Power to the pupils

19th January 2007 at 00:00
Children switched on to energy conservation are switching off lights and computers

the first thing that greets visitors to Meadowside primary are bare pipes in the hallway. Electricity cables dangle from light fittings nearby. Loft insulation hangs exposed from the rafters.

And this is a new building that cost pound;1.6 million. The Gloucester primary has been designed to help pupils learn about energy use and conservation. The bare pipes reveal the flow of water, gas and electricity around the school. The exposed roofing demonstrates the importance of insulation. A similar, exposed, section of wall highlights the building materials used.

Sam Thomas, Meadowside's deputy head, believes that schools should not overlook the resource around them. "A building isn't just something you work in," she said. "It's a resource in itself. Children are very inquisitive. They want to learn how things work."

Prominent electricity, gas and water meters have been installed so that pupils can monitor usage. They will switch off lights, computers and interactive whiteboards at the end of the day, and then measure how much energy they have saved - to date, they have cut consumption by 17 per cent.

"They're making an immediate, visible impact," said Ms Thomas.

"There's no point having a gas meter shut away in a boiler house. It's important to educate children about the things they can do at school, or in their own home."

Meadowside is among several Gloucestershire primaries in a scheme run by Severn Wye energy agency. Rachel Closer, who oversees it, said: "Children get fired up about the environment. They repeat terms like 'global warming', but don't really know what they mean. They think electricity is some kind of magic and need to see how things (have an) impact on the environment."

At Minsterworth primary just outside Gloucester, pupils recorded gas and electricity usage on spreadsheets and investigated wind power.

"Pupils have always been aware of the need to conserve energy," said Jacqui Etheridge, the head. "But running out to play was more important than remembering to close the door. Now they remind teachers to turn off the interactive whiteboard. The scheme has been effective in teaching children about fuel use, and we haven't had to buy in any new resources. It's very rare for a school project to save us money."

* www.swea.co.uk

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