Norman High School is going green.

And it's the students who are helping to make that possible.

NHS is one of 10 schools in Oklahoma participating in a pilot program this school year called the Oklahoma Green Schools Program. Through student, teacher and administration involvement, the program aims to reduce the school's negative environmental impact and become healthier, said Adam Lifsics, NHS biology and environmental science teacher.

"Our goal is to see how energy is used in school, what happens to our waste when it leaves the school and ways in which we can reduce our imprint, our footprint, on the environment," Lifsics said.

The program is sponsored by several public and private organizations focused on bringing coordination to the green school movement in Oklahoma. It includes three tracks, the first being educational investigation determining what is the school's environmental impact.

"Once we do the investigations, then we can figure out ways in which we can make improvements to lower the amount of waste or reduce the amount of energy that's being wasted at our school," Lifsics said. "And it could be something as simple as telling everyone to turn off their lights when they leave or to not leave computers on overnight, and it could go as big as actually doing retrofitting on the school."

In subsequent years, participating schools are helped with applying for grants and credits to retrofit buildings for energy savings with an end goal of eventually possibly becoming LEED certified.

As a pilot school, NHS will help other schools that enter the program next year, Lifsics said.

"There's been a lot of support with the district administration," he said. There's also been a lot of student support.

About 50 students are involved in the Green Initiative club at NHS.

So far this year, they have worked to measure the energy consumption and waste production of Norman High. That information will be used in future years to determine how the school and the district can limit consumption and waste, Lifsics said.

Students are broken into five groups with Green Schools Program tasks: energy, water, waste and recycling, environmental quality and school site.

Monday, students in the energy group met during lunch to report their progress with their assigned task. The students are measuring the energy used in classrooms throughout the school with devices called Kill a Watts.

"The Kill a Watts, you unplug an appliance and then you plug the Kill a Watt back into the wall or into the outlet and then you plug the appliance back in, and then you turn it on and the numbers go up and it counts the watts," said Jennifer Smith, NHS senior in the energy group.

Smith said it has been an interesting process. She tried the device with a fan and saw how much energy the fan used on each setting, low to high.

Smith is paired with senior Erika Barker on the project.

"We went to our art teacher's room and we measured how much wattage each of her electrical appliances put out," Barker said. "I guess we're hoping with that information we can figure out how she can reduce her energy output and just how much energy our school uses in general."

After the students complete their energy use assessment, the Green Schools Program will send a professional to give the school an energy audit for comparison, Lifsics said. So far, the group has found that computers and projectors left on are some of the biggest energy wastes in classrooms, he said.

Barker said she joined the Green Initiative because she wants to help the school reduce such waste.

"I'm in Green Initiative because, for one, I just felt like I should get more involved in Norman High in general and the environment is something I feel really strongly about," she said. "I feel like it's incredibly important that we make our schools less wasteful. So that's why I joined is I'm hoping we can make some sort of difference in Norman High's carbon output."

Julianna Parker Jones 366-3541 jparker@normantranscript.com

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