Clean Energy for a Clean World in Granite Falls, MN

On Wednesday, February 21st, 2018, 7 students and their coaches from Yellow Medicine East YES! team came together at the Yellow Medicine East High School to learn about how we use energy, where our energy comes from, and different energy sources in the Granite Falls area.

Tom McDougall, a former engineer, began the morning teaching students where our energy comes from including fossil fuels, nuclear fusion, hydro, wind, and solar. He explained that all of these methods, except for solar, work almost the same way by spinning a turbine that converts kinetic energy of a moving liquid or gas to mechanical energy. This energy then gets converted to electrical energy by spinning a coil of copper wire near magnets. He then touched on how we use energy today including building, transportation, agriculture, communication, and manufacturing.

Following Tom’s presentation, students toured Granite Falls Energy’s ethanol plant with the plantmanager, Robin Spaude, as their tour guide. Students learned all about the functionality of the plant and that this specific plant is one of the most environmentally friendly in the nation. They got the chance to walk around most of the plant and see the machines in operation!

After the tour, students heard once again from Tom McDougall about how the energy we use impacts our atmosphere and what the options are for the team to help reduce energy usage. Steps to reducing include conservation (minimize load), efficiency (use simple cost effective systems like LED), renewables (select sources with low greenhouse gas emissions like solar/wind), and operation (informed building operation).

The day was finished with touring the Granite Falls Dam where they produce hydropower that powers a portion of the city. Students then rode up the hill to a small solar array that generates power for the city as well. Perry Peterson, an electrical superintendent with the City of Granite Falls was there to explain the panel to the students. All of the topics discussed will be applicable to YME as the students work on energy projects this year. The YES! Program is excited to see what the students complete throughout the spring, summer, and fall!



YES! Teams Hear About Energy Conservation and Climate Change

Written and submitted by Michelle Isaacson, Southern YES! Coordinator


On the blustery morning of February 1, 2018, twenty-three students filled in the meeting room at Gustavus Adolphus College ( to spend the day learning more about Energy Conservation and Climate Change. Our speaker for the day, Jenna Totz from Climate Generation, ( started by explaining what she does and what her organization is all about. She then launched into activities to get the students thinking about their relationship with climate change. Jenna talked about the causes of climate change, such as how we now have an altered greenhouse effect, and provided evidence on how we know climate change is happening.

Sprinkled into the presentation were various videos including one that explains what our future look like ( and one relating baseball and steroids to greenhouse gasses and climate change. (

 to give additional explanation and an alternative way to think about the issue. Jenna explained how energy can be part of or solution whereas it is typically seen as the problem. There are already cities using 100% renewable energy and this is even creating job opportunities. A wind turbine technician is forecasted to be the fastest growing job category through 2024 and solar related jobs out number coal mining jobs in the US.

Even though Jenna prefaced her presentation with the warning that this would be a heavy topic, there are plenty of solutions to implement. In the book Drawdown, by Paul Hawken, reducing food waste is number three on the list of ways to deal with the problem.  Switching to LED lights makes the list as well and solar energy is a great way to help the environment while saving money as a Farmington school discovered with their projected $7 million saved with the installation of their solar panels.

Jenna wrapped up her presentation with a challenge to the students to reduce the amount of items used each day that require energy, and to think about what actions they will take to be part of the solution.


After lunch, YES! teams journeyed across campus to hear from Gustavus students on various energy topics. The groups presented on wind energy, solar electric, solar thermal, and energy conservation. The Gustavus students did a great job with providing information to the YES! students on their topics and having models of the processes to better demonstrate how each piece of equipment works. This was a great collaboration to give the Gustavus students the opportunity to present their work and passion to younger students, and for the YES! teams to get a taste for what they could do in their future. We ended the day with a trip to the roof to see the solar panels stationed there as well as the solar panels and solar thermal on the building across the lot.

Water is Life, Treat it Right at Prairie Woods ELC

Written and submitted by Ali Dahmes, YES! Coordinator


On Tuesday, February 6th, 2018, 30 students and their coaches from New London-Spicer Middle School (NL-S), Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City (ACGC), and NL-S High School YES! teams came together to learn about water quality, best management practices, and aquatic invasive species at Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center. 

Dylan Erickson, a watershed specialist with Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District, began the morning with a deep listening exercise to teach students the difference between having an everyday conversation and how to really listen to someone’s opinion without continually trying to think of a response.  He taught the students that not only does telling a story take a lot of practice, so does listening to someone else’s story!

Following that, students heard from Charlene Brooks, Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force Coordinator for Kandiyohi County. Students learned what an invasive species is, compared to native and non-native species, as well as how to identify some of the most detrimental aquatic invasive species in our area. Students also got to examine actual invasive species specimens that are common in Kandiyohi County. Charlene also played ball games with the students that showed the impact shorelines have on the ecosystem, depending on what the shoreline is made up of (native plants vs non-native plants). 

Following that, the students heard from Jon Morales, Watershed Program Manager with Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District. Jon educated the students on what a watershed is, where they are in the state, and what they do for the community. He also showed all the instruments that they use to take water samples and had students take actual secchi tube readings. He also explained what a best management practice was and projects that have gone up in our community like the tree trenches at the ACGC and NL-S middle schools, the shoreline restoration projects at the Mill Pond and Neer Park in New London MN, and others in Spicer MN.

The day was finished up learning how to properly plan a project and who to get involved in the community.  All of the topics discussed will be applicable to ACGC and NL-S as the students work on water quality projects this year. The YES! Program is excited to see what the students complete throught the spring, summer, and fall!  

YES! Announces McKnight Foundation Project Funding Winners

Written and submitted by Ali Dahmes, West Central Coordinator 


On January 25, 2018, the Youth Energy Summit (YES!) Program announced the 2018 winners of the McKnight Foundation Project Funding.  Funding was awarded to teams whose projects engage and empower youth to make an impact in their school and/or community on climate change through hands-on projects.  Through a competitive process, five teams received awards.

The project funding is a result of a larger grant received by the YES! Program from The McKnight Foundation in the fall of 2015 to bring climate literacy to YES! students across greater Minnesota.  “The primary goal of this grant from McKnight’s perspective is to get the newest generation engaged and empowered to do something about climate change in their own communities,” said Aimee Witteman, Midwest Climate & Energy Program Director for The McKnight Foundation.  All teams that received funding have a clear vision on how their project relates to climate change.  

New London-Spicer High School YES! Teams will be updating their parking lot lights to LED energy efficient lighting to reduce the energy usage and reduce their carbon footprint.

Mankato West YES! Team plans on purchasing reusable silverware for their cafeteria in addition to educating students about the importance of using reusable utensils over plastic utensils and the positive environmental impact reusable equipment has.

Glencoe-Silver Lake YES! Team will be designing and building another solar recharging station for students to charge their portable devices during the day, to charge their solar vehicle, and for other demonstrational purposes.

Forest Lake YES! Team will be expanding their pollinator garden by adding an additional 64 plants that will educate students and community members about the importance of increasing habitat for pollinators.

Last but not least, Wrenshall YES! Team is building an electric high mileage vehicle to compete at the MTEEA Supermileage Vehicle Competition.

More to come: teams will be blogging information and pictures on the projects in the near future!

Bird Feeder

Written and Submitted by a YES! Student

I’m making a bird feeder and I’m upcycling a bottle. The materials you will need is a bottle, bird seeds, string, and some wood. The estimated cost is $10 or less. A skill that I want to learn from this is that we can use bottles instead of wood.

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