By Benjamin Custer
Peninsula Press (Published May 2014)
Normally teachers are the ones educating students. But in “Conserving Energy For
Dummies Teachers,” four Palo Alto High School students from Margo Wixsom’s beginning photography class seized the opportunity to turn that relationship on its head.
Daniella and Elena, freshmen, and Nikhil and Ronak, sophomores, teamed up to explore energy conservation through artistic avenues. They collaborated with one another to write a script, act out scenes and produce an entertaining — yet educational — video.
After consulting Rebecca Navarro, Palo Alto Unified School District’s energy specialist, the group incorporated several energy savings statistics. Then they figured out compelling ways to convey those facts.
“You see with videos they show you in science class like ‘Bill Nye The Science Guy,’ the reason why everyone loves him is because he’s so quirky and it’s funny to watch,” Nikhil said.
From catching a teacher eating his lunch in front of an open refrigerator to probing a coach who forgot to cover the swimming pool, the group devised humorous situations to deliver important messages about sustainability.
Teachers star in the video, but fellow students are the target audience.
“I think that’s a good thing we’re doing because kids won’t listen otherwise,” Daniella said. “It’s just a matter of turning off the faucet, turning off the lights, and it’s just such a quick thing to do.”
The group put a lot of time and energy into the project, often meeting during lunch and before and after school. Wixsom has encouraged the group to enter the video in the 2015 Greenlight Film and Fashion Festival as well as next year’s California Student Media Festival.
Wixsom has integrated water and energy conservation into the curriculum of her art classes since coming to California in 1998.
“Environmental education is an essential part of core information that students need to be well-informed and critical-thinking adults,” Wixsom said. “Photography and art are such solid connections for this type of exploration.”