Citizen group addresses community resiliency through ed and action

Submitted by Arianna Alexsandra Grindrod
2010-10-24 14:21:13

Share the Warmth is a community committee of dedicated townspeople in Ashfield, Massachusetts working to help their community through a variety of projects with a focus on local resiliency. Share the Warmth organizes several projects, including: managing a community wood pile and community garden; hosting canning workshops; orchestrating the collection & distribution of gently worn, warm clothing and blankets; providing information and training on home weatherization, energy efficiency, and local, low cost, energy saving resources.
So how does this community committee's actions pertain to teachers and administrators? Well first off you too are part of a town community and let's face it, in an emergency, the school tends to be the place where community members congregate. It was in Ashfield during the Ice Storm of 2009. Knowing how to help your neighbors can make all the difference. Do you know your school's resources? If the electricity is off do you know where the hot water heater is and that you can get water from it? Where are the blankets? How can you stay warm in the school?
You can turn this emergency prep into a lesson for students. Ask them what a human's basic needs. Air, Shelter, Warmth, Water, Food. Ask them if they were to stay in the school overnight what might be resources to meet their needs. Then have your students take an inventory of the schools' resources. Locate and mark where those resources are. Ask the students to consider people resources; who are the towns' people and what specific skills can they provide. Have the students conduct interviews. Community members to consider are: town police, rescue squad, ham radio users, fire department, and any non-formal educators such as wilderness living skills instructors.(If you live in MA check out Earthwork Programs.) Provide the administration with these resource lists. Congratulate your students on a providing a community service to their school.
As mentioned above, another activity Share the Warmth provides helping neighbors learn more about energy efficiency and local energy sources. This is a great activity that schools can do too. Have your class conduct an energy audit of their school. A terrific resource for this is Project Learning Tree's GreenSchools! They provide inventory lists on not just energy use and efficiency but also on topics of waste management, water, and consumption patterns. PLT offers teacher training workshop on GreenSchools! across the U.S. If you work in Vermont, check out the teacher workshops offered by the Vermont Energy Education Program as they offer hands-on programs in energy literacy and renewable energy. The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association acts as a hub of resources on energy efficiency and renewable energy topics and they have downloadable lessons on these topics. NESEA facilitates teacher training workshops throughout the northeast. After the students conduct the energy audit they can then make some basic recommendations to the school about how the school can save on energy costs.
To help your students become for energy literate and understand more about local energy resources, ask your students to generate a list of energy forms and energy resources humans use. Next ask them to research what their state energy portfolio is. State energy authorities will generally have annual reports. Students learn about what their state uses as energy resources. Ask them which ones are located within the state. Are any local; within a fifty mile radius? What type of energy resources are local? Are their types of energy that could be sourced locally but are not currently being maximized to their full potential? Why or why not? Most findings will be on renewable energy resources. Ask the students if they think that the school could generate its own energy. Students will need to find out from their administrator how much electricity costs the school. Then they will need to research what resources the school could use, what the investment will be, what state incentives are available to a school interested in renewable energy retrofits, and how much power can be generated from a renewable energy resource.

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Arianna Grindrod is an Ashfield resident, member of Share the Warmth and is the Education Director of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA). She can be reached at [see email image]

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