Hands darted into the air when Environmental Protection Specialist Jennifer Patterson asked a room full of middle school students, “Who’s heard the term ‘carbon footprint?’” Most were familiar with the concept, and later that day, after working with engineers to measure their school’s environmental impact, they would have a whole new appreciation for the term.
About 300 sixth and seventh graders tested the flow rate of faucets, inventoried light bulbs and collected data on heating and cooling systems and waste during an energy audit at Wiesbaden Middle School. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District in collaboration with the WMS Student Council hosted the event April 18 in honor of Earth Day.
The goal of the activity was to increase student awareness of the environmental impact of building design, construction and usage, according to Patterson.
About 20 volunteers from USACE split up with the students in groups of about 20 to collect data and calculate energy and water usage and waste production.
Sal Van Wert, compliance cleanup program manager with USACE, led one of the groups. Their task was to determine the flow rate from a shower and sink in the girls’ locker room and use that data to extrapolate how much water the school uses.
They opened the faucets on full blast and timed how long it took for water to fill a container to the quarter-gallon mark. Then students used calculators to find how many gallons per minute would come from each faucet. Then, they followed the equation out further, multiplying the flow rate by the average time the students thought it would take someone to shower or wash their hands and then how many students would do so how many times per day. This gave them a way to conceptualize how many gallons of water are being used.
Sixth grader Abigail Asare was surprised to learn how much water the school uses. “We use a lot more water than we should,” she said.
Van Wert talked with the group about ways they could reduce their water usage, such as taking showers instead of baths, using aerators on faucets and fixing leaky faucets or running toilets.
The students will be moving into a new middle school building in August for the start of the 2018-2019 school year.
The engineers highlighted benefits to the students and the environment from improvements planned in the new building, being constructed by USACE.
Sibylle Ballnath, project manager for the new middle school, stressed to the sixth and seventh graders that although the new school will have energy- and water-saving features, everyone who uses it still plays a role in making it as environmentally friendly as possible.
“You are the most important piece in that building,” she said.