October Is Energy Awareness Month!
Mike "Tech Overlord" Collette
Each year, the U.S. Department of Energy designates October as Energy Awareness Month. This national effort provides an opportunity to help your kids understand the concept of energy, and the role energy plays in the world around them. Fostering strong connections with energy and technology can create appreciation for the ways energy is a part of their lives, and helps them be mindful of the need for energy conservation to ensure future well-being.
During the month, many schools undertake energy efficiency and conservation activities. These classroom activities connect well to student homes as many families approach the winter heating season. Using energy wisely makes sense – both for the environment and for economics.
The Science About Energy
- Find out what energy is: Understanding the importance of energy can promote understanding the need to conserve it. Ask your kids what they think energy is, explaining that energy gives the power to make something work, and comes in multiple forms, such as heat, light, motion, and chemicals. Try some online games to facilitate understanding.
- Conduct science experiments: Have some fun with your kids demonstrating these concepts with experiments that use common household items. Build your own innovative, energy-saving technology in the convenience of your own kitchen. Help your children expand their inventive minds by using a pizza box to create your own solar oven or a rain machine using water, salt, a bowl, and plastic wrap.
- Check out your house for ways to conserve: Try promoting smart energy practices with your kids by walking around your household and asking them to point out any equipment you could unplug that is not being used as a way to conserve energy. See who can remember to turn off lights in his or her room before heading to school.
Arts and Crafts - Learning With Art
- For younger kids, try using illustrations that they can color to demonstrate concepts like solar power, wind power, and water power. Encourage them to draw their energy use during different activities and post them in an Energy Gallery on your refrigerator. Or try an activity book that may help solidify energy-related concepts.
- For older kids, see if they can think of how they might draw different forms of energy. For example, they could draw stretched rubber bands to depict stored mechanical energy. Try to use a little friendly competition. At the next Family Game Night, consider Energy Pictionary to see what they remember from your brainstorm and new ideas they might have as they compete to show off drawings of their energy-related knowledge.
Reading - Open a Book About Energy
Kids also can read about energy and test their knowledge online. Books that are online, that have a more in-depth topical focus, can help older kids learn about the various forms of energy.
Physical Energy - Get Moving
Stay active by using some calories: Burn some energy by playing outside with your kids. See if kids remember the importance of shutting off lights going outside, and the benefits of saving energy when possible. In the meantime, playing outside also helps foster an active lifestyle, and can be an opportunity to promote a connection between your children and their environment. Don't forget to fuel up on healthy snacks for the energy you'll need when engaging in outdoor activities.
Online Energy Games & Activities
Kids do love their devices, so going online is another way to engage them in energy activities and expand their knowledge.
- Visit www.eia.gov for games, riddles, puzzles, even science fair experiment ideas.
- For video games for young children through teens/adults, visit Let's Talk Energy.
Family Energy Audit/Hunt
An energy audit is a great first step to increasing energy efficiency at home. An audit can help explain energy consumption, identify losses and evaluate possible improvements. Challenge your kids to hunt for energy issues or solutions around your house and make a list. Maybe they feel a draft at their bedroom window. They left a light on. There's a phone charger plugged in, but no phone attached. The clothes piled on their bedroom floor are covering the vent. The game console is on standby.
See who can make the longest list or come up with the most unusual or creative idea…a little healthy competition is motivating. For young children, they can draw rather than write their ideas. And, make it a little more fun with clipboards and a colored pen or pencil. Everything feels more important with a clipboard. After the hunt, have the kids compare lists. You might be surprised at how energy aware they can be.
Energy Awareness To Last a Lifetime
Building energy awareness in all of your family members builds their capacity to be actively involved in controlling your family's energy use and energy budget. For older kids, consider sharing a few months of energy bills to show how much electricity or gas is used over time. It's important for older kids to get the real-world connection between energy use and money spent. Armed with this information, they may feel like you're trusting them with "grown-up information" and empowering them to be a family leader in decreasing energy spending in the future.
These are just a few ideas to help your kids understand what energy is, benefits of use, and importance of using wisely.
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