In This Issue

Welcome to MidAmerican Energy Company’s e-SMARTnews! As
teachers, you play a critical role in
helping students learn to use energy responsibly. e-SMARTnews is designed
to serve you in this effort, providing you with energy education tips that complement the MidAmerican Energy Company's e-SMARTkids website. We hope that you enjoy this issue and share its energy-efficiency messages and activities with your class and your colleagues. And, for more energy education resources, please visit

Taken together, this newsletter and the MidAmerican Energy's e-SMARTkids website content support Iowa State Standards for Life Sciences (including the social and personal implications of environmental issues, environmental stewardship, and energy and energy transfer) and the Illinois Next Generation Science Standards for Physical Sciences and Earth & Human Activity.

What is Energy, and How Do We Use it?

Energy has become a major topic in today's news, and it is imperative
that students become aware of its importance, as today's children will be tomorrow's energy activists. However, energy can be an abstract concept for students. Before you share ways to use energy more efficiently, it’s helpful to give your class a basic understanding of the forms of energy and how it
serves us.

In simplest terms, energy is the ability to do work. Here are some forms of energy students may recognize:

  • Electrical
  • Heat
  • Light
  • Motion
  • Chemical

By changing one form of energy to another, we can make it work for us in activities, like cooking our meals, heating and cooling our homes, and running our cars. A simple example is an ordinary toaster. We use electricity (one form of energy) and convert it to heat (another form of energy) to toast bread.

Electricity can be converted into many types of energy. In addition to heat, it can be converted into light and motion (mechanical energy) in the form of a motor. Motion can, in turn, be used in appliances that help us with many types of work, such as washing machines, pencil sharpeners and dishwashers.

Chemical energy is stored in fuels, such as natural gas. When fuels are burned, they create heat that can be used to heat our homes, warm up water for showering, cook our food and dry our clothes.

Engage Students in the Energy-Efficiency Mindset

Helping students understand the importance of energy-efficiency is a critical first step to getting their “buy-in” on adopting energy-saving technologies and behaviors.

For the bottom line, using energy more efficiently lowers a family’s monthly utility bill. Whether it’s electricity or natural gas, people have to pay for their consumption; the less used, the lower the monthly costs. Smart choices can lower energy costs without sacrificing comfort or convenience.

An equally important reason to save energy is to protect precious resources and our environment. Energy-efficient technologies and practices help us use less energy and therefore send less pollution into our air and waterways, making for a cleaner, healthier environment. Also, our non-renewable energy sources (coal, oil and natural gas) are limited, and we all need to play our part in helping these precious natural resources last longer.

Save Energy at Home and School

School-aged children can be quite influential when it comes to family energy-use practices. Research shows they love bringing materials home to share with their families, extending your reach not just into the classroom, but also beyond it. Share these energy savers with your students and, where possible, try them in class!

  • Switch to Energy-Efficient Technologies
    Tell students about energy-efficient technologies that can help their families save energy at home. Explain that products certified by the ENERGY STAR® program—and carrying this logo—are guaranteed to be energy-efficient.

    • LED Bulbs – Light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs use about one-third of the electricity of compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and about 10 percent of that used by standard incandescent bulbs. While more expensive initially, they cost the user less over the life of the bulb.

    • Ceiling Fans – With climate change, many parts of the country are getting hotter. And cooling uses a lot of electricity! Ceiling fans used along with or instead of air conditioners can create tremendous savings. On very hot days, families can first cool rooms with AC and then circulate the cool air with a ceiling fan. This enables them to set the AC at a higher temperature and reduce energy use.

    • Programmable Thermostats – These devices adjust home temperatures automatically and allow people to turn off heating or cooling when away from home and/or when rooms reach a certain temperature.
  • Unplug Energy Vampires
    Cell phone chargers are known as “energy vampires” because they “suck” energy even when phones are already charged or when chargers are connected to the wall but not the phone. In fact, only 5 percent of the power drawn by a cell phone charger is used to charge the phone; the other 95 percent is wasted when it is left plugged into the wall. Other appliances also draw energy when they are turned off but remain plugged in. So wherever possible, unplug unused devices and appliances or plug them into power strips that can be turned off when appliances are not in use.

  • Wash in Cold and Dry in Air
    Another simple home energy saver is to wash clothes that are not super dirty in cold water, which works just as well as washing in hot or warm water and uses less energy. Drying clothes outdoors on a rack or clothesline is a big energy saver, too.

  • Turn Off and Save
    Encourage students to turn off lights when leaving a room and TVs, game stations, computers and appliances when no longer in use. They’ll be surprised how quickly this becomes a habit.

  • Mind the Blinds
    Explain that curtains and blinds can be used to let the sun’s direct rays warm a room on cold days (by opening them) or block the sun’s heat (by closing them).

Classroom Games and Activities

I Spy
Students take turns being the “spy,” finding places in the room where energy could be saved. The spy gives clues to the others, who make guesses about the energy-saving opportunity. Clues can be the first letter, the location or a brief description of the opportunity. When someone gets the correct answer, they can be the next energy-saving spy. If no one gets the right answer, and there are no more guesses, the spy reveals the energy conservation item and invites a new spy to take over.

In some cases, students may need help finding an energy-saving target. Energy conservation opportunities are all around. It could be a manual versus intelligent thermostat, an open window or door, an electronic device that is not in use but still turned on or plugged in, or blinds that are not drawn during hot weather. It could be an old appliance (not ENERGY STAR® certified) that guzzles energy or a drafty door or window where cooled or heated air can escape.

Count the Savings
Challenge students to examine the cost of a household energy bill before adopting new energy-use habits and swapping out energy guzzling devices and then compare it to a bill that comes in at least a month after energy-saving devices and practices have been put in place. (Make sure the season being compared in the two bills is the same, as rising needs for heat or AC could mask energy savings.) Invite students to explain their cost savings in a presentation to the class.

Home Energy-Use Inspection Contest
Encourage students to use our e-SMARTkids website’s home inspection checklist with their families by sponsoring a contest to see who can check off the most number of inspection items. Allow some time for families to implement desired changes.

e-SMARTkids Online Games

Kids can also learn about energy through games on the MidAmerican Energy’s e-SMARTkids website. These games are designed to be fun, informative and very visual. They can be played individually or in a group, in the classroom or at home.

Check out these e-SMARTkids games:

  • Stop the Guzzler The Guzzler loves to waste energy. The more he wastes, the bigger he gets. In addition to trying to stop his guzzling, kids can explore ways to stop wasting energy at home. For example: What is an easy way to conserve energy when using a pot on the stovetop? (Put a lid on it.) What is the most efficient way to use a dishwasher? (Make sure it’s full before running it.) What is the most energy-efficient way to cook a small item, like a potato? (Cook it in a toaster oven or microwave, not the oven.)

  • Eco-Racer Students choose a racecar and charge it with renewable energy. They race against other cars and try to beat their best times. While recharging their cars with wind, geothermal, hydropower, biomass and solar energy, students learn fun facts about these technologies.