Carry out a spot check to see if lights or electrical items are left on at lunch time

Get pupils involved in checking whether lights and electrical equipment are being left on in empty classrooms or when no one is using them

5 KS1 KS2 KS3 KS4 KS5 Citizenship Mathematics and Numeracy Science and Technology
What uses electricity in your school and why is it important to know this?

You might want to start this activity by doing a quick assessment of everything that uses electricity in your school.  Classrooms, library, hall, offices - have a peek into all of them and make a quick tally of what's there: lights, computers, whiteboards, printers ... what else?

Conducting a quick survey such as this will show you that a lot of electricity is being used in your school - and possible you've also spotted that some of it is being used even when there's no one there - like lights or whiteboards left on in empty rooms.

This activity will help you assess whether lights and electrical equipment are being left on in empty classrooms or when no one is using them.  Switching off lights and equipment which are not being used is a really easy way to save energy.

How to carry out this activity

  1. Start by doing an initial spot check to see how good your school are at turning off unused lights and electrical equipment in empty rooms. Lunchtime is a good time to do this check, because pupils are normally outside in the playground or eating their lunch in the school hall. Teachers are often in the staff room. You could divide the school up amongst the pupils in your class or group, so that each pupil only needs to spend a few minutes doing this check.
  2. Go from room to room looking at lights that are left on around the school. In each room, corridor or outdoor area record the number of lights left on when the room or area is empty. 
  3. Count the number of computers, whiteboards and other electrical equipment left switched on or left on standby. Don't forget to include computer screens, computers, laptops, projectors, whiteboards, speakers, DVD players, televisions, photocopiers, printers, laptop or tablet charging trolleys, and anything else you find. Record your results for each type of appliance, as they have different levels of energy consumption. For example, an older desktop computer could cost up to £160 if left running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, while a laptop will cost about £4 and an ipad only £1.

What to do next

  1. Now look at your results to find out which classes or areas of the school are worst at leaving lights or appliances running. Discuss what you could do to persuade pupils and teachers to switch off.  Some of the other Energy Sparks activities involve telling other people why it is important to save energy, and encouraging them to get into good energy saving habits. Try some of these to earn more points. Here are some suggestions: 
  2. After carrying out some of these other activities, you should repeat your spot check of lights and electrical equipment at weekly intervals to make sure people are changing their behaviour. You can get the Energy Sparks points for this activity every time you carry out and record a check. 
  3. You might like to label things that have been left on or off with sad or smiley faces (or something similar!), to remind pupils and teachers to switch these things off in future. Some schools have used a token system where good performance is rewarded by a green token in a pot in the classroom and poor performance is recorded by a red token in a different pot. This creates a visual view of the performance of a class. The class with the most green tokens at the end of an agreed period of time gets an award. Discuss the best approach with your team or class. 
  4. You might find that some areas of your school have automatic lights that turn on when someone comes into the room. These are generally a good idea for rooms like toilets, but sometimes lights can stay on too long after the room is empty. If you go into a room with automatic lights and find they are already on, you could speak to the school caretaker about changing the timer 
  5. Don't forget to share the results of your ongoing checks with the rest of the school, focusing on the positives as well as highlighting the potential for saving more energy. You may find 'Well done class 5 for switching everything off! If they can do it, we can all do it!' is more motivating than naming and shaming those who have forgotten. 
  6. You can also extend this activity to check lights and electrical equipment left on after school. There is another Energy Sparks activity for checking this, so you can earn more points. 
  7. Download a poster to remind people to switch things off or to say goodbye to standby or design your own (we'd love to see it!)

How the Energy Sparks data can help you with this activity

Use the Energy Sparks charts to see whether you can see a decrease in your school's energy use as more lights and electrical appliances are switched off. You may find you need to target lights and appliances left on overnight to see a significant change.