By Katie Kershman

Delivering cost-effective energy services and advancing innovative energy solutions is the mission of the Colorado Energy Office (CEO). This year, in support of its mission, CEO piloted a new approach for the Energy Savings for Schools (ESS) program. As the program administrator, Brendle Group worked with three school districts to establish energy and water goals, educate staff and students on conservation, and plan and implement projects that will result in increased awareness and cost savings over time.

“We understand how limited resources are – especially staff time and money – for districts in Colorado, and we also know how important conservation is for the bottom line,” Susan Bartlett of Brendle Group explains. “CEO’s program aims to help each district understand its baseline, set conservation goals, and make both operational and behavioral improvements that are tangible and teachable.”

Operations and maintenance costs are the second highest operating costs for K-12 schools (after instructional spending), according to the Financial Transparency for Colorado Schools website (Larson, 2018). It’s estimated that more than $2 billion dollars could be saved nationwide by improving energy efficiency in school buildings (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2011).

In March and April 2019, Gunnison Watershed School District took conservation to its classrooms to raise awareness about energy and water use. “The support for student engagement and classroom activities has been the most exciting part of the program so far! Our teachers have been very enthusiastic about engaging both their classrooms and beyond – with the goal to not just teach in their classrooms but to engage the entire district,” explains Transportation and Facilities Manager Paul Morgan. “The engagement support ESS provides is helping us build more than just a 1-year curriculum. Our aim is to continue engaging future students in conservation learning and activities for years to come.”

Figure 1. Students at Crested Butte Community School working with eGauge electricity monitoring information (Gunnison Watershed)

Figure 2. Students at Crested Butte Community School demonstrating their Climate Challenge Campaign to younger students (Gunnison Watershed)

Figure 3. Gunnison Watershed School District’s Engagement Champions plan their Month of Impact Activities

Sheridan School District began student and staff engagement in April at Alice Terry Elementary (K-2nd grade), with month-of-impact activities that included teacher pledges, fun energy tips, and student energy scavenger hunts. The district wrapped up with an afternoon of energy station activities – energy-producing circuits with Arapahoe County Extension staff, solar-powered mini cars with National Renewable Energy Laboratory staff, a wind turbine station with American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning staff, and Xcel Energy conservation kits for each student to take home. The middle school’s gifted and talented class celebrated the last day of school with similar age-appropriate energy stations and fun prizes to remind them about energy over the summer.

Figure 4. Alice Terry Elementary students experimenting with solar-powered mini cars (Sheridan)



Figure 5. Alice Terry Elementary students generating energy and powering circuits (Sheridan)

The Vanguard School (a charter school complex in Colorado Springs) is also engaging with ESS, with the recycling club taking on plug load monitoring around the school and reporting out to the school board on recommendations and potential savings. This group is particularly interested in the opportunity for students to work with women in the energy field – something in which Brendle Group is already a leader.

About the Author – Katie is a gifted storyteller and applies her skills using a multitude of outlets within marketing, including marketing strategy development, communications and content development, outreach, advertising, branding, and graphic design. At Brendle Group, Katie is the design channel and gate keeper for all externally facing media and deliverables including social media content, website presence, documents of all varieties, and engagement campaigns in numerous delivery formats.

Katie has a broad range of experience, having developed and executed marketing strategies for nationwide media campaigns as well as organizing grassroots outreach efforts. She has managed marketing budgets, facilitated radio and video commercial recordings; developed weekly, monthly, and quarterly newsletters; and coordinated with public relations staff for deliberate and targeted media impact. Her repertoire includes exceptional communication skills, creative approaches for long-term behavior change, comprehensive market research and analysis, and empowering promotional content.

A love of language and drive to leverage great communications are Katie’s tools to inspire positive change.

Works Cited
Larson, J. (2018, April 26). Colorado spends an average of $9,960 per student. Here’s how that funding breaks down. The Denver Channel, pp.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2011). Energy Efficiency Programs in K-12 Schools. Retrieved from Energy Efficiency Programs in K-12 Schools: