limited immediately reduced the building’s overall electric bill by nearly $1000 per month.
In meeting with Eric Anderson, the students also learned that the school’s heating and cooling was controlled by a single computer in Grand Junction. Some rooms seemed too cold at times and other rooms seemed to hot. To strike a balance students asked if the overall high and low temperatures could somehow be regulated differently for Fruita 8/9.  What ended up taking a couple of computer key strokes resulted in further utility savings at the school, sometimes amounting to $2,000 - $3,000 per month.
As a result of their positive participation in an important school issue, the GT students became interested in all types of energy generation from conventional sources to new laboratory experiments and findings.
From this interest, was born. “The Afterburn” as the students call it is an ongoing blog which addresses all types of energy exploration, development, etc. from the 8th grade GT student perspective. Now in its fourth year, it was the first student-run blog in School District 51 and “Changing Global Awareness One Blog At A Time” was Dr. Main’s topic of presentation at the Colorado Association of Gifted and Talented State Conference in Denver and the National Association of Gifted Children Conference in Atlanta in 2010. has been visited by readers from each of the earth’s continents and is only 8 countries shy of having at least one reader from every country in the world. The focus of the bloggers has also shifted somewhat. They are now curious about what the populations of all those places who have visited their blog are doing for energy savings, etc. One memorable example was brought to light by a student who just started shouting, “Shibuya! I love to say Shibuya.”  It seems Shibuya is a shopping district in Tokyo that has the most heavily congested street foot crossing in the world. The Japanese have developed a padded, energy absorbing (from footsteps and vibrations) crosswalk that generates enough electricity to light all the neon store lights and television screens in the Shibuya shopping district. Students have learned and embraced these types of lessons and seek ways to employ them here.
As a result of their work in reducing the amount of energy consumption at Fruita 8/9, district Energy Conservation Officer Anderson offered the GT classes of students a percentage amount of the district’s savings semi-annual savings in real dollars. Each semester Dr. Main and the GT classes receive in the neighborhood of $1,500 to $1,800 dollars which are to be spent in ways to accelerate energy savings or bring about new efforts in sustainability programs throughout the school. As of December 2010, nearly $6,000 dollars has been returned to Fruita 8/9 and spent on various programs around the building.
2008 – 2009 … Another staff member expressed interest in recycling plastics at Fruita 8/9 school. Since the GT students were now more closely monitoring the school’s utility bills and working on ways to maintain and increase energy savings, they relinquished the paper recycling program to Lisa Will, the campus LEAG liaison.  Ms. Will incorporated plastic recycling with the paper recycling program and formed a school-wide recycling club which is now in its third year. Some of the energy saving money returned to the GT students was invested in more barrels for the recycling club.
The 2008 – 2009 GT students also began researching more energy efficient grounded and surge protected automatically switched power strips and indoor wireless remote outlets which cut off phantom power usage in electrical devices even when they are turned off.  With the remainder of the energy saving dollars returned from the district, Fruita 8/9 students and Dr. Main purchased enough “Smart Strips” and wireless remote phantom power cut off devices for every classroom in the school.
With the employment of these devices, the energy savings remained constant at $3,000 per month. The students were proud that it amounts to $36,000 per year in taxpayer money not going to utility bills.
2009-2010 … The science and social studies teachers began talking about a composting program at the school and also replanting the flower beds at the school with butterfly bushes and other flowers that would attract butterflies, birds, and other beneficial insects.  Students from Fruita 8/9 who are involved in the building and trades program at the career center would be involved in building the composting “boxes.”  The Service Learning class in social studies and the science classes would collaborate in running the actual composting program and work in the flower beds.  Service Learning students had fund raisers to help offset the expense of new plants for an outdoor bed.  The Gifted and Talented class funded the initial composting project with $1,800 dollars in energy saving money.  Composting began in the 2009 – 2010 school year and continues in the 2010 – 2011 year.  It is hoped that the school will be offering composting materials to the “lower valley” in the next couple of years.
In 2010, Dr. Main and the GT students were informed by Eric Anderson that the school had achieved something was never intended to achieve when it was built … Energy Star status.
At the beginning of the 2010-2011 year Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Science class began at Fruita 8/9. It will be ongoing. The Service Learning and Science classes continue to cooperate in the composting program which will expand again in the spring of 2011.  The Gifted and Talented classes continue to monitor building energy usage which has steadily declined in light of student and district efforts including the replacement of all lights in the building with lower energy usage lights and automatic cut-off switches in every class.  They still receive energy savings dollars which are returned into various sustainability programs within the building. At mid-year the GT students are investigating the purchase of a new solar and wind powered weather station so the school can become an official reporting station for the National Weather Service.
What the history does not include is a description of the many extra things Main has given to District 51. He, through an essay contest, helped four Fruita students go to Hawaii on what might have been the last time veterans from Pearl Harbor were able to attend. They learned that history first hand from Japanese veterans who also attended the event as well as our veterans. I don't really have room to relate all the extras in the teaching of history, of journalism, of literacy this man has given...all of which were NOT REQUIRED. In other words, he just was not satisfied in just doing what is required. Kent Main did over and above, something which good teachers do...and he really raised the bar!

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