Jaleesa Chagan

Jaleesa Chagan

Student leaders hope to lose power

Energy Conservation Cup motivates one class to teach by candlelight

After soundly squashing their rival schools in a February energy-savings battle, Semiahmoo Secondary leadership students are once again turning up the heat (figuratively, that is) in the hopes of scoring the Surrey School District’s coveted Energy Conservation Cup.

“Game on,” said Jaleesa Chagan, when asked if she and fellow student organizers Sahir Shivji and Brendan Pousett have a message for their challengers.

The Grade 11 trio led their peers and teachers to a first-place finish in one of four divisions that competed over the course of one week between Feb. 18 and March 1. Their efforts – which saved 1,264 kilowatt hours – topped those at Earl Marriott (27 kWh), Frank Hurt (131), Johnston Heights (353) and Queen Elizabeth (68) secondaries, and earned the school $1,000 that will benefit future conservation efforts.

Shivji noted the district’s energy-savings goal for their ‘Heat’ division was 833.33 kWh.

(Interestingly, the division name had nothing to do with turning the schools’ heat down, said teacher sponsor Paul Langton. The results were calculated purely on electrical savings.)

In addition to Johnston Heights, Semi will be up against the top two teams in each of the other three smaller divisions – L.A. Matheson, Guildford Park, Panorama Ridge, Clayton Heights, Sullivan Heights and Fleetwood Park – in the final round, set for April 15-19.

Shivji, Chagan and Pousett have their work cut out for them in terms of encouraging their teachers and peers to do as much as they can to help score the win. Their rivals at Guildford Park logged 20 per cent energy savings in the first round, compared to Semi’s nine per cent. Last year’s Cup winners, L.A. Matheson, recorded 13 per cent savings.

Activities that helped push Semi to the top in their division focused on raising awareness: every day, they challenged students to answer an energy trivia question, and held a daily draw for a $10 coffee card amongst those who entered; they created posters for every classroom that reminded teachers to turn off the lights when the room wasn’t in use (Shivji noted one teacher actually taught by candlelight for the week, and most others used only half of their rooms’ lights); and, the number of hallway lights on through the week was cut in half.

They also shut down the cafeteria on one of the days for a picnic lunch.

“A lot of students charge their cellphones during school, so we made sure they weren’t doing that,” Shivji added.

Many of those activities will be repeated – with added emphasis – for the final round, the students said.

The students acknowledged that energy use at the school has gone up in the weeks since the preliminary round wrapped up. At the same time, “it’s still less than other schools in our heat,” Shivji said.

A key goal of the Cup challenge is to change behaviours, Langton said.

Chagan said raising awareness about energy conservation is something she also strives to do outside of school.

“(At home), it’s me telling my parents to turn their lights off,” she said.

The second annual Energy Conservation Cup is to be awarded on Earth Day, April 22.