ON MONDAY, Alyssa Stanek and Philip Rogers walked the halls at Harper's Choice Middle School armed with clipboards, digital and laser thermometers, and a foot-candle meter to measure light.
The pair stopped in social studies teacher Brian Bradshaw's classroom to perform an energy audit -- taking temperature readings and measuring the amount of artificial and natural light in the room.
Alyssa and Philip are members of the school's Energy Alliance Group, working with Gifted and Talented Program resource teacher Winnie McCulloch and Howard County public schools' energy management specialist Roy Michaelson to find ways to reduce energy use at the school.
The group's efforts will influence energy conservation at Harper's Choice, and the project may also earn the school a check for a portion of its energy savings.
Six years ago, Michaelson began the School Energy Eye (SEE) program in county schools. The SEE program involves school administrators, teachers, custodians and students in reducing heating and cooling, and computer and light use at school facilities. Michaelson said the school system has saved more than $1 million in energy costs since 1996 through the SEE program.
The school system shares 50 percent of the money saved with schools that participate in the SEE program. According to Michaelson, $90,000 was awarded last year.
This year, the school system has formed a partnership with the Alliance to Save Energy, a nonprofit organization, to start the Green Schools Program in five west Columbia schools. The program will supply instructional materials and a tool kit that includes energy-measurement devices to be used at Running Brook and Bryant Woods elementary schools, Wilde Lake and Harper's Choice middle schools and Wilde Lake High School.
"The Green Schools Program does a lot of things that we're already doing," Michaelson said. "The unique thing is that there is a curriculum component to the program."
Harper's Choice Middle has 15 pupils in its Energy Alliance Group, including Alyssa and Philip. The others are Nate Fanzone, Marie Greaney, Alex Kolodner, Marc Arseneault, Zach Brown, Peter Bulka, Annie Hudson, Billy Nadeem, Seong Hee Yoon, Sara Fekadu, Ameen Hady, Tucker McConville and Hanna Nevin.
In addition to performing energy audits, group members will make recommendations on ways to reduce energy use. They also plan to broadcast energy-saving tips over the school's closed-circuit television program, The Cougar News, and share information, using posters and the school's newsletter.
Alliance to Save Energy's Ami Ringold, coordinator of the Green Schools Program, said her organization wants to bring energy education into the classroom and motivate pupils to take home what they learn.
"We want to teach them that their actions do make a difference," Ringold said.
Even though the program is in the beginning stages, pupils at Harper's Choice have made some changes at home based on what they have learned.
"Before I did this, we left a lot of lights on. And when we came home from a restaurant or something, you could tell our house was glowing," Alyssa said. "We started making sure that the lights weren't on and now we're kind of enforcing it a little more."
Under the direction of Frances Motyca Dawson, the Columbia Pro Cantare chorus will perform selections of Handel's Messiah at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School.
The concert will feature soprano Amy Van Roekel, mezzo-soprano Rosa Maria Pascarella, tenor Charles Reid and baritone Lester Lynch.
West Columbia members of the chorus include Erika Burlas, Franzela Credle, Sandy Fairhurst, Lisa Freund, Stephen Fulton, Carol Galbraith, Cheryl Garnes, Carolyn Gayle, Steve Greif, Eleanor Jennings, Barbara Kraus, Tom Lorsung, Mary Louise McCally, Betsy Middleton, Jinny Racine, Richard Roca, Lynn Stott, Charles A. Thomas, Frank Westbrook, Deloise Wilkie and Lynda Ann Willabus.
Advance sale tickets are $23 for adults; $20 for senior citizens and students. Tickets cost $2 more at the door.
Information or to purchase tickets: 410-465-5744.
Columbia's 10 village associations will hold a Kwanzaa Celebration from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 19 at Kahler Hall. Columbia residents ages 3 and older are invited to make crafts, enjoy entertainment and have refreshments.
Admission is free, but advance registration is required. Donations of nonperishable food for the Harvest for the Hungry campaign are requested.