Energy ninjas key players in Energy Reduction Challenge | SteamboatToday.com

Energy ninjas key players in Energy Reduction Challenge

Andy Kennedy/For the Steamboat Today

It was a typical February day at Soda Creek Elementary School. and Cindy Gantick's fifth-grade class was having what appeared to be a winter picnic in the common area outside their room.

It was an eat-while-get-it-done session, as their four committees of the Leadership Group gave status reports, but one group in particular was eager to give us theirs. The group was the energy ninjas.

The Yampa Valley Sustainability Council staff members are talking to students in kindergarten through fifth grade, reminding them that February is an important month in the school district. It heralds the Two Weeks to Take Charge Energy Reduction, and while the winning school of the five competing receives the Energy Cup — now displayed at Soda Creek since their win last year — all of the schools win; whatever energy is saved during the challenge is money not spent and funds that can go into other needs for the school.

Where does energy come from?

"The wall," one kindergartener told us.

Why do we do the energy challenge?

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"Because polar bears are losing their homes," a first-grader said.

YVSC staff members asked a lot of questions and answered a lot, too, but one in particular was a staple during our repeating 15-minute speech throughout two days: "Do you know about the energy ninjas?" There's always a resounding "yes."

Have you seen the energy ninjas?" Mostly there's a resounding "no."

The requirements are simple: students must be in fifth grade to be a ninja. Sprinkle in a little love for the environment, some type-A personality in-the-making, and some very sneaky abilities, and you've got a ninja.

Eager to divulge their secrets, the three ninjas from Gantick's class who YVSC staff met went through their daily mission. Jocelyn McPharland, 10, discussed the ninja's mission bag:

  1. A pocket full of green report slips: Slips are what the ninjas leave in the rooms after their mission to tell the class, "good job for turning off your lights when you weren't here." Also used as suggestion slips, as Jocelyn said, "they're not really bad slips, you just write down what they should improve upon next time."
  2. Checklists: The ninjas are looking for lights off, sleeping computers, smartboards and TVs off, blinds closed, water off and windows shut.
  3. Designation: Each student covers a grade, so at least six ninjas are needed for Soda Creek Elementary to cover kindergarten through fifth grade.

Alan Duty, 10, showed off what it takes to be a ninja. First, he went to the first of the two graphs where the ninjas check off boxes for good energy conservation behavior. When a classroom gets a good slip, they also get a box colored in, and the classroom with the most boxes filled in gets a prize at the end of the year, incentivizing the classrooms to reduce their energy use.

"I liked the energy ninja notes last year, seeing who did good, so I wanted to be a ninja this year," Alan said.

Alan then took off to the kindergarten pod. The first room was dark and empty. Alan dropped a blank green slip on the desk.

"If nothing's on here," he pointed to the slip, "then it means they were good."

Mrs. Osbourn was working at her desk alone in the dim room, and she told Alan the kids love the notes. The kindergartners exclaim, "The ninjas were here!" when they see a note left behind.

In the next room, kids were working in groups, and as Alan came back out from leaving his note, Jocelyn said, "nobody noticed him!" Yes, that's what it takes to be a stealthy ninja.

The other ninjas include Ryan Hansen, Jaxson Fryer, Elsa Theut and Jada Brown, who each cover one of the other grades.

Last year, Soda Creek Elementary reduced its energy consumption by $1,400 during the challenge weeks. Each school's electricity use is measured against the average of its past three years of consumption to keep it a fair challenge, since not all schools are the same size, or efficiency. This year, Soda Creek and Strawberry Park elementary schools, Steamboat Springs Middle School, and Steamboat Springs and Yampa Valley high schools are competing to reduce their energy and save their school some bucks.

Learn more about the Energy Challenge at http://www.yvsc.org/energychallenge.