Happy Thanksgiving from the Monroe County Energy Challenge! (and come work for us. And eat with us)

It’s been quite a year.
Together, we have recruited nearly 1,000 followers on social media and email, reached at least 5,000 homes through flyering, canvassing, and other outreach, trained 25 Energy Ambassadors, and completed over 200 free home energy assessments.   We’ve also received $250k in grants to fund energy upgrades, a teacher training, a weatherization job training program, and a full-time Energy Outreach Coordinator (apply by December 7!)
Looking forward to continued progress in the coming year.  Our best to all of you!

Yours thankfully,

The MCEC Team


PS – Join us 12/6 at Topo’s to help celebrate and to support the Challenge.  You eat, Topo’s donates!  RSVP required here.

When teachers become energy students…

On a warm day in late October, a group of teachers and community educators tackled a problem that homeowners face every winter. How do you find where the heat is escaping from the building and how do you stop it?

Since the 28 teachers were gathered for a Professional Development workshop, they approached the questions differently than they usually would as homeowners. After presentations on the science of heat transfer by three Bloomington High School South science teachers – Amanda Figolah, Cindy Kvale, and Kara Parker– the participants were given square-foot, plexiglass-sided models to experiment on with a selection of insulating and reflective materials.

The models were both lit and warmed by an incandescent bulb. This is how they looked when photographed by a thermal imaging camera which captured heat radiating out from the light bulb and the bodies of one lab group.


Here are the same models (at both ends of the table) photographed under ordinary lighting conditions:


In this photo, Woodie Bessler, an Energy Challenge volunteer and an electrical engineer by profession, is showing participants how to measure how much electricity various lights and appliances consume by using a plug-in energy monitor.

Participants included 25 teachers from MCCSC and the Project school as well as 3 community educators: Molly O’Donnell, the MCEC Residential Committee chairperson who helps train Energy Challenge volunteers to do home energy assessments; Dr. Stephanie Kimball, a home schooling parent who developed the Task of the Month approach central to the Energy Challenge, and Hans Kelsom, an active member of ICEY, the Interfaith Council of Environmental Youth, which is organizing weatherization training sessions for other teens in Indianapolis on Martin Luther King Day.

In addition to the presenters already mentioned, discussion leaders included Bloomington High North chemistry teacher Samantha Agoos, MCCSC’s energy specialist Dean Walendzak; and Terry Crowe, a weatherization expert from the South Central Community Action Program (SCCAP).

Nick Halter and his advanced manufacturing class at BHSS made the plexiglass models. Education Committee members Anne Hedin and Bob Austin organized the workshop and registration. Doug Wilson, SCCAP communications and development director, videotaped the morning session of the workshop so that other teachers throughout the county can learn how to repeat the same experiments with their classes, using the same models and tools. Repeating the lesson is definitely the intent of the grant that funded the Professional Development workshop.

Passing on the lessons

The Joyce Foundation awarded a $28,000 grant to the Monroe County Energy Challenge Education Committee to develop the Professional Development workshop and to purchase a lending library stock of tools for energy education. The grant came through the Georgetown University Energy Prize competition and was administered by the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County. We thank all these agencies for their contributions, and we deeply and especially appreciate the generous funding that will help move energy education to another level in the schools.

MCCSC teachers may request these items from the MCCSC Science Resource Center at http://sites.google.com/site/mccscscience/home. Teachers from all other schools in the county may request the same equipment from the City of Bloomington Office of Sustainability, by contacting Jacqui Bauer at bauerj@bloomington.in.gov Lesson plans and supporting materials (soon to include the edited videotape) are freely available via Google Drive. If you are interested in getting access to the shared drive folder, contact Amanda Figolah, afigolah@mccsc.edu.

Last but not least, the Joyce Foundation grant will fund the purchase of 250 weatherization kits which will take the lessons learned on the little Plexiglass models out into the residential community on Martin Luther King Day and other service projects that involve students.  These kits will arrive in December and a procedure for obtaining them will be announced shortly.

Meanwhile, if you want to see what *your* house looks like in infrared light, leaks and all, sign up for a home assessment at this link.

Can we de-electrify?

We electrify everything.  Virtually everything we used to do by people-power is now done by electric or gas power – leaf raking, coffee grinding, lawn mowing, calculating, cookie making, bread baking.  You name it, we’ve come up with a way to power it.

Of course so much of this has made life better.  But sometimes it goes to extremes (leafblowing is a personal pet peeve),  and sometimes people power is actually better.

As part of my personal effort to de-electrify, I recently purchased one of those little floor cleaners that you see in restaurants.   No power required, quiet, the dogs don’t freak out, and it does 75% of what I would usually use the vacuum cleaner to do.

What can you use your muscles to do?  #peoplepower