In 1996, PNM’s Good Neighbor Program funded the SEED project for school districts in Southern New Mexico. The project seeks to expand student energy education and to involve students in energy conservation in their school and community. The program involves students from K-12 and is modeled after a Texas project developed by the Energy Center at the University of Texas at El Paso.
Watt Watchers are teams of elementary school students who patrol their schools checking for energy waste. Several times during the school day the students patrol their assigned areas, and should they find lights on in an unoccupied room, the offending responsible party i.e. teacher/administrator, is issued a ticket.
The program begins with a presentation to the school sponsor (teacher/admin.) and students. Participants learn how the energy used in the school is produced, the relationship of fossil fuels and pollution, and the importance of conservation/efficiency. The students also learn how renewable energy can play an important role in their future.
Watt Watcher patrols have consistently reduced school energy use and utility bills, but it doesn’t end there. Everyone in the school becomes more energy conscious and the lessons learned are taken home and implemented. Saving energy reduces pollution and improves our environment.
New Mexico School Districts currently participating in the program include Gadsden, Silver City and Deming.
The 3rd grade students at Chaparral Elementary School are not only very diligent about their Watt Watcher Patrols, they also gave up their recess time to develop an energy presentation for the kindergarten classes.
The High School program begins much the same way except that the sponsor and students are often part of an established group such as the Student Council or Science Club. Projects for High School students include school energy audits, energy displays in school and community, auditing of utility bills, weatherization of homes in the community, and mentoring of elementary school students. The Energy Council “adopts” elementary schools and implements Watt Watcher Programs and more.
Gadsden High School students spent a Saturday morning weatherizing homes for senior citizens.