Elementary school students at the Delphi Academy on Fourth Street pretend to be an electric pencil sharpener as part of a spring break project in which college students educate youngsters about energy usage and sustainability. (Photo by Kevin Herrera)

Elementary school students at the Delphi Academy on Fourth Street pretend to be an electric pencil sharpener as part of a spring break project in which college students educate youngsters about energy usage and sustainability. (Photo by Kevin Herrera)

FOURTH STREET — Students at the Delphi Academy in Santa Monica got a drop course in energy and resource efficiency Monday from a group of college students who have eschewed normal spring break shenanigans to spread the word on environmentalism.

Members of the Energy Service Corps kicked off their alternative spring break by teaching youngsters about energy and how best to conserve it. Older children at the school got a more rigorous curriculum examining specific kinds of resource-conserving technologies and the origins and consequences of fossil fuels.

The school already embraces green values from the cleaning products it uses to its recycling programs, and was happy to open its doors, said Bridgette Rappoport, admissions director at the school.

“It’s part of the idea of the founding of this school,” she said.

The effort is one of five trips run through the Energy Service Corps, a project of the California Public Interest Research Group — better known as CALPIRG — and AmeriCorps, a service organization that sends teams around America to complete community projects.

Fifty students from universities across the state will reach thousands of children in Los Angeles, teaching them how to save energy and cut down on home bills through simple swaps and practices.

Those include making buildings, which account for roughly 30 percent of American energy use, more efficient by making repairs to better insulate walls and windows, installing more efficient lightbulbs and unplugging appliances when not in use.

That last one is a hidden power suck, which can account for between 5 and 10 percent of residential electricity used in developed countries and may account for 1 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

That’s because many devices — including televisions, audio receivers and even CD players — use standby energy, which means they’re constantly drawing power even when they’ve been turned off.

The only way to bring their energy use to zero is to unplug. While it might not seem like much savings for all the hassle, consider this: The typical American has 40 such devices plugged in at any given time.

Knowing now that you can save lots of money on electricity tends to inspire, said Amrita Ray, a program participant and student at UC San Diego.

“Numbers like that can really resonate,” Ray said.

It’s important to reach children early, because it’s more difficult to change those habits when they reach adulthood, she said.

The day at Delphi Academy kicked off with presentations by CALPIRG and Environment California, a nonprofit organization that advocates for healthy environmental policies. Santa Monica Mayor Pam O’Connor also stopped by to wish the college students well.

“It’s exciting that you’re working with the community on energy conservation. These are things that people can do right now,” O’Connor said.

The Energy Service Corps volunteers will spend the rest of their time teaching classes in Compton, El Monte and other communities and weatherizing two homes.

That process involves often simple fixes that may seem overwhelming or expensive to families living on the margins, but will, in the end, save them money on their energy bills, said Corie Radka, the campus coordinator for CALPIRG at UC Merced.

The fixes work just as well for the well-to-do, who may not have considered the impact those changes make to their wallets or the environment.

It’s a far cry from Kachi Achor’s normal spring break plans, which tend to involve visiting her family members, whom she sees less frequently now that she’s off to college as a freshman at UC Merced.

Achor, who expected to teach her first class in Compton later that day, was excited to use the time differently.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn about sustainability and saving the planet,” Achor said.

 

 

ashley@smdp.com