In hot pursuit of energy guzzlers


Is it difficult to get young girls enthusiastic about energy efficiency and climate protection? Not at all: Heike Bordin-Knappmann, Senior Manager Learning & Development at ista and herself a mother of three girls, took up the challenge and was pleasantly surprised. On Girls' Day 2017, she went in search of energy guzzlers with the pupils from Borbeck Girls Grammar School.

It is 7:30 on Thursday morning and the corridors of Borbeck Girls Grammar School are already a hive of activity: pupils are running along the corridors, shouting hello to each other or putting their heads together to swap their latest news. I set off for classroom 114. It’s quieter here. Only two young girls are already preparing a pin wall for our workshop. It is the International Girls’ Day and the perfect opportunity for us to work intensively with the 5th and 6th form pupils to get them enthusiastic about technology and the sciences.

The subject of energy is right at the top of the agenda. Possibilities of saving energy are an important subject for Essen, European Green Capital 2017, especially this year. The grammar school is one of the five secondary schools that has been equipped with metering technology as part of the project “ista schools in energy efficiency”. However, the new transparency about energy consumption is to benefit not just the school but above all its pupils. And that’s why I’m also here today: together with my colleague Maike Böcker, I am championing the project.

Borbeck Girls Grammar School
By holding the workshop at the Borbeck Girls Grammar School, ista employees are playing an active role in energy saving and energy efficiency.

Together with 25 6th form girls, we track down hidden energy guzzlers and make real energy detectives out of the pupils. Our job is to explain to them how to find these energy guzzlers and introduce them to the newly installed technology which helps them to do this. We are supported by Magdalena Burger, Climate Protection Manager for Educational Institutions from the city of Essen.

Final preparations for the workshop

I am normally only in schools for parent-teacher meetings or on polling days so walking along the school corridors is an unusual experience for me. But there is no time to be nervous. While I quickly talk through the workshop schedule with my project partners, the pupils are already streaming into the classroom. The girls take their seats and gradually quieten down. They are excited, I can see that. After a brief round of introductions, they start to liven up and we begin our topic in a fun way: “What do you think makes a good detective?” I ask them.

The pupils become energy detectives
The pupils become energy detectives and have plenty of answers to the question of where energy is used.

One by one, hands shoot up. “He should be quiet so he is inconspicuous. And of course he should be a good observer,” one girl replies. I like the answer and it fits in very well with their first task: the girls are to take it in turns to tell us what they did before they came to school this morning and where the use of energy was involved. The alarm clock was switched off, hair dried, toast made or cocoa heated in the microwave. The eager girls soon detect that they used a lot of electricity. Their task is to listen very carefully and stand up as soon as energy is involved.

“Energy detectives track down ‘crime scenes’ where energy is wasted and think about how to prevent it.”

Every detective has a mission. What is that mission for an energy detective? “Energy detectives track down ‘crime scenes’ where energy is wasted and think about how to prevent it,” a pupil suggests. After a short time I have no doubt that there are plenty of ‘crime scenes’ in the school building. During the two-hour workshop, I myself discover that the heating in the classroom is permanently full on despite the mild temperatures outside. There are no thermostatic valves to regulate the heating. No wonder the pupils frequently open the windows wide to keep the temperature bearable in the room.

In pursuit of energy guzzlers

After just a few introductory questions, I already notice that the pupils are on the ball and I am really very impressed by how much they know about climate change and how great their interest in environmental and climate protection is. The girls are very much aware of how important saving energy is but so far they often have no opportunity to play an active energy-saving role, especially during their school day. So we go together in search of clues. In addition to the radiators which are full on, the main energy-guzzling culprits we discover are dripping taps and technical devices and appliances in stand-by mode.

The pupils learn how easy it is for them to introduce energy-saving measures
The pupils learn how easy it is for them to introduce energy-saving measures.

To make sure things really change in future, we also show the energy detectives how the newly installed metering technology can help save energy. Just as an observant detective should, the girls soon discover the heat cost allocators on the radiators. We quickly dispel the rumour that heat cost allocators regulate the temperature. For electronic heat cost allocators are metering devices and record energy consumption which is then shown in the small display. But we take this opportunity to show the girls how they can optimally regulate the heat given out by the radiators using the thermostatic valves that are soon to be installed.

Heike Bordin-Knappmann
Heike Bordin-Knappmann shows the pupils how they can regulate the heat in a room using thermostatic valves.

By the end of the first workshop, I am already quite proud to see what effect the project is having in schools. The pupils are eager and playing an active role and I am sure they will remind each other and point it out if one of them should unnecessarily waste energy. By not only providing the schools with the technical equipment and so making energy consumption transparent, but also raising the pupils awareness as to how they themselves can become active with small and simple measures, we are enabling lasting changes to be made. The project is therefore worth its weight in good for both sides.

Energy that has a long-lasting effect

After the second workshop, I am exhausted but paradoxically euphoric and full of energy. This day has really changed my perspective in an exciting way. The pupils have infected me with their eagerness and I have realised: actually it’s all about getting people enthusiastic whether you’re holding a school workshop, or you’re in training management or HR and management development.