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Learning its easy to be green

Athey Creek students get hands-on session with transportation methods of the future
by: Cindy Garrison, Gabby Estey concentrates on driving the Segway owned by Mike Ooten. Waiting their turn behind her are Peyton Snell, Maria Green and Nicholas Parker.

Seventh graders at Athey Creek Middle School are looking forward to driving. They may have several years to go, but many eagerly wait the day.

Knowing the day will come soon, the future of cars and the future of fuels are on students' minds. Those subjects became recurring topics in Dawna Bell's science news discussions.

'They want to know what cars and fuels will be like when it's time for them to be driving, and what we can do to reduce emissions,' Bell said. 'We wanted to talk to experts who could answer their questions about things that they are hearing in the news - particularly the future of fossil fuels and global climate change.'

Recently, a panel of experts came to the school to talk about green transportation.

Steve Jones from Beaverton Toyota brought a Toyota Prius, a gas-electric hybrid. He talked about why the Prius was designed and how it works.

Sean Connell, 13, was fascinated by the hybrid car.

'It is both electric and gas,' Connell said. 'Instead of plugging into an outlet, it recharges (batteries) as the wheels turn.'

Students were interested in the dual engines of hybrids that use both gasoline and electric power.

Bill Stollard from Beaverton Honda brought a Honda Civic, another green car. He said it was green because it has ultra low emissions and takes less fossil fuel to run.

'If we love the environment today,' he said. 'Effective tomorrow, there will be less stuff in the air.'

Jenny Walter, 13, understands that concept.

'There are differences in the way your car can use gas, and even electric cars help,' she said. 'As we help the environment, it's a lot better for all of us.'

One of the most popular modes of transportation that day was the (two-wheel) Segway. It's similar to a big scooter - something most seventh-graders are familiar with. Mike Ooten, a community member, brought his personal Segway. He explained how he uses it, demonstrated it and let students try it out after the program.

Gavin Carpenter from Sequential Bio Fuels presented another popular green topic. He talked about a variety of fuels as well as fuels of the future.

He explained sources of bio-fuel such as canola oil.

Carpenter's alternative fuels were interesting to the students who wanted to learn more about fuels derived from used French-fry oil from fast food restaurants.

Carpenter said the future of alternative fuel might be found in algae.

'All that is needed to grow bio-diesel is sun, water and carbon dioxide,' he said. 'Algae is the biggest producer. One acre can grow enough to produce 10,000 gallons of bio-diesel.'

Algae-produced fuel was a new concept to most students.

'That was fascinating to me,' said Lexi Hamersly, 13. 'Anything producing oxygen is good for our environment and helps us along with our cars.'

Bryan Steele, 12, also thought that idea was headed in the right direction.

'The ozone layer is being beat up. There's not as much (air) pollution from cars by being green,' Bryan said. 'I had never heard of bio-diesel.

'(Bio-diesel) uses stuff people don't need. Algae is a reusable source (of energy) and so is cooking oil.'

The information the students gathered could help them become informed consumers, according to Bell, and will be used in future class discussions as well as for further investigation.

'They want to know what they can do,' she said. 'I think they want to know what life is going to be like for them when they are adults. Many of these students have their own ideas and a lot of imagination and motivation. I think they're the ones who can make a difference.'

Connell agreed. 'In the future,' he said, 'if we want to have kids; and if we want them to have a good life, I think it's important to start right now.'

Cindy Garrison is employed by the West Linn-Wilsonville School District and occasionally writes an article for the Tidings.ent today,' he said. 'Effective tomorrow, there