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Education 'sweet spot': Brunswick students make a difference with weatherization project

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Education 'sweet spot': Brunswick students make a difference with weatherization project

BRUNSWICK — Felicity Beede has been teaching social studies at Brunswick Junior High School for 16 years, but she never thought she would watch dozens of her students embark on a project that has a meaningful impact in the community.

"I kept waiting for someone to say 'oh, but this is why it won't work' or 'this is why it's not a good idea' or 'you're not a leader,'" Beede said, "... and I kept waiting for a grown-up to say 'OK, we're done with that idea,' but people kept saying it's a good idea."

On Tuesday, her idea became a reality.

Over the course of three hours, 90 middle school students filled nearly every corner of a nearby group home, from attic to basement, to learn about energy efficiency and how to weatherize a home.

The project – to apply subjects like math, science and social studies to a hands-on assignment – was made possible, in part, by volunteer work from Upright Frameworks, a Wilton-based company focused on energy efficiency, and Complete Home Evaluation Services, a Brunswick-based energy auditor. Hammond Lumber also provided more than $4,000 in supplies.

For Beede, this kind of collaboration between educators, professionals and students was what she called a "sweet spot."

"There's math, there's economics, there's politics, there's community service, there's physical labor, there's photography and video and interviews," Beede said. "It just seemed like we were doing something good in the community and learning a ton at the same time."

Independence Association, a nonprofit that helps children and adults with cognitive disabilities, volunteered its group home on Church Road for weatherization work because, as Josh Wojcik of Upright Frameworks said, it was very under-insulated, allowing a great deal of heat to escape.

"It's basically an average Maine home," Wojcik said.

When students finished working with the pros from Upright Frameworks, Wojcik said Independence Association can expect a 35-40 percent reduction in the heating bill for that group home. The cost last year was more than $1,500.

DeWitt Kimball of Complete Home Evaluation Services is expected to run an energy audit soon to get a better idea of how much money the home will save.

"I don't know how we can repay the efforts that you guys have done," Ray Nagel, executive director of Independence Association, told Wojcik on Tuesday. "It's just fantastic."

When students walked away from the project, they had an experience most lectures or exams could not provide.

"I feel like ... for a lot of kids you learn a lot better when you're doing stuff that's hands-on," said Mia Denison, a seventh-grader who spent her time documenting the experience on video with her friend Aidan Crawford. "And you get to use your knowledge in a whole new way, and you're really tested in a way in that you're not just in a regular classroom. It's such a great experience."

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.