Students debate energy options

Biomass and wind energy are the best alternative energy sources for Wadena, Wadena-Deer Creek high school students say after researching and debating the issue.

Biomass and wind energy are the best alternative energy sources for Wadena, Wadena-Deer Creek high school students say after researching and debating the issue.

Dawn Foss eighth-graders came to the conclusion after researching five alternative energy sources and stating their views to their class.

They considered the following energy sources:

" solar: energy from the sun

" wind: energy from wind power


" biomass: energy from organic materials

" hydropower: energy from water

" geothermal: energy from heat inside the earth.

After consulting books and the Internet, they wrote a one-page persuasive paper about what they thought was the best energy source for Wadena and argued their points in a mock town council meeting.

Each of Foss four eighth-grade earth science classes participated in the activity. Biomass was favored in three of the four classes. In the fourth, wind was favored.

Kayla Moorhead was one of the students in favor of biomass.

I think its a really good energy, she said. We wont be using nonrenewable when we could be using renewable.

With biomass, energy can be created through burning organic material such as wood, plants and manure.


While other energy sources besides the ones studied for the project are available, the eighth-grade project focuses on five energy sources so the kids could really understand the concepts.

Foss has been assigning the project for four years. Wind and biomass are usually the top two energy sources the classes pick every year. Biomass is especially popular with farm kids, Foss said. She likes to see how the kids personalize their ideas and bring their experiences and knowledge into the discussion.

In a mock town council meeting, Jacob Snyder said biomass can use decomposed organisms and dead trees and the city of Wadena could have used the broken branches from last summers storm to create energy.

Aaron Kern thought using biomass would help farmers.

Farmers could benefit from it because they have stuff to burn, he said in the mock town council discussion.

Moorhead saw biomass as a way to get rid of garbage and create more jobs.

Other students favored wind.

Wind is the best because it will give us money, said Kayla Bjorge in an interview.


Wind will save people 50 percent to 90 percent in utility bills, according to Bjorges persuasive one-page paper.

As the students worked on the project, they thought about how they use energy.

A person doesnt think about where the energy comes from when turning on a light switch, Simon Eckman said in an interview.

I think its a great idea to plan ahead to see what to do if energy runs out, he said.

Bjorge enjoyed the project and the opportunity to make a decision in the mock town council meeting.

I think this is pretty neat because we actually got a say in something, she said.

Though the decisions were made in mock town council meetings, the experience helped prepare the students because they might someday have to speak in a real governmental meeting, Foss said.

Theyre the ones who will make the decisions, she said.


She hopes the project will get the kids thinking about potential problems and how alternative energy would affect where they live.

Students said that if they lived in other areas, they might have cast their votes differently.

In Wyoming, geothermal works better, Kelsi Vorderbruggen said.

Solar would work better in California, Moorhead said.

Some pros and cons introduced at one of the mock council meetings were:

" Solar: pros: free; can use when electricity cant be brought to a place. Cons: cant get to at night; expensive panels; Wadena has many trees and shade

" Hydropower: pros: inexpensive. Cons: one of the least productive energy sources

" Geothermal: pros: none noted in class. Cons: expensive, ugly factory; Wadena is not in a hot spot.


" Wind: pros: doesnt create air pollution; wind turbines would pay for themselves; can store excess wind power; wont create acid rain; wind turbines can be spread out and not create much room. Cons: Wadena doesnt always have wind; expensive set-up

" Biomass: pros: can use decomposed organisms or dead trees; creates jobs; can use garbage for energy; inexpensive. Con: could cause pollution

The votes for the mock town council meetings were:

" First hour class: 12 votes for biomass, four votes for wind, three votes for solar

" Second hour class: 13 votes for biomass, seven votes for wind

" Fifth hour class: 12 votes for biomass, 11 votes for wind and two votes for solar

" Sixth hour class: 18 votes for wind, three votes for biomass, one vote for hydropower and one vote for geothermal.

The numbers dont represent all the students in the classes because some students didnt vote.


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