Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Energy Efficiency: A Field Trip to Navigant

Machines and the Energy They Use

By Kaya

On December 8th the Sprouts of Hope took a field trip to visit Tim Sutherland, an energy efficiency expert who heard of us being interviewed on the Callie Crossley radio show on June 22nd. At that time we were talking about the new book we’d written called “Energy Lite,” and how it was going to be in the Cambridge Public Library for families to borrow along with a Kill A Watt meter.

Tim was driving in his car when he heard us talk about our Kill A Watt book project. He told us that he was excited to hear us —as teenagers—talking about using the same kind of meters that he relies on to measure the energy efficiency of machines like air conditioners and washing machines.

When we met him, Tim told us he thought it was amazing that we’d done this book about saving energy by using Kill A Watt meters—and he wanted to meet us.

He works for Navigant Consulting where he does projects for the U.S. Department of Energy. He is paid to figure out how technology can be made more energy efficient. He works with Heather Lisle, and on the day we visited, their colleague Judy Reich was there, too, with her son and daughter, who are about the same age as we are.

Tim and Heather spend their time taking apart different kinds of machines, such as washing machines, refrigerators and freezers and window air conditioning units. They both studied science in college and Tim majored in aerospace engineering and rocket science at MIT before he decided that he wanted to do something about energy efficiency. We found out that Heather graduated from Dartmouth after studying earth science and physics. Judy studied mechanical engineering, aerospace, and science research.

Now they all work on these projects at Navigant, where they take apart and test appliances. By doing so they learn the best designs that create more energy efficient machines. They use a sophisticated meter to gauge the energy use of each machine as well as its stand-by (vampire) power usage. With a washing machine, the goal is to find ways for the machine to use about 0.01 watts when the power is off.

After Tim and Heather told us about their work, they showed us various parts of a washing machine that they’d taken apart—and we learned how magnets can work to make them more energy efficient.

Tim also told us about LEDs, which stands for Light-emitting diode, and he explained how these lights are even more energy efficient than compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL). You can see Eliza holding an LED in her right hand and a CFL in her left.

Right now the LED bulbs are very expensive compared with CFLs and incandescent bulbs. But as was the case when people started to use CFLs to replace incandescent bulbs, these new LEDs cost a lot more to buy. However, they also last a lot longer than CFLs and consume less energy. So pretty soon it’s likely that more and more people will be using them. And LEDs don’t have the mercury problem that CFLs do, so they aren't a health problem if you drop them and disposing of them isn't so complicated.

Since we've gotten accustomed to using CFLs and like knowing how much energy we were saving by using them, we were shocked to find out how much more energy can be saved by using LEDs. Thanks to Tim and Health for showing us this difference.

We had a fun time visiting with Tim and Heather and Judy and learning about their jobs and seeing where they work. Hopefully sometime we can work together on a project.

Endangered Species: Our Roots & Shoots Youth Summit

Face-to-Face With a Dodo Bird

By Maya

On November 13th we went to our third annual Youth Summit held by the New England Roots & Shoots. This year the theme was endangered species. We started the day by listening to a speech and watching a power point presentation about various endangered species. We learned about how extinction is a natural process, but also how it is now caused in part by what humans do.

At the end of the opening session, the Sprouts once again won an award for our work with environmental issues—and for being New England Roots & Shoots’ most active group. During the rest of the day we split up to go to our different sessions. In them, we learned about polar bears, sustainable eating, parrots in Guyana, projects in Brazil and Ecuador, and recyclable art.

During our lunch break at the summit there was also a photo shoot going on. The photographer was our good friend John Tagiuri, who my mom and I first met at an energy efficiency fair in Cambridge. The Sprouts met him when he asked us to dress up like the Statue of Liberty and hold a CFL bulb where the torch would be.

Last year at the Youth Summit, John took cool photographs of us standing on the earth (okay, it was really a ball) and kicking plastic water bottles away while we held reusable ones.

This year he came up with a really fun idea that involved endangered species. He had us pose with an extinct animal—the Dodo Bird. Each of the Sprouts posed for numerous shots—and then we posed together. John printed them while we were there and then hung them on the wall. Later we got to take them home after we filled out a form about our summit experience.

We received T-shirts and bags full of coupons and snacks. It was really a great opportunity to meet new Roots & Shoots groups and to hear about the projects they are doing. The Youth Summit was a lot of fun, thanks to the incredible efforts of Roots & Shoots director Kellan Hays. Thank you, Kellan!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sprouts of Hope: Celebrating Peace and Chocolate

Celebrating a Day of Peace

By Eliza

On a Sunday in late September, the Sprouts attended one of our favorite annual Roots & Shoots events: The Roots & Shoots International Day of Peace Celebration! This Day of Peace is a great way to meet new people, spread the word about Roots & Shoots, and celebrate peace with other Roots & Shoots members. At the Day of Peace, we ran a table where little kids could create and decorate musical instruments out of recycled materials.

Later in the day, we walked along Jamaica Pond as we carried Peace Doves. The kids who made musical instruments played them as we walked. It was a lot warmer than it was the last time we carried the Peace Doves—in the First Night parade in Boston on New Year's Eve. Here we are sitting with the Peace Dove we are about to carry.

At the table next to us, a woman named Danielle was giving out chocolate samples. She talked with people about fair-trade chocolate and promoted Theo chocolate, the company that she works for. Theo donates proceeds from certain chocolate bars to the Jane Goodall Institute, so this is why Danielle was at the Day of Peace. We thought that it was really cool how Danielle’s job involved chocolate, and she offered us the opportunity to help out at the next event that Theo would have a table at!

We gladly took Danielle up on her offer. In late October at the Boston VegFest, a big annual celebration that more than 10,000 people attend, we helped Danielle hand out chocolate samples, tell people about Theo chocolate, and run the table. It was a very fun experience, and it felt great to help an organization that donates to the Jane Goodall Institute and Roots & Shoots. We hope to continue the partnership that we have with both Theo and Danielle in the future.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sprouts of Hope: Launching "Energy Lite" at the Cambridge Public Library

Energy Lite + Kill A Watt Meters

By Maya

On Tuesday night, June 22, the Sprouts of Hope had a gathering in the main Cambridge Public Library to announce and celebrate the launch of our book, "Energy Lite" along with Kill A Watt Meters into the library's system. This means that people in Cambridge -- and in surrounding communities that are part of the Minuteman Library system -- are now able to check out these two items together and use them to learn more about their energy use at home.

When we arrived early to set up our display table to showcase our book, we were delighted to discover a bunch of our books. It was really fun to see our words and pictures as a printed book and a bar code on the front; this will be used to keep track of the books when families check them out of the library. Seeing all of this meant that our idea of creating a book that families could use to teach their kids about smart ways to use energy really had happened -- and that felt good.

Next to the books we found specially designed packages, each containing a Kill A Watt meter and ready to be put on the library shelves, too. Each meter is inside of a molded plastic box and there is a lot of information about how to use the meters on the outside and the inside of each case. And it was very cool to find that our name -- The Sprouts of Hope -- is on the meter packaging, too. It also has a similar border design around the rim as the one I drew for the book's cover.

We are so grateful to P3 International -- the company that makes Kill A Meters -- for donating 20 of them to the Cambridge Public Library. Their donation made a big difference in making this project happen at the library; now every copy of our book has a companion Kill A Watt meter that can be checked out at the same time.

We also want to thank New England Roots & Shoots for ALL of its great support of us while we work on this book and for the mini-grant they gave us that enabled 50 copies of "Energy Lite" to be printed in a partnership with the library, which paid for the printing, too. We will use some of these copies as we work with Roots & Shoots and other partners to find ways to get this book into libraries in other communities.

At this event we held a raffle -- with the prize being a Kill A Watt meter that we bought to give away. Guests didn’t buy tickets to enter; they simply filled out a card pledging what they would do differently in their homes to conserve energy -- and they came up with some good ideas. A fellow classmate of ours turned out to be the winner.

Although mostly filled with mingling and refreshments, there were a couple brief speeches. My mom, Melissa, talked about the terrific partners we had that made this possible for us to do, and thanked our friends, John Taguiri, whose photographs of us illustrate the book, and Lois Fiore, who helped design the pages. Sally Sharp-Lehman, who directs the New England Roots & Shoots program spoke about how what we did fits into the spirit of Jane Goodall's vision of what kids can do to make a difference. [And Dr. Jane Goodall wrote words about our book that appear on its back cover, and we are grateful to her for doing that.] Henrietta Davis, the Vice-Mayor of Cambridge, praised our work, as did Sarah Kennedy, an assistant to Mayor David Maher, who could not be with us that evening. Hearing them talk so positively about the value of our project to the community made us feel like we'd done something very worthwhile.

Here's a photograph of all of us together.

Of course, the Sprouts of Hope got a chance to talk, too. Melissa asked each of us question about our work on the book or Kill A Watt meters or thoughts about the project in general, and I think by doing that the people who came to the event learned about why and how we decided to do this project. [Earlier on our blog we wrote how we went about creating Energy Lite, so I hope you'll go back and read that.]

The launching of our book at the library went really well, and now it’s up to people to check out our book about learn about energy conservation.

A story was published in Cambridge Day, an online news site, and you can read it at:

Earlier in the day we had an amazing opportunity to appear on The Callie Crossley Show, a public radio program on WGBH in Boston, to talk about "Energy Lite" and some of the other things we do as the Sprouts of Hope. We were really nervous about doing a live radio show, so we practiced a lot on how to make our answers make sense. When we finally did the show, I think it went well. You can listen by clicking on this link and then listening to the show from June 22. We're the first ones on the show and she talked with us for about 20 minutes.

We are going to be looking for ways that "Energy Lite" can reach even more people. If you have some ideas -- or would like to work with us to see if you can have a copy in your library -- please let us know.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sprouts of Hope: Our amazing year with the Brotes de Esperanza

Joining Forces with the Brotes

By Eliza

As the school year winds down, I cannot help but think about all of the amazing projects and events that the Sprouts have taken part in. Out of everything that the we have done this year, the thing that stands out most to me is our sisterhood with the Brotes de Esperanza – a Roots & Shoots group that we helped to start as a way to put the Sprouts of Hope fund into action.

I remember the day we talked about recycling and the Brotes de Esperanza kids drew some really cool signs that they were going to use to remind people to recycle. We did something like that at King Open, too, when we were working on our Waste Free Lunch campaign.

I realized how special our bond with the Brotes has been in early May at the Roots & Shoots Youth Leadership Summit with Jane Goodall, when, after asked what about Roots & Shoots made me most proud, I answered confidently: “Knowing that in a few short years, the Brotes de Esperanza could be having this same conversation with Dr. Jane. Knowing that these smart, passionate kids are following in my footsteps.”

To me, being able to pass down the magic of Roots & Shoots - as a Sprout of Hope - is way more special than starting a composting program, writing a book, cleaning a river, or attending a leadership summit. Mentoring the Brotes has made me realize just how lucky I am to be a part of Roots & Shoots.

I am so proud to be a role model for young Roots & Shoots members. I know that our partnership and sisterhood with the Brotes will continue for a long time -- We are already planning for next year! It has been so much fun to join forces with the Brotes. As Ryunosuke Satoro once said, “Indivually, we are a drop. Together, we are an ocean.”

Sprouts of Hope: Jane Goodall Visits King Open

Celebrating Composting with Dr. Jane

By Eliza and Risa

This May, after a long, tiring Roots & Shoots-filled spring, the Sprouts of Hope participated in yet another exciting event with Dr. Jane Goodall -- an event that took place at our school!

Dr. Jane Goodall came to King Open, the Sprouts of Hope greeted her outside and showed her the murals the King Open community has painted. (You can see Risa with Dr. Jane in this photograph.) One of them is about immigrants who've come to Cambridge; the two other ones are at our school’s entrance. One is a replica of the Sistine Chapel, but with people from King Open painted on it, and the other shows Dr. Martin Luther King, with our school's name on it, too.

Then Dr. Jane went into the auditorium, where she greeted students with a pant hoot. Kids responded and it seemed like they were having a lot of fun.

She came to our school to congratulate us on a very successful year of composting. King Open’s composting program, which the Sprouts of Hope helped to start a little over a year ago, has saved more than 13,000 pounds of food waste that otherwise would’ve been dumped into a landfill!

Dr. Jane not only congratulated students at King Open for saving the planet, but she also came to our school to spread the word about composting. At the whole-school assembly where she spoke, she encouraged other schools to start composting – and since the mayor of Cambridge, the superintendent of schools, and some school committee members were at the assembly, we are hoping that her message (and ours!) will make a difference.

At the assembly, Dr. Jane spoke a little bit about her life, as well as the Jane Goodall Institute, Tacare, and Roots & Shoots. She encouraged students to get involved. Her message to us was that simple things – like composting our school lunches – make a difference. As she always says: “Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference!”

Four students – ranging from kindergarden to fourth grade – demonstrated for Dr. Jane how composting works in our cafeteria. It was a fun to watch, even though the kids got in the wrong order and some compost went in the trash!

Our science teacher, Donna Peruzzi, led the Q & A with Jane Goodall. Microphones were passed through the crowd and kids asked questions such as “What do chimpanzees eat?"

It was really special to have Dr. Jane come to King Open. Here is what Anne Driscoll wrote about her visit to our school in

"The five girls who belong to Sprouts of Hope Roots & Shoots group had lobbied the Cambridge School Committee and the school superintendent to create a conservation plan and install special composting bins in the King Open School cafeteria. The group hopes to expand the program and replicate it at other schools.

In addition to the six and a half tons of garbage saved from a landfill, their composting program also prevented the release of additional methane gas, which becomes 70 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a green house gas. Besides, Goodall says it's the small efforts now that pay off big dividends later.

"You can't expect a child to suddenly become involved in everything," Goodall was quoted as telling the King Open students. "You have to start somewhere."

We gave Dr. Jane a King Open shirt. We hope she remembers her visit at our school as much as we remember having her with us that day. It meant so much to us that she took time from her busy schedule to come to King Open and congratulate us on our efforts to compost.


To read more about Dr. Jane's visit to our school, you can click on these links:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dr. Jane Goodall + The Sprouts of Hope

Presenting “Energy Lite” to Dr. Jane Goodall

By Kaya

On May 1, the Sprouts of Hope attended a very special event, which took place at the Roger Williams Park Zoo, in Providence, Rhode Island. Along with 12 other Roots & Shoots groups from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Maine, we had an amazing opportunity to spend the day with Dr. Jane Goodall. Yes, it was extremely exciting. Although we had already met her a few times in the past, we were still ecstatic. After all, it was Jane Goodall!

We began our Saturday very early, driving from Cambridge, MA to the zoo at 8:00 AM! When we arrived at the zoo, we headed for the Roots & Shoots tent, where each of the groups had its own table to show others the project they are working on. Some groups were learning more about endangered whales, specifically the Right Whale; others have been doing fundraisers to raise money for different causes related to helping animals or people or the environment, which are the three goals of Roots & Shoots. We came up with nicknames for a few of the groups; The Whale Group 1, The Whale Group 2 and GGOD, which stood for “Go Green Or Die.”

The project we exhibited was not about whales, homeless shelters, or parrots in Guyana. Instead, it was about a book we wrote called “Energy Lite” that describes why and how families – parents and kids – can use Kill A Watt meters in their homes to learn about ways to conserve energy use and pay less for energy bills. We came up with some fun experiments that parents and kids can do together. To demonstrate some of them, at our table we had hairdryer plugged into a Kill A Watt meter as well as a toaster oven.

In the toaster oven, we baked chocolate chip cookies, which lured people to our table with the delicious smell of baking cookies. And when they got there we’d show them how much energy these appliances use! They were always amazed, and a lot of them told us they would let their hair dry without using a hairdryer – now that they knew how much energy it uses.

Many people were very amazed at what we had done in writing this book, and they congratulated us on our accomplishments. We also explained about our book – along with a Kill A Watt – will be available soon in all of the Cambridge Public Libraries so that people can take the book and the meter home, just like they’d check out a book or a CD.

When people told us that enjoyed our project, we gave them one of the Sprouts of

Hope business cards that I designed. It has our blog’s Web address on it, so we are hoping more people will come to read what we write about what the Sprouts of Hope do. Some people even wanted to know if our books were on sale. Unfortunately, they’re not, at this time, but we hope to sell them in the future!

Each Roots & Shoots group got a chance to go on the stage and present their projects to Dr. Jane, as she tells us to call her. She sat in the front row and really enjoyed learning about what we are doing to change the world. Eliza spoke about our “Energy Lite” book project, as the rest of the Sprouts went up on stage to help show big photographs of pages from our book.

We are so grateful to Dr. Jane for writing her words of encouragement and support about our project, and now her words are on our book’s back cover. It was amazing for us read what she said about our effort: “The Sprouts of Hope have come up with such a simple idea that can make such a very big difference.”

After our presentation, we handed a copy of “Energy Lite” to Dr. Jane that each of us had signed – as its authors.

During the rest of the day we explained our project again and again to people. First to Roots & Shoots people, then to the public, who came by our table on the way to getting Dr. Jane to sign one of her books that they’d purchased.

Dr. Jane signed a copy of her new book, "Hope for Animals and Their World," for each of

us, and here is the message she wrote for us:

“Follow your dream. Jane Goodall.

Dr. Jane must have been much more exhausted than we were! She continued to sign books until 7:00 that night—and she had started at about 2:00 in the afternoon! Wow!

We all had a very fun time at the zoo. It was great fun to meet Dr. Jane (again!), to look at all the adorable animals, and to spread our knowledge of Kill A Watt meters to others! This day was truly one of the best Roots & Shoots events we have attended. With all the excitement, teaching and demonstrating, how could we not love it?

A Leadership Summit with Dr. Jane

By Lilly

On Sunday, May 2, an invited group of New England Roots & Shoots members gathered at the Lenox Hotel in Boston – an environmentally friendly hotel – for a Leadership Summit with Dr. Jane Goodall. Dr. Jane told us a bit about the history of Roots & Shoots, including that next year will be its 20-year anniversary. She also had encouraging words for us as she spoke about how Roots & Shoots is affecting young people everywhere.

Dr. Jane told us that she has often run into young people who feel hopeless, as though there is nothing they can do to make things better for animals and people and the environment. She believes that Roots & Shoots is spreading hope and enthusiasm – and she described us as being “ambassadors” for Roots & Shoots, as we spread the word through what we do about the ways that kids are truly making a positive difference and bringing about change – sometimes in ways that then spur adults to act.

All of us sat in a big circle and we talked for a long time about local issues and global change.

Some Roots & Shoots members talked about the apathy they see on their campus and about the lack of knowledge a lot of their peers have when it comes to environmental issues. Others talked about situations involving violence and what they are doing to try to stop it.

We also discussed ideas for an upcoming global Roots & Shoots campaign that will focus on endangered species and climate change. Roots & Shoots members suggested ways to reach out to people in their community and get them interested in learning more about how these topics are connected. We exchanged some interesting comments about “cute” and “not cute” animals that are being affect ed by climate change, and how these animals can be used as part of the campaign.

Our discussion ended with a look back and a look forward. Stories of success were shared and next steps were talked about. It was really inspiring to hear all the things these people have done to make the world a better place. One group told about their success creating a Roots & Shoots group in a low-income area with a lot of violence. We shared our success with getting a pilot composting program into our school – and our work ahead to convince other schools to do composting in their cafeterias.

One of the Roots & Shoots displays at this event was also about composting; kids at the Cotting School -- with whom the Harvard Roots & Shoots group is involved -- brought samples from different stages of the composting process to show how it actually happens.

We had a chance to ask Dr. Jane questions about her work, and a lot of

kids told her about the ways she had inspired them. It was amazing to see how much Dr. Jane has taught us all and to think about how we have all changed by being in Roots & Shoots.

Spreading the Word About Roots & Shoots

By Risa

On Monday night., May 3, Eliza, Maya, Kaya and I participated in an event at the Currier House at Harvard University. It was an opportunity for those who have supported Roots & Shoots to visit with Dr. Jane. We were invited to show these guests our project and to share with them how Roots and Shoots has a positive impact on our lives.

We set up an exhibit on a table with the book we wrote – “Energy Lite,” posters with big photos of pages from our book and a Kill A Watt meter. People seemed to be genuinely interested in our project, and we were delighted to share with them what we’ve accomplished.

Everyone sat down to hear Dr. Jane Goodall speak. She talked about the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) and Roots & Shoots. She spoke about her experiences starting various programs, working with kids, and of course about the chimps she studied for so many years in Africa! After Dr. Jane spoke, Eliza and I told the people about our experiences in Roots & Shoots.

Following Dr. Jane wasn’t easy, but we tried. We shared an overview of what we’ve accomplished over the years, and talked more specifically about our most recent project “Energy Lite.” We also spoke about how Roots & Shoots has motivated and encouraged us to do projects like this in our local community and at our school.

Without Roots & Shoots, The Sprouts of Hope would not have been formed and we would not have been able to make a difference as we have. Our motto is "Have a Dream. Make a Difference," and without Roots & Shoots, we might not have acted on our dreams.

An Evening at Harvard with Dr. Jane Goodall

By Maya

On May 3, after our event at Harvard’s Currier House, the Sprouts of Hope traveled to Harvard’s Sanders Theater for another event with Dr. Jane. It began, her events usually do, with a very long applause from the audience, followed by a pant-hoot, which is the sound that chimpanzees make when they are excited. We’ve learned how to do it from Dr. Jane, whose pant-hoot is simply amazing to hear.

We listened as Dr. Jane and Harvard Professor Richard Wrangham, who worked for three years with Dr. Jane in Gombe, talk about what she’d learned about chimpanzees. It was 50 years ago that Dr. Jane arrived for the first time on the shores of Lake Tanganhika to begin her research on chimpanzees. We learned about the project called Takari, which means “take care,” and what it was doing to help the wild animals in the forest and the people in the nearby communities. We heard many inspiring stories from Dr. Jane about her experiences in Gombe.

We also heard the story of Mr. H, who of course spent the night sitting on the table besides Dr. Jane.

After their conversation and questions from the audience, Sally Sharp Lehman introduced the Sprouts of Hope and asked us to come to the stage. I gave short talk about what the Sprouts are doing and told the audience about our book project, “Energy Lite.” Here is some of what I said:

"Thank you, Dr. Jane, for giving us the confidence to believe that what we do can make a difference. We now know we can. And like those ROOTS that push rocks aside to become SHOOTS, we now know that nothing is impossible to accomplish."

Our friend, Abby Schoenberg, who is a member of the Harvard Roots & Shoots group, also gave a great speech about their projects and her love since childhood for Dr. Jane and Roots & Shoots.

Although the Sprouts have had the amazing opportunity to meet Dr. Jane in the past, I think that each time is more special then the last. This was a very wonderful and inspiring night. As we left Sanders Theater many people who we didn’t know came up to us to say congratulations. Later, I heard that Dr. Jane and Professor Wrangham spent the rest of the night signing their books!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sprouts of Hope: Donating Socks to Help the Homeless

Inspired By Stories about Homeless People and Their Health Care

By Eliza

Last month, the Sprouts participated in a sock drive to benefit the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP). BHCHP is an organization that works to provide the highest quality health care possible for homeless people in Boston. Every year during the month of March, BHCHP collects socks for homeless people. Socks can reduce the risk of skin infections, prevent frostbite, and foster good hygiene. Socks help people stay clean, warm, and healthy. Many homeless and poor people do not have access to clean socks.

We pitched in to help homeless and needy people in Boston by collecting socks from our families and friends, at our synagogues and after-school activities, and with the help of the Brotes de Esperanza. On Saturday, April 10, we visited BHCHP to deliver the pairs of socks that people contributed when we asked for donations and to learn about how those who are homeless get medical care in Boston.

We met with Dr. Jim O’Connell who started BHCHP and has been directing the program for the 25 years since it began. He showed us around the building, which is across the street from Boston Medical Center and was used as an ambulance garage and morgue before BHCHP raised more than $40 million to rebuild it to serve the needs of these homeless patients.

We learned many things about BHCHP from Dr. Jim. Boston Health Care for the Homeless gives medical, dental and behavioral health care to homeless and poor people in Boston. They also offer health services at more than 80 homeless shelters throughout the Boston area. They run free daily walk-in clinics at their main building, and they work to educate and employ their patients.

BHCHP also devotes two of its floors in this building to hospital rooms. This is where homeless people can stay if they are too sick to live and sleep outside or in a shelter and are not able to be admitted to an actual hospital. This “hospital” has more than 100 beds where homeless people stay while they receive treatment from doctors, dentists, and therapists. All of its beds are usually occupied. It is great that this facility exists, but is not big enough. There are so many homeless people in Boston who need this kind of in-patient care; what often happens is that when someone who is very sick needs a bed here, another person who has been treated there has to leave. This can be a hard transition since many of these patients have to return to living on the street or traveling by bus to shelters.

Our trip was very inspiring. It is crazy how many homeless people suffer in our community, and it is even crazier that people don’t care about them when they get sick. As citizens of Massachusetts, the U.S.A, and even the whole planet, it is our job to make sure that homeless people -- not only in Boston, but everywhere else, too – get the basic human right of health care that they are entitled to.

It felt wonderful for us to be able to leave behind hundreds of pairs of socks that people had donated in our effort to be a part of this sock drive.

Visit for more about Boston Health Care for the Homeless.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sprouts of Hope: Writing a Book For Kids and Families

Energy Lite: Using Kill A Watt Meters to Reduce Energy Use

By The Sprouts of Hope

Last April the Sprouts of Hope organized an exhibit for the Cambridge Science Festival, and we used our exhibit to help kids understand more about energy, how we use it and how we can find out how much energy we use in our homes. We showed parents and kids how a Smart Meter works; it measures energy use in our entire house. And we had set up a display with Kill A Watt meters that showed how much energy is saved by using fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) instead of incandescent ones.

A Kill A Watt meter is monitor that tells you exactly how much electrical power an appliance in your home is using. Using it can help you cut down on your carbon footprint.

So, when we plugged a hairdryer into one of our Kill A Watt meters at the exhibit and turned it up to high, the grown-ups and kids couldn't believe how much energy it took to dry their hair. A lot of them told us that they would never dry their hair again!!

This is when we first had the idea of writing a book for kids and parents about using Kill A Watt meters at home. If they had a book and a Kill A Watt meter, parents could find ways to reduce their energy bills and kids could learn about how much energy is consumed by the things they use everyday. And when they find out how much energy they are using, we thought they'd use these things less often or in more efficient ways.

Actually, the idea of writing such a book -- and donating the book and a Kill A Watt meter to the Cambridge Public Library system -- was suggested to us by John Tagiuri. He's a great friend of the Sprouts and had helped us to set up our Cambridge Science Festival exhibit. He'd also taken photographs of us as the Statue of Liberty holding a CFL bulb. [Here's a picture Melissa took of us when John was taking photos of us.]

This fall we started working on Energy Lite, the book we've now written. And while you might think that the topic of Kill A Meters might be a boring subject to write about, it turned out to be a lot of fun, especially when John took pictures of us doing the experiments that we write about in the book. It took us a while to come up with how we'd tell a good story about Kill A Meters and also the best ways to describe what they are and how parents and kids could use them. To figure this out, we brainstormed ideas and then we wrote our ideas on pieces of paper -- describing what we might include on each of these pages.

Then we spread these pages on the floor and rearranged them until we figured out the best order for them in the book. And that's

how our book came to life. We didn't include everything in it that we first thought we would, and as we went along we changed our minds about drawing pictures to go along with our words -- even after we'd already drawn quite a few pictures. [You can see what one of our early page designs looked like.] That's when we decided to use photographs.

Each of the Sprouts was responsible for thinking about and writing two of the pages -- and Maya worked on drawing the cover.

After several meetings, when we reviewed what we'd written and drawn, we'd do the same thing all over again; we'd put our pages on the floor and see how they fit together. And as we wrote more words and thought more about the images to go with them, we started to read them out loud to each other to see if what we'd written made sense. We also wanted to be sure that we were also telling a good story.

Then it was time for our photo shoot with John, who is an amazing photographer and such a great partner with the Sprouts of Hope. We had ideas about what pictures we wanted to use on various pages, so we spent a couple of hours taking ones of all of us using the Kill A Watt meter with different appliances -- a hairdryer, of course, a laptop computer, a toaster over and the light bulbs.

We printed all of photographs that John took and then we became photo editors and selected the ones that we wanted to use in the book. That's when Melissa, who mentors the Sprouts of Hope, took our words and images and worked with her friend, Lois Fiore, who designed the book on her computer.

Now that we are done writing and editing the book, we are going to meet with the director of the Cambridge Public Library system to talk about donating our book and Kill A Watt meters to the main library and to all of its branches. We want families to be able to check it out -- just like they'd check out a book or a DVD from the library. We are trying to figure out how we can get it printed. And we also want to figure out how to spread the word about this book so that maybe other kids will want to write one for their library. It would be wonderful to create a kind of Kill A Watt library all over the country -- and then in cyberspace, too.

Once our book is in the library, we will encourage other people to make similar books and spread the word about conserving energy!