Energy Conservation Brings Smiles at MLK Middle School
Students at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Germantown reward teachers' conservation efforts with stickers and coffee.
Are you looking to lower your energy bills this winter? Take a tip from Germantown's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School and start an energy conservation incentive plan.
Beverly Thompson is a Paraeducator and the Recycling Coordinator at MLK Middle School. She heads their School Energy and Recycling Team, SERT. This group of roughly 25 middle school students meets twice a week to track energy consumption and recycling for each classroom and office in the school.
"We go around to all of the classrooms that are in good compliance and put a smiley face on the door. It's encouraging conservation throughout the school. I think it's a great program," said Thompson. Teachers earn one smiley face for placing their blue recycling bin outside of the door, a second if their classroom lights are off and no recyclables are found in the trash cans.
"We were giving out sad faces," explained Thompson, "but the teachers didn't like that. So we had to stop. It wasn't encouraging for people."
Thompson's SERT students are broken into five groups, each with their own section of the school to monitor. The five teachers with the highest level of energy and recycling compliance each month – the ones with the most smiley faces – are rewarded.
"They win a $5 Starbucks coffee card," said Thompson. "That encourages all of the teachers to recycle."
Thompson said that she has a record number of students participating in the SERT program this year. "The kids are really into this," said Thompson. "It's not just because [they are earning student service learning] hours; they enjoy what they are doing."
She explained that her SERT students don't just monitor the classrooms after school. "They'll go in [to a teacher] and they'll say, 'You haven't been turning out your lights and you haven't been recycling your papers because if you had, there would be more smiley faces on your door!'"
Energy conservation at MLK Middle School isn't limited to turning off lights. The school uses just two compact fluorescent light bulbs for each three socket light fixture; table and floor lamps frequently replace overhead lights. Liquid crystal displays (LCDs) are found in media centers and classrooms. Over long weekends, blinds are drawn and nonessential electronic equipment is unplugged. The maintenance staff uses a special checklist to ensure that the school isn't wasting energy.
"Mr. John Land is our building service supervisor," said Thompson, "and he picks up where we leave off."
These efforts add up. MLK Middle School was recognized as a Superior SERT School last year and recently won the Montgomery County Public Schools' Silver Hammer Award for facility upkeep.
Both Land and Thompson credit the school's principal, Dana Davison, for setting high conservation standards. "We get strong support from our principal," said Land.
Try a conservation incentive plan at your house and see what happens.
"The kids love it and the teachers love it," said Thompson. "They compete with each other. Teachers come up to me and ask where their smiley faces are, or they'll come to the kids. It really works."