Kids In Strange Hats Share Green Tips

Allan Appel PhotoIt looked like Halloween, or St. Patrick’s Day in July. It was “Action Day” for the kids of Solar Youth summer camp.

On a sun-drenched Tuesday afternoon on the Green, 10 kids of Team Coal (including Kenyatta Harris, Jr., pictured in the sparkly, Fred Astaire-ish top hat) donned unusual headgear and coiffures in order to get peoples’ attention.  Their aim: to put into deeds what they’ve been learning about the environment.

They started work at 10:30 a.m. I was the 18th person they gently corralled, and then started teaching.

The lessons: Did you know that Connecticut gets 50 percent of its energy from coal? Asked Elijah Wright.

As Matthew Duhaney pointed his sun-yellow crown skyward, his friend Jason Adote held up a poster and said that we need to make more wind turbines and use less coal.

New Haven has only one wind turbine, another kid added, with a note of melancholy in his voice.

Another youngster urged me to use less electricity, and Kenyatta Harris reminded me that if I smoke (I don’t), I should stop because it kills. Jordan Wingate (in the short yellow wig, far left first photo) expanded on that theme: Pollution in general kills.

Solar Youth’s Executive Director Joanne Sciulli said there were two other teams circulating on the Green, also speaking with people on fossil fuel themes.

The taking of an action based on learning is part of what Sciulli described as the educational model Solar Youth follows: namely, “kids explore, kids do, kids teach.”

The second team was educating the public about the BP oil spill and our use of oil. The third was circulating a petition asking for investments in renewable energy. Sciulli reported that the kids had collected over 300 signatures today alone.

The camp meets five days a week from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., in two groups. One is for 4- to 8-year-olds; Team Coal is for kids aged 9 to 13. The environmental theme changes from year to year. This year’s is energy.

Next week is the last week of camp. The focus will be on a more formal education forum for campers’ parents, families, and friends.

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posted by: Shoreline Green Dem on July 28, 2010  2:03pm

I applaud the work of Solar Youth to teach and educate New Haven students not only to appreciate the environment, but to go out and investigate the environmental impacts of our daily decisions for themselves.

I do however, wish that Solar Youth had been a bit more careful in the methods and information distributed to students this summer.  Connecticut does not get 50% of its energy from coal, but rather 5.5% of its energy from coal.  This fact is easily researched using energy calculators for kids and teachers at the Energy Information Administration website.  The EIA provides national statistics on all forms of energy use by state updated annually.

Using these calculators available here: with data available here: we see that CT consumed 810 trillion Btus of energy in 2008, the last year on record.  CT also consumed 2,221 thousand short tons of coal to generate electricity used in CT.  The EIA kids calculator tells us that each short ton of coal contains 19,977,000 Btus.  Multiplying these two numbers gives us the Btus of CT energy use provided by coal.  Dividing by the total energy use gives us the percentage 5.5%, not 50%. 

Solar Youth’s goals are admirable, but their accuracy leaves room for improvement.

posted by: Beth from Solar Youth on July 28, 2010  3:23pm

Thank you so much for this correction!  We will be sure to clarify these statistics with the young person quoted.

If you would like to hear more about Solar Youth, please join us at our Public Education Forum on Wednesday, August 4th at 6pm at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History!  Youth will be presenting what they learned and accomplished this summer!

posted by: Robbie from Solar Youth on August 17, 2010  2:43pm

Thanks again for the correction—you are completely right.  The statistic should read, “The U.S. gets about 50% of its electric power from coal.”  ( I am glad CT is not as “dirty” as the rest of the country.

Thanks to your comment, we were able to clarify with our campers, and fix that line in our curriculum.