Liberty High School history teacher David Butler used a science experiment to find out just how energy-inefficient his house is.
About 15 colleagues helped with the project. They shut the fireplace, windows and doors, turned off the air conditioner and searched for other weaknesses in the Paradise-area house built in 1990.
The visit to Butler's house was a small part of a weeklong series of workshops and activities held July 23-27 as part of the STEM Teachers Academy, which focuses on science, technology, engineering and math education.
Participating teachers were given curriculum materials, including lessons and activities about energy efficiency and conservation in the home. History teachers rarely use STEM concepts in class, but Butler is also the adviser for the Environmental Awareness Club at Liberty, 3700 Liberty Heights Ave. in Henderson.
A custom door with a blower sucked air out of the house, forcing air inside from all the nooks and crannies. Hot air rushed into the house through the light fixtures and switches, the sinks and ceiling vents. The draft from under the garage door could be felt a few steps away.
One teacher used an infrared scanner to see the orange and red "hot spots" throughout the house, which show where outside air is infiltrating.
It was a diverse bunch, too, with middle and high school teachers ranging in subjects from environmental science to English.
"It's pretty multidisciplinary," said Katie Rifenburg, professional development coordinator with Reno-based Envirolution, a company that develops energy sustainability curriculum. "It's the same with teachers as it is with kids. The more hands-on it is, the more involved they'll be."
Teachers spent much of their classroom time at NV Energy listening to speakers and working on projects. They created model houses out of paper and used different materials, such as cotton, to create insulation and measure the temperature inside the house. Some teachers brought in energy bills and the floor plans of their homes to get input from the group about how to save money.
The week of activities was hosted by HomeFree Nevada, a nonprofit organization that facilitates the statewide EnergyFit Nevada program. The program also served to fill professional development credits required for teachers.
Rancho High School environmental science teacher A.Y. Rojas learned a couple of things that week.
First, his home near Alta and Rancho drives has areas that need to be retrofitted for energy efficiency. Second, he needs to do more in the classroom "to get students enthusiastic about green energy."
"It's something that's needed, and it's needed in Las Vegas," Rojas said. "I'm always out searching for new ways to teach. The learning objective may be the same, but I like to vary my lesson plans."
Wanda Mallard, a math teacher at the Southeast Career and Technical Academy, 5710 Mountain Vista St., and her husband, Donovan Mallard, an English teacher, attended the event.
They are not sure exactly how they will incorporate the knowledge into their lesson plans, but Wanda said she thinks it is feasible. For example, she might ask students to calculate the kilowatts used by appliances, and her husband could have students write essays about conservation.
She said administrators from every school should attend a workshop such as this and enforce more energy-efficient practices.
"It's not like it used to be in the '50s and '60s when we could be wasteful," she said. "... It's all about (saving) money these days."
Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at firstname.lastname@example.org or 224-5524.