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Saving energy

October 14, 2013

Auglaize County Multiple Disabilities unit teacher Gretchen Schmitz demonstrates a “closed circuit” of electricity to her class by holding hands with para-professional Sharon Smith at the front of the classroom.

All eyes were on the front of the classroom as the teacher held a small, noise-making ball that glowed red — but only during the “closed circuit” of electricity that occurred when it was in contact with skin.
Laughter echoed throughout the room as she demonstrated the closed circuit by holding hands with her helper at the front of the classroom, breaking the connection and tapping her helper on the nose.
Auglaize County Multiple Disabilities (MD) unit teacher Gretchen Schmitz said the class has been given $2,500 worth of materials for their year-long science curriculum.
The Ohio Energy Program, called “Be E3 Smart,” is an education program in the Miami Valley for fifth-graders through high school seniors.
Free to teachers, students and families, the program incorporates math, social studies, reading, geometry and many other learning objectives in addition to its science focus.
“This program hits all the standards,” Schmitz said. “It’s aligned directly for the students.”
Ohio Energy is dedicated to reducing Ohio’s energy usage.
“This is meant for people to become more aware of energy and uses,” Schmitz said.
Schmitz said the goal of the program is family-oriented, particularly to get the children involved in what will ultimately affect their futures.
During class, each student was given a Ohio Energy bag filled with energy saving items and installation instructions to use at home, including a nightlight, a hot water gauge, a weather strip, a shower head, a faucet, a furnace whistle and four new light bulbs.
Schmitz introduced electricity to her students during class after passing out the materials.
Schmitz then passed around a container filled with an unidentified black substance that the children were told to smell.
They were instructed that it was an energy source.
Most said it smelled strange, though some said it smelled good.
After trying to discover the secret substance, the students were told it was coal — one of the 10 sources of energy they would be learning about.
Schmitz told her students that they would be conducting experiments with each of the 10 energy sources.
Schmitz said the lessons will encourage learning from the introduction of, “What is energy?” to the application of saving resources.
Each lesson is prepped with games and hands-on activities that were made directly for her students.
“A lot of these students understand that when they flip on a light switch, that’s where they think electricity comes from,” Schmitz said.
She said it was her goal to educate them on the Earth’s resources and give them a basic understanding on how they can reduce their everyday energy consumption and create good habbits.
She said some of the students might take away different ideas. For example, some students will learn that leaving the computer running all night is a useless energy expense.
“These kids our the future,” Schmitz said, noting that their understanding of energy will affect future energy resources.
Getting the students as excited about the program as she is has been a challenge, Schmitz said. When the supplies arrived, she told her students, “It’s like Christmas” as she pulled each item out of the box.
Excitement was less than she had hoped for, but she said she played an interactive game for an introduction — and the students perked up.
“Their enthusiasm will grow,” Schmitz said, pointing out they have many hands-on energy activities throughout the year ahead of them.

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