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Alameda Elementary, Portland, Oregon, USA


About 30 fourth graders from Alameda Elementary School in Portland, Oregon participated in the Carbon Game over their Winter Break. Once they calculated the total carbon footprint of their households, they decided to put together their own presentation for the entire school of about 800 students. Fourth grade teacher, Christy Caton, talked about her students’ experience:

“Participating in the Carbon Game was a fun and informative way for my students to learn about carbon emissions.  The Powerpoint materials were visually interesting and generated some wonderful conversations. Tracking auto and air mileage, and looking at electricity and natural gas usage made families more aware of their own carbon footprint.  My students created their own Powerpoint and presented to the entire school during two assemblies. They presented some of our class data, and shared ideas for how they would help the environment and reduce their own carbon footprints.”

This  the second Carbon Game and the first time that a presentation was made to the entire school, inspiring us to use this format in the future. Parents and teachers attended the presentations and we had the opportunity to hear from parents about their experience at home.

Here is a collection of six parents’ comments about the Carbon Game:

“It was interesting to look at the mileage driven – to actually measure it (and Owen loved being able to go out to the cars and write down the numbers).  Before we never really thought about it because we need to drive for work.  But we try not to drive on the weekends, to ride bikes or walk instead.  Although we were already cognizant of our mileage we weren’t as aware of our power usage.  We had many revealing conversations about conservation with our boys and it definitely changed our use of power.  Although it was a bit difficult for my son to understand the significance of the measurements used, I think the Carbon Game lent itself nicely to talking with our kids.”

Cathie, mom to Owen

 “My husband pays the bills so I never really looked at our use of gas and electricity.  When I did to participate in the Carbon Game I was surprised to see we used more power than I thought.  We were always pretty good about turning lights off when not needed but after the Carbon Game my son became much more aware of the power being on.  He really tracked things and helped remind us all the time when something could be turned off.   He sort of became our “energy police.”  He even told people at church about what he had learned and been doing with the Carbon Game at school.  We have always been aware of the problems facing the earth but the Carbon Game reinforced our concern for the planet and knowledge that we have an impact.  I am grateful for the Carbon Game – for the opportunity to present kids with the information while their minds are open to the message. (ie before middle school)”  

Laurie, mom to Aaron

“It was great to see my 4th grader talking to her younger brother about the Carbon Game and what it meant for our family.  It definitely sparked conversation in our family about our habits and made my kids say “we should ride our bikes there instead of driving.”  

Rebecca, mom to Annika

“The Carbon Game was not difficult to participate in.  It is very user friendly.  My son really noticed mileage after writing down the number on the odometer.  We talked about why one car has so many miles and the other not as many, how we use our cars and where we go.  I also appreciated that kids are the teachers with the Carbon Game.  My boys (4th and 2nd grades) liked the experience and I think the Carbon Game really complements what is done at school.” 

Korinna, mom to Jackson

“We thought we were doing well and then my husband had to go on a business trip to the East Coast.  The Carbon Game made us recognize the impact of flying on carbon emissions.   It also got us thinking about how we use resources.   The Carbon Game made my daughter realize there is a real reason behind turning off the light when you leave a room besides me just nagging her.  She now knows that her actions have a real impact.”   

Kirsten, mom to Edith

“I appreciated the kid-focused approach to the topic of carbon emissions and climate change.  It was easy for my child to look at and write down the numbers from the car odometers and looking at our power and natural gas bills together to find the numbers needed was another great lesson and launch pad for discussion.  My son came to understand the importance of carbon and the role it plays in our atmosphere.  All in all this was a great experience for our entire family. “  

Michael, dad to Griffin





First Carbon Game in Oregon, USA

The first Carbon Game was launched during Earth Day celebrations in April 2011 at Stafford Primary School in West Linn, Oregon, USA. 100 fourth graders in four classes took part in the 30-day program to learn about carbon concentrations in the atmosphere, climate change, and how to help through conservation and mitigation.

The most important part of the Carbon Game is the exercise and discussions at home about measuring a family’s carbon footprint. These discussions around the dinner table with parents and siblings often lead to long-term changes in energy use and inspire students to consider their future role in climate change education as they become young adults.

We would like to thank the teachers at Stafford Primary for their willingness to be the first school to try the pilot program. We would like to give a special thanks to teacher Shelly Buchanan for inviting us to Stafford. Shelly explains the significance of the Carbon Game program:

“The Carbon Game uses a hands-on, real-life teaching and learning model that speaks to both students and teachers.  Today, most kids know that we are in an energy crisis.  For them to have an opportunity to investigate this global issue from a personal and practical vantage point, one where they can investigate their own reliance upon and use of fossil fuel, is the most powerful, meaningful and memorable of all.  The Carbon Game gives kids the opportunity to see exactly how they and their family purchase and consume fossil fuel.  Likewise, students have an opportunity to study other energy resources and practice how to transition to other, more sustainable ways of consuming. At Stafford Primary School, where Carsten Henningsen first trialed the Carbon Game, fourth grade students, enjoyed the opportunity to actively investigate through individual data collection and collective analysis, just exactly how energy is consumed in their own homes and in their community.  This hands-on, minds-on experience built awareness that will stay with them for the duration.  And it is this awareness of the leaders of tomorrow we must count on to inspire and implement more sustainable changes in our energy choices of the future.  The Carbon Game is a powerful, relevant tool for helping children understand how much of our lives revolve around the consumption of energy, the many ways we can reduce this consumption, and the alternative energy sources available today and possible in the near future.”

The 100 student households measured their carbon footprints (car miles, air miles, electricity and natural gas) and the total for the 30-day period was 591,588 pounds or an average of 5,916 pounds per household.

Now with the success of this first pilot program, we have the confidence to try the Carbon Game at more schools both in the USA and internationally