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Madison Metropolitan School District

MGE Earth Day Educational Event Energizes Leopold Students

MGE Earth Day Educational Event Energizes Leopold Students

“I wish every day was Earth Day,” a second grade student shared during a hands-on day of learning with representatives from Madison Gas and Electric Company (MGE). 

A rainy and windy spring day at Aldo Leopold Elementary School – named after the famed Wisconsin conservationist – was the perfect setting for students to explore how wind turbines generate electricity. Studying a scale model and using virtual reality goggles, students simulated climbing up the inner workings of a wind turbine. 

Down the hall, students hopped on the Power Pedal Bicycle, a specialized bike that uses magnetic energy to power light bulbs. Bikers discovered they had to pedal much faster to brighten an outdated incandescent or compact fluorescent light bulb, whereas the LED light bulbs glowed almost instantly. 

Before long, students will be able to see how this lesson in energy efficiency applies on a larger scale. Earlier this year, the Madison Board of Education approved a districtwide plan for conversion to LED lighting; one small part of the district’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2045.

Through a story quilt art project, Leopold students also explored the small actions they can take every day to live more sustainably, including conserving water, recycling, and reusing single-use items. Across the district, MMSD, Sustain Dane, and the district’s contracted trash and recycling partner, GFL, are collaborating to improve school recycling processes. Together, they’re studying whether recycling efforts could be improved if milk or juice in half-empty cartons were appropriately emptied and then recycled, instead of thrown in the trash. 

In one classroom at Leopold, each student had the chance to plant a seed, excitedly listing what was needed for seeds to grow. Learning how plants grow and the effects of pollination is a part of the second grade science curriculum. “¡El sol, el suelo y el agua! Sun, soil, and water,” students exclaimed, as they plopped pea seeds into soil. 

The multiple lessons in sustainability and energy second grade Leopold students learned during their Earth Day event will become increasingly relevant throughout their time in MMSD. In 10 years, when these students are preparing for their high school graduation, that’s when the district is striving to reach a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.