Bright idea enlightens students

Posted: Tuesday, May 19, 2009

All teachers hope they will inspire students with their lessons, and a Redoubt Elementary School teacher couldn't help but notice the light that went on for one of her students after a recent math lesson.

"It started with talking about quantities, but it quickly moved to talking about electricity and how much we could save if we turned off the lights," said sixth grade instructor Ranada Hassemer.

This example sparked an interest in several students, but one in particular, Alex Gottlob, seemed particularly captivated by the idea. Hassemer wanted to encourage Gottlob's interest in pursuing an energy quantities project further.

She was aware that Homer Electric Association had kilowatt meters that could be loaned out for measurement purposes. She contacted them and was surprised by their immediate response and willingness to purchase a small number of meters.

"HEA really made the project possible," she said.

Joe Gallagher, public relations coordinator for HEA, said the cooperative was happy to help the children.

"It was a request that came in. We have a small budget for educational things like this, and thought it was a great idea, so we were happy to take part in the project," he said.

Hassemer said with the meter in hand, Gottlob and three other students began monitoring how much electricity different appliances and devices used, at school and at home, each for a 24 hour period.

"They've been measuring appliances for about a month now," she said, and added that already clear energy consuming patterns have started to emerge to the students.

"They've found that smaller didn't necessarily mean less energy is used, such as with refrigerators. Sometimes a larger fridge used less electricity because it was more energy efficient," she said.

From this students also learned that newer appliances often use less electricity than older models, and according to Hassemer, as a result of the project Gottlob began noticing and comparing energy ratings on the tags of appliances while at stores with his parents.

"They also learned that when it comes to having one item that can do several things -- such as a clock with a radio, these items used less electricity than having both items -- a clock and a radio -- separately," she said.

Hassemer said seeing her students learn so many important life lessons evolve from a simple math discussion about quantities was very rewarding to her as an instructor.

"When students want to take what they've learned in school, going beyond the classroom and apply it in their everyday life, that's what teaching is all about," she said.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at

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