A NEW biomass boiler at an Aberdeenshire school is going to do much more than warm chilled fingers and toes when winter temperatures plummet in Deeside.
It won't save the planet single-handedly, but burning woodchips instead of guzzling oil delivered in tankers will reduce Aboyne Academy's carbon footprint.
And it will provide an educational resource for pupils and people who visit this community school on a daily basis to use amenities such as the public library, swimming pool, theatre and cinema facilities and adjacent primary school.
"It has potential in two ways - potential for heat and potential for learning," says Raymond Jowett, the headteacher. "We have a group of teachers from different subject areas who are looking at the boiler as a resource for learning.
"What you can learn from it is about renewable energy sources, sustainability, you can learn hard, factual stuff about the physics of energy production and you can use the statistics that come from it to do mathematical work," he says.
"Once it is fully operational, we will have a plasma screen in the front entrance hall of the school which shows the boiler's energy output and carbon emissions so the kids can collect facts from it and learn about it as well. It will take a message out of the school about energy consumption, as much as it will heat the building."
Aberdeenshire Council has masterminded this project, assisted by grants from the Scottish Com-munity and Householders Renew-ables Initiative, and guidance from the local energy advice centre Scarf (save cash and reduce fuel).
There are eight energy advice centres in Scotland, operating independently, but each with a service level agreement to the Energy Savings Trust. Scarf has two centres covering six local authority areas within the former Grampian and Tayside regions.
Jean Morrison, the chief executive officer of Scarf, said it provides schools with free energy audits aimed at reducing fuel bills, and assistance with grant applications to support carbon reduction programmes.
Advice centres also offer educational resources and support to schools learning about energy reduction strategies and environmental issues such as climate change and global warming.
"We've got an energy advice pack sponsored by Scottish Power. It's a resource pack in a loose-leaf folder with various exercises, tasks and case studies teachers can use with pupils, and it fits into the school curriculum," she says.
"We offer that pack to schools free and do a class presentation. We target P6-7 because it coincides with what they are studying at the time, particularly when they are going into secondary school, because they are more aware of the sciences and the environment.
"The presentation covers areas such as where energy comes from, why waste it, and how to save it, and the implications if it's not saved, which is when we touch on the global warming and climate change issues."
Mrs Morrison chairs the UK-wide Federation of Energy Advice Centres and believes children should be encouraged to be energy champions, pioneering energy reduction in schools and taking the message to their parents and into their own homes.
"The kids start to look and see whether they need the lights on, or when they are going out at playtime they're making sure the lights are switched off and the doors are shut, so it's at that most basic level.
"Pupils in primary and secondary schools are the adults of tomorrow and they are the ones, if we can educate them soon enough, who will be more responsible adults," she says.
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