Light bulbs went on Wednesday in the minds of John Muir School sixth-graders, who then went home to see what bulbs they could turn off.
The students learned about energy conservation through a program sponsored by the Modesto Irrigation District and Great Valley Museum.
For some students, such as Zylah Rogers, it was a message already heeded at home.
"In the garage, when we leave, the light will still be on, so I'll go back and turn it off," she said.
Museum teacher Loralee Larsen talked about how power can be made from fossil fuels, hydroelectric plants, sunlight, wind and other sources. She explained how the juice gets from generators to transmission lines to customers, and why it's important to conserve.
"Almost everything we do takes electricity," she said, "so we want to figure out how to do the things we do without sucking all the electricity into our homes."
The 3-year-old program, Energy 411, reaches about 4,000 fourth- and sixth-graders at 33 schools in the MID service area each year, said Ken Hanigan, public benefits coordinator for the district.
The MID takes part so it can stretch its power supply, especially in summer, when peak demand is expensive to meet.
The students receive kits that include three compact fluorescent fixtures, which use much less power than incandescent bulbs. The kits also contain tools for monitoring home energy use, such as a device that whistles when a clogged filter is making a furnace work too hard.
A refrigerator magnet in the kits has an especially blunt message for snack-seeking kids: "Save more. Shut the door."
Susan Salyer, the regular teacher at John Muir, said the energy lesson fits with what she teaches about conservation of the world's resources.
Student Agustin Hidalgo already gets it.
"When I brush my teeth, I remember to turn off the water, and I turn out all the lights when we're not using them," he said.
Larsen set up seven stations where students could see energy in action. One had flashlights powered by hand cranks or batteries. Others had toy pinwheels that the students could spin with steam from a tea kettle, water from a faucet or wind just outside the classroom door.
The students got to handle a lump of coal and see how a miniature solar panel works. The latter was activated by a light bulb, rather the sun, because of Wednesday's heavy rain.
The class discussed the difference between exhaustible and renewable sources. Afterward, student Trae Sousa said he thinks solar is the best choice for the future.
"I don't think we're going to run out of the sun," he said.
For more information on the program, call the Great Valley Museum at 575-6196.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2385.