April 4, 2008

Fourth graders watched an electric meter revolve at a rapid pace when a small heater was turned on, simulating how a home cooling or heating system uses energy.

The Lyon County Elementary students also watched an electric line fry a hot dog, shoot fire when touched by a piece of metal and send electricity through a tree branch. These were all examples of the danger that can occur when someone or something comes into contact with an electrical line.

The students were participating in a 4-H energy day camp that included information on production, safety and conservation. Each student went home with an energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulb, worksheets and hopefully a greater appreciation of energy.

“We are focusing on energy and energy conservation because everything we hear today is about the high cost of energy,” said Wanda Paris, Lyon County 4H Youth development agent with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

“When I ask them about energy, the first thing they want to tell me about is the high cost of gas, and they also know their electric bills have gone up,” she said. “They are aware of the problems we have. We are trying to instill in them that the old idea of using energy and more will be there to replace it has to be changed. We are trying to instill in them the importance of conserving for future generations.”

Instilling good conservation practices at a young age is important because what you learn as a child – close the door when you go out, turn off the light – tends to stick, Paris said. It’s hard to break those habits as an adult.

Dianne Holt, Lyon County Elementary teacher, said the fourth graders are studying energy and are just beginning to study electricity in her classroom.

“This is a wonderful time for us to come over here,” she said. “The camp is a great review for upcoming testing, and the kids were so excited to come too.”

Holt said they discuss energy conservation not only in science but in social studies and have recycling containers at the school.

“They really grasp it at this age,” she said.

The day camp was funded by a grant from the state 4-H Science, Engineering and Technology program as one of several pilot counties, Paris said.

“We are hoping this is something we can build on and that other counties can do to help these kids learn the importance of energy conservation and safety,” she said.

E.ON U.S., known locally as Kentucky Utilities, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers assisted with the camp, which concluded with a tour of the hydroelectric plant at Barkley Dam.

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