Transfiguration students learn hands-on about energy conservation

Fifth grade students at Transfiguration Catholic School in Oakdale helped their families conserve energy and save on utility bills this summer after participating in an in-school energy conservation program last school year. The program was such a hit with students and parents the school plans to do it again this year.

AM Conservation Group and Xcel Energy teamed up to provide the programs in several schools in the Twin Cities and across the state.

As a part of the science curriculum taught at Transfiguration, students took part in interactive lessons about power generation, water conservation and several types of home efficiency products.  

AM Conservation Group also provided students with conservation kits and instructional guides to take home to their families. The kits included energy-efficient gadgets like CFL light bulbs, LED nightlights, low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators, and whistles that indicate when a furnace filter is due to be changed.

Catch 'em while they're young

The goal is to get kids involved with energy conservation early in life, AM Conservation Group CEO Todd Recknagel says.

"There's no end to the benefits of these educational programs. Students learn the value of conservation at an early age, their parents see significant savings on their bills, and utility companies have reduced the costs of over compensating for high energy demands," he says. "Homeowners can't control utility prices, but they can control their consumption. It's the most proven way to save."

Implementing conservation techniques and upgrading to more energy-efficient products in the home can amount to big savings.

Recknagel says installing low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators in a single home typically save homeowners between 500 and 700 kilowatt hours per year.

Enthusiastic advocates

Last school year was the third consecutive year students at Transfiguration took part in the energy-efficiency program offered by AM Conservation Group as a part of the regular fifth-grade science curriculum. This was the first year Xcel Energy joined in as a partner.

Fifth grade science teacher Betty Cockriel teaches students about renewable and non-renewable sources of energy and energy conservation in her life science classes.

Cockriel says her students enjoy taking home the conservation kits and benefit from the hands-on learning. They learn how the products are used and fill out a checklist with their parents. Kids either look on or assist their parents as they install products received from the conservation kits and learn how to do things like check the water pressure and temperature in their homes.

Understanding the systems that heat a home and bring water in — much less being able to affect them in a measurable way — gives 11-year-olds a sense of empowerment and achievement. And it's something they'll probably retain into their adulthood.

"They come back and they're so excited because they have learned so much and done so much. They have that sense of personal responsibility," Cockriel says.

The teacher says it's the kind of learning that keeps students engaged. She says kids love constructing knowledge on their own through a hands-on approach and analyzing that knowledge and applying what they have learned outside the classroom.

"That knowledge retains itself really well," she says.

While helping families save money on utility bills is a great goal, Cockriel says it's even more important for adults to teach children stewardship of the earth.  

"If everybody does a little tiny piece of it it has such a big ripple effect as far as conservation goes," she says. "[Otherwise] it seems insurmountable. We should be asking, 'What can I do in my own space that helps?'"

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at


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