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Armadillo students take on climate change project

PHOENIX — Eden Thrash got rid of her blow-dryer as part of an energy-saving challenge by her science class at Armadillo Technical Institute to combat climate change.

“I didn’t really think of it,” Thrash, a junior at the school, said of the carbon impact that energy use has on the atmosphere. She said she now hangs her head out the window or uses towels to dry her long hair.

Jesse Stonewood, science teacher at the charter school, secured a $3,000 grant from the Corvallis Environmental Center to teach students about energy and climate. As part of the curriculum, students are attempting to get 400 people to commit to saving energy through an online Communities Take Charge platform developed by the center. Armadillo is one of 18 schools in the Pacific Northwest participating.

Students kicked off the project at an Earth Day celebration Saturday at ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum in Ashland. Ten students staffed a booth and got 20 people to complete the online process, which takes about 10 minutes. Another 50 people left email addresses, and the students will follow up to get them enrolled in the program.

Participants sign up for three to five energy-saving actions. They range from changing furnace filters or drying clothes outside to committing to going car-free or installing a solar water-heating system.

After signing up, registrants receive an email showing their chosen actions, along with how-to guides to accomplish the tasks. They are also shown how much energy would be saved if they follow through.

“Signing up for the Communities Take Charge website inspired me to take actions, like switching out light bulbs and water faucets in my own home,” said Thrash.

Every four weeks for three months, Communities Take Charge will send participants questions about their actions and calculate how much carbon dioxide was kept out of the atmosphere. Residents in Ashland, Medford, Phoenix and Talent who sign up will be counted toward the goal set for the 25-student class.

“It was not just about educating the students, but ... public outreach also,” said Stonewood. That's being accomplished with flyers, social media, development of talking points and a letter to the editor.

“I told my cousins and my aunt and helped them to sign up,” said senior Preston Boyd of Phoenix. “I helped with the design of the flyer.”

A grant paid for the curriculum, purchase of two Chromebooks and participation in Communities Take Charge, Stonewood said. Rogue Climate is assisting with development of outreach material, canvasing and social-media use for the project.

Corvallis Environmental Center started the program six years ago. Three years ago it reached out to a wider population. So far 13,000 people, primarily in the Northwest, have participated, said Carly Lettero, program director. Schools in Alaska, Idaho, Washington and Oregon are involved.

“It’s a really good example of programs that can be used for groups that are already doing client work,” said Lettero. “It’s an additional tool so they can calculate carbon emissions.”

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

Students at Armadillo Technical Institute in Phoenix, including, from left, Preston Boyd, Eden Cox, Jymone Gilmore and Zach Sample, are working to influence others to save energy. Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta