School Energy Policy and Education Plans : A Case Study of Plan Development in Three Wisconsin School Communities
Rickert, Melissa L.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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America’s schools are spending more than $6 billion annually on energy (Orth, 2009). With rising utility costs and smaller operating budgets, schools need a plan to manage their energy use wisely. In addition, schools need a plan to improve the energy literacy of all building occupants, including staff, students, and administrators. Three Wisconsin school communities received grant funding through the Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP) to develop a School Energy Policy and Education Plan (SEP&EP). Each school community spent between nine and eighteen months developing a plan that included energy management policies as well as an energy education plan for integrating energy concepts into the district-wide curriculum. Using a case study research design, the researcher examined why SEP&EPs were developed and how a template, created by KEEP, was used in three different school districts. Data collection methods included observations of SEP&EP development meetings, interviews with primary participants, questionnaires for primary and secondary participants, and the review of supplementary documents (meeting notes, energy audit reports, School Board meeting minutes, etc.). The results show that the leading reasons individuals chose to be involved in this process included educating others, a desire to improve the school, and a general interest in the environment or ‘being green’. Although each of the school districts went through a similar process to develop their SEP&EP, there were many differences among districts. Even with different approaches, each district successfully completed its plan which is an indicator that this SEP&EP development process can be replicated in other Wisconsin school communities.