Jul 29, 2014
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Zilowatt Brings Sustainability Classes to Palo Alto Schools

Local nonprofit will be implementing interactive sustainability labs in schools this year.

Zilowatt Brings Sustainability Classes to Palo Alto Schools

Local school kids are about to learn how to save the planet through energy conservation.

Zilowatt, a new environmental education non-profit organization, will this fall begin teaching kids sustainable habits in a classroom environment, conserving energy and money for schools.

The group hopes that after learning these habits in a fun, interactive way, students will bring these practices home and get their parents involved in an environmentally sustainable lifestyle.

Zilowatt was founded by a group of parents from the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) who were frustrated with the current lack of educational materials that addressed the conservation needs for schools in the area.

“They were looking for some ways to make their kids more energy efficient, more conscious about the environment and they were working with PAUSD’S Sustainable Schools committee to come up with something to help the kids,” Joyce Kinnear, Palo Alto’s utilities marketing manager, said. “They created this group, Zilowatt, which teaches kids in kindergarten through 12th grade sustainable habits by using interactive kits."

But that was not the only motive behind the project. Bret Andersen, a founder of Zilowatt, explains that the program also aims to save money for schools. “We were trying to lower the energy bill... change your own behavior and the behavior of people at the schools and you’ll save a lot of money,” Andersen said.

The hands-on educational labs, which the founders of Zilowatt began coming up with during the summer of 2010, will be implemented in Palo Alto schools this coming year. They received a grant for $35,000 from the American Public Power Association to help with the funding of the curriculum.

Although available for older grades, the program’s target audience is younger students. “If you teach the kids in the primary grades, they are a little more receptive," Andersen said. "We do offer our materials at middle school and high school levels, but we found that it is easier to build the program around younger kids."

The organization promotes simple, easy habits that are easy for the students to apply to their everyday life. One of the major concepts that the Zilowatt teaches students is a fairly effortless one: turn it off. “You need to teach them the basic habits. There are a lot of possible opportunities to save money at schools and basically it’s turning things off, whether it’s the air conditioner or the lights,” Andersen said.

Palo Alto School District parent, Margo Myers, believes that this program could be a positive addition to Palo Alto schools. “I think that my kids are the ones that have made me recycle and once they start saying we should do composting... I think that they kind of moved the whole family,” Myers said.

Zilowatt is looking to expand beyond the Palo Alto school district. “We are in contact with schools in Menlo Park, EPA [East Palo Alto], and San Jose. We are trying to get schools that are under privileged where these tools will also be very useful. So we’re trying to add some schools that are in lower income areas,” Andersen said.

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