Last Friday was not a typical day for me. Would this be a wasted day? Would it be rewarding? Would I be able to teach them anything? Well, I learned a lot more than I taught, and saw a glimmer of hope for the future at the end of the day.

I had the privilege to attend and teach three classes at the 21st Annual Oregon Green Schools Summit, and met some remarkable children and teens committed to shaping our energy future. Oregon Green schools provides hands-on assistance, curriculum and funding resources, and provides recognition and events for the youth in our state. It was founded in 1997, and has almost 300 schools participating in the program.

My presentation was titled “Why LED is Awesome”. How would I find a way to talk about lighting technology with a mix of 90-100 fourth through eighth graders? This would be my biggest challenge of the week by far. I decided to focus on the Lighting Facts Label and compare incandescent, CFL and LED technologies. Questions and comments abounded:

“Why does the incandescent filament glow?”

“Mercury is a bad and poisonous element”

“Tell me the components of an LED bulb, and how it makes light?”

These students blew me away with their inquisitive nature as I talked about lumens and watts, and lumens per watt (LPW). We used a Hummer versus a Prius, and miles per gallon, as a springboard to move into the lumens per watt analogy. Students pulled out cell phones to calculate LPW for the various light sources. Incandescent was 12 LPW. CFL was 64 LPW. LED was 84 LPW. You could see their eyes light up when they realized how efficient the LED lamp was. They were ready to run home and talk to their parents, and look at these labels when they tagged along on a Home Depot run.

We went on to discuss lamp life on the Lighting Facts Label, and discovered the incandescent lamp would last .9 years, the CFL lamp life was predicted to be 9.1 years, and the LED lamp was expected to last for 23 years. I asked the kids how old they would be when their LED lamps burned out. The range was from 33-38 years old. These kids will have finished college and have their own kids by the time the lamps burn out.

My co-presenters and I can’t wait to do this again. These kids are insightful, brilliant, silly and creative. How can we not arm them with some of the information we know, and just as importantly, listen to their questions and ideas? I mean REALLY listen. These are the people whose minds are open, inquisitive and embrace a healthy future for our world. Let’s listen.