As any parent knows, some of the world’s greenest people are to be found in local schools, which makes youngsters natural supporters of any community energy project. Moreover, with energy issues central to various aspects of the National Curriculum, their teachers are likely to be pretty interested too! Clearly, there’s plenty of scope to involve local schools in everything from local micro-generation to energy reduction projects – and everyone can learn something from the experience.
If there are local schools in your area, it is well worth thinking about how you can include them when you first begin to plan the project – there shouldn’t be a shortage of opportunities for them to take part.
For any project setting out to boost energy awareness in the community, there are few better ways to kick it off than by getting the local schools involved. Not only does the whole thing make a great topic for a lesson, but there’s probably no more committed or effective way than a green lobbying group of school-children. Get your message across to them in an interesting and lively way, and then simply sit back; it’s only a matter of time before their parents will also be convinced and willing to sign up to take part in the project. This kind of pupil power may seem a bit sneaky – but there’s no denying that it’s certainly effective!
School visits are another great way to get the younger members of the community involved in local energy projects. If your group has appointed energy champions this may be an ideal way for them to make contact with a whole new audience or alternatively, someone from the project group can give a talk about what you’re trying to do, and why. Local schools are often on the look out for visiting speakers, so this kind of arrangement suits everyone very well. Even if nobody in the project group feels particularly happy or confident about standing up in front of well-informed and enthusiastic nine-year-olds, energy companies often have good education resources which you may be able to call upon for help.
Its can often be worth making contact with science teachers at local schools – they may be able to help you out with your project and you may have access to a whole range of useful teaching resources that could be of use to them. The best sort of science is always practical, so whether it’s a class visit to a wind turbine, or the educational use of some of the wonderful solar powered experiment kits and toys currently available, getting the energy message across has never been more fun!
Taking this practical approach one stage further, it might even be possible to make local schools the focus of an energy project – by installing on-site micro-generation. A number of schools have already added the likes of wind energy or solar photovoltaic systems to their buildings and today there are a surprising number of potential sources of grant aid to help meet the cost. It’s a powerful statement of a community’s intent to do its bit to reduce its reliance on conventional energy sources – and one that councils and school authorities are almost guaranteed to support. Even if a full-scale installation isn’t appropriate, there may still be smaller ways to incorporate renewable energy into school-life.
Every one of our future MPs, leaders of councils, captains of industry and heads of energy companies is currently at school, somewhere in Britain – and that is something that we should always bear in mind. It represents an extraordinary opportunity to influence the future of the country’s energy policy for the good – so it’s got to be worth trying to find a way to include our local schools in any community projects.