Fifth-graders take sustainability tour at UNT

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Carrying worksheets on clipboards, dozens of fifth-graders toured the University of North Texas on Monday — not to learn more about the higher education opportunities but to learn about sustainability and renewable energy.

Two tour guides from the Office of Sustainability took groups of students to walk the field of Apogee Stadium, see elliptical machines in the recreation center that generate energy and visit the Zero Energy Laboratory, which has net-zero energy consumption. 

“It’s a really good chance for the kids to see what we’ve been learning about recently, and it’s a really good chance for them to see hands-on how it really does impact the world,” said Angie Passons, a fifth-grade science teacher who helped coordinate the tour for her Blanton Elementary students.

This was the first of several that will take place over the next month, said Nicole Cocco, UNT’s Office of Sustainability outreach coordinator, as all fifth-grade science classes from Denton ISD will visit UNT this fall. 

Initially the sustainability tours were designed for business professionals, potential donors and municipal leaders — what Cocco calls the “big kids.” Last year, Duncanville ISD called Cocco and asked if they could bring sixth-graders to learn about sustainability, she said. 

She and others in the department worked with Duncanville teachers to create a worksheet for students and a solid curriculum base and spent a day with more than 100 sixth-graders. 

The news traveled fast, Cocco said, and Newton Rayzor fifth-grade teachers wanted the tour as well. They also brought the science coordinator for the district, who spread word to the rest of the schools. Now, there are four more tours scheduled for this year. A second tour coordinator was hired to specifically work with the kids, Cocco said. 

“It’s definitely caused us to shift the main focus of our tours a little bit, but we really enjoy it. I think actually, we prefer it,” she said. “It’s a lot more fun for us, and we feel like we have a bigger impact. I mean, talking to 15 LEED professionals is great, but this is something that we instill in pretty much all of Denton’s youth with really engaging, thought-provoking knowledge about sustainability.”

The tour is so desirable because it crosses off four of the five renewable energy sources outlined in the new Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, which the Texas Education Agency outlines as education standards for each grade level, Passons said. 

“It aligns with our TEKS that students learn about the five alternative energy resources, and how to conserve energy, sustainability and protecting our environment,” she said. 

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.


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