Year 6 Energy Challenge 1999

Shirley Shephard
Science Coordinator, Courtwood Primary School, L.B. Croydon
This article first appeared in MAPE Focus on Science Autumn 2000

In the spring term of last year, Year 6 at Courtwood Primary School in Croydon took part in a borough-wide project. The challenge was to find a strategy for taking 200 off our annual fuel bill for an outlay of less than 1000. The winning school would receive the 1000 as a prize and could thus put their good ideas into practice.

We began by discussing what we needed to know and sharing out the workload. We decided to survey energy use for a period of 2 months (February and March). Also during this term we studied various aspects of energy, such as the impact of fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas) on global warming, and the Caretaker came to tell us about how the school's heating system works. Although the focus was on energy, we also considered water as another valuable resource and this was included in our survey.


What we did

What we discovered

What we recommended

Eleanor and Sarah

We made a daily visit to the caretaker's room (at 3.10 pm each day) to read the electricity meter and log the reading on a chart

February consumption was 2143 kwh.

March consumption was 2411 kwh.

Average daily consumption was 81 kwh.

  • Buy energy saving light bulbs

  • Switch off all appliances when not in use

Darren and Mark

We made a daily visit to the kitchen (at 3.15pm each day) to read the gas meter and log the reading. The school is heated by a gas fired warm air system.

During the week the heating was off and not much gas was used. However the heating was left on during the holidays so it was being wasted. This was confirmed by the Smart Box which logged the temperature when we weren't at school.

  • Get a new timer for the heater or someone to switch it off during the holidays.

  • We should have insulation in the roof and walls so the heating doesn't need to come on so often.

Laura and Samantha, Hayley and Jade, Sophie and Nicola

Each pair made a check on three areas to see what appliances were left on when they were not in use and what windows and doors were left open when the heating was on.

They logged the findings on a spreadsheet.

Lots of lights left on in classrooms.

A few dripping taps.

A few computers left on.

Lights always left on in the toilets.

  • We should have posters and notices about energy saving.

  • Put stickers near appliances to remind people to turn them off.

  • Have an energy watchdog to see how classes are doing and a reward for the best class for energy saving.

  • Have a dripping tap watchdog to tell the caretaker when the taps need new washers.

Jack and Liam, Anthony and Lewis, Gareth and Daniel, Francesca and Scott, Kevin and Chris

Each pair measured the temperature in one of the classrooms in the mornings (8.50 am) and the afternoons (12.30 pm).

They recorded the results in a graph on the computer.

Some rooms were sometimes below 18o C which is too cold.

When the weather was warm (not often) the temperature went up to more than 20o C.

Most rooms were kept at a very even temperature.

To keep the heat in cold classrooms:

  • Buy thick curtains

  • Get double glazing (we know that this would be too expensive)

  • Put insulation in the roof.

  • Get draught excluders for the outside doors.

  • Put tags by the thermostats to remind people to keep them set at 18o C.

  • Turn down the heating by 1o C it will save lots of money and it is hardly noticeable.

The table shows how the work was shared out, what the children discovered and what energy saving strategies they recommended (Fig. 1).

After the survey, each child wrote a letter to the Headteacher making our recommendations, and the whole class put on a presentation for the governing body.

Children made pamphlets and brochures urging people to save energy and water. Small signs were made to stick next to appliances to remind everyone to conserve energy. They also made draught excluders to stop heat escaping from external doors and put pint milk bottles full of water in the toilet cisterns to save water.

ICT was used throughout the project in a variety of ways. Datalogging equipment was used to record the temperature in various parts of the school during holidays and overnight. We used Excel to record our results, and Publisher and Word to make the signs, brochures and posters.

And after all that effort we won our 1000 which was presented at a special ceremony at the town hall.

We have used it to have proper draught excluders fitted on all the external doors and to buy a quantity of low energy light bulbs. We did get a quote for insulating ceilings but this proved to be too difficult and costly to include within the budget.

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