While we are eagerly anticipating Halloween, (especially those of us with children) it is also a great time of year to pay attention to our energy use. Since 1991, the month of October has been known as Energy Awareness Month. The goal of this Nationally-recognized special day is to encourage people to be more conscious of the amount of energy they consume and the ways that they can reduce that use. The first step to conserving energy is to understand how much we are using in our daily lives and brainstorm ways that we can cut down.
Energy education should begin as early as possible. Sustaining our energy supply and other natural resources is vital to our community’s well-being. Even though our power grid is largely hidden from view, it is always working behind the scenes to give us the things we take for granted. Our daily lives would be much different without air conditioning, lights, electric medical equipment in our hospitals, household water utilities, and an endless list of other things that run on electricity. Teaching children about the importance of energy will help them grow into adults that do their part to conserve this vital resource. They may even become more interested in helping to keep your home’s utility bills down by switching off lights when not in use or closing doors behind them.
Here are some fun ideas to get your kids involved in Energy Awareness Month this year:
Build a DIY Solar Oven
This is a great way to demonstrate the power of solar for kids of any age! You probably already have the supplies for this activity laying around your house. You can use an empty pizza box or another small box with a lid, aluminum foil, saran wrap, and a small stick or pencil to use to prop the lid open. The best part is that you get to eat some yummy food once your solar oven works its magic. Here is a great resource from NASA Climate Kids that provides step-by-step directions that show how to construct your oven. They feature s’mores in their article, but there are plenty more kid-friendly recipes to try, including nachos and mini pizzas. What better way to enjoy our beautiful October weather than to have a picnic outside, cooked by sunshine?
Design a Kid-Level Chain Pull
This craft is an easy way to remind kids to turn off lights when they leave a room while encouraging them to express their creativity. You can use virtually any small decorative or whimsical item that you have around the house to let them make their very own light pull for their bedroom. Spend time with them stringing beads, old costume jewelry, or even small toys while discussing how much energy could be saved by the small action of not leaving lights on in empty rooms. You can find detailed instructions and more ideas on the HomeSteady website. Once you’ve created your artwork, be sure to make the chain extension long enough so that it hangs at eye level for your children to act as a festive reminder to switch off those lights on their way out!
Create a Wind Turbine
What better way to get kids thinking about alternative energy sources than by harnessing the power of wind themselves? Wind turbines are one of the fastest-growing sources of clean energy. Here is a great resource from Scientific American that shows how to build your own turbine-like pinwheel with your children. It also describes how these structures work in simple, easy-to-understand language. Teach your little ones all about how the pinwheels they are designing operate just like the big ones that produce electricity for our communities!
Paint a Rain Barrel Together
Energy Awareness month is the perfect time to teach your kids about how energy and water are connected. It is important for them to understand that these two precious resources are dependent on each other and that the conservation of water also saves electricity. Rain barrels are an efficient way to reduce water use in your irrigation. They capture and store rainwater to use for gardening or watering your yard later. You can either purchase one from your local hardware store or make one yourself.
Whichever way you decide to acquire your barrel, they are relatively inexpensive and will save you money in the long run in the form of decreased utility bills. Invite your kids to help decorate your rain barrel and create a beautiful piece of artwork to proudly display outside your home. Here is a video that shows which type of paint to use and how to apply it so that it lasts for a long time.
Seal Windows with Artwork
As the weather starts to cool off, the warm air inside our homes can escape through drafty windows. This leads to wasted energy and higher utility bills. A good way to conserve energy and keep your heater from working so hard is to insulate windows and seal any leaks. Here’s a creative way for kids to be a part of this energy-saving winter prep.
You only need a couple of items for this craft: Saran wrap, double-sided tape or painter’s tape, permanent or acrylic markers, and scissors. Unroll a square of the plastic wrap that is about 6 inches longer than the width of your window and spread it out on the floor. Roll out another strip and place it above the first strip, overlapping the first one by a couple of inches so they stick together. This will make a piece that is tall enough to reach from the top of your window to the bottom.
Let your child draw on the plastic wrap with the markers to create whatever design they wish. This is a great time of year for this project because you can even decorate your windows for Halloween or the upcoming holiday season. Another option is to slide coloring pages or sheets torn from a coloring book underneath the plastic so that they can trace their favorite characters.
Once your children have finished their artwork, carefully tape the plastic to the inside of your window. Allow it to overlap the window frame by a few inches to cover any leaks around the edge where air might escape. It is better to leave a little space between the window glass and the plastic wrap to provide more insulation, so don’t tape it too close to the window. When the sunlight shines through, it will illuminate all of the pretty colors to be seen from both sides of the window. We hope that you and your family enjoy completing these fun crafts together! Our children are our most important asset in the conservation of our natural resources. If we shape their behavior and teach them to be conscious of energy use, the future will be brighter for all. To learn more about Energy Awareness Month, visit the Department of Energy. They offer energy conservation checklists for home, office, and more that make it easy to take stock of your energy use and make positive changes.