Manatee students learn energy saving habits through theater

eearl@bradenton.comJanuary 16, 2014 

MANATEE-- Bursts of laughter filled the auditorium Wednesday at Manatee Elementary as "Men in Plaid" agents Skuller and Moldy tracked down energy-wasting aliens.

The traveling National Theatre for Children's mission is to educate students about conserving energy. Shows in Florida this month are paid for by Florida Power & Light.

The performance of "Men in Plaid: The Kilowatt Connection" aims to teach valuable lessons on developing energy efficiency.

"It supplements what we do for our customers and really helps bring the message of saving energy home," said Rae Dowling of Florida Power & Light.

David Sebren, an actor with the National Theatre for Children, said the production is "upward education."

"If we teach the kids to turn off the lights when they're not in the room, turn off their ceiling fans and take shorter showers, it teaches the adults to do the same thing," Sebren said.

The show uses jokes to explain ways to conserve water and electricity, as well as saving parents money.

"It's funny. My favorite part was when the slug alien fell down. And we also learned about turning stuff off when you're not home," said second-grader Teddy Collins, 8.

By the end of the show, students were pumping their fists in the air, chanting "use less, save more!"

The show was interactive as students were called from the audience to participate on stage.

Sebren and Dowling said the program is also a way to get arts and theater in schools at no cost to districts.

"We recognize that resources are limited in schools," Dowling said.

Prior to the performance, teachers receive a digital curriculum and interactive white board from the National Theatre for Children that outlines the show concepts. Students learn how electricity and energy are made, uses of energy, ways energy is wasted and how to conserve energy

Since 1978, the theater troupe based in Minneapolis has been performing educational and entertaining acts around timely subjects that can fit into a school's regular curriculum.

The company also performs shows that teach financial literacy, nutrition and science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The National Theatre for Children has two versions of each show, one for kindergarten through second grade and another for third to sixth grade. They present information in more detail in shows for older students.

Margaret Dalton, an actress with the National Theatre for Children, said laughter is one of the best ways to convey information.

"It is presented in a way that makes the information more memorable," she said.

Dowling said Florida Power & Light has funded educational programs in Florida for 10 years.

"We try to stay updated in schools and present things that are current for the kids," Dowling said.

Other counties the National Theatre for Children plan to visit this month include Sarasota, Charlotte, DeSoto, Collier and Miami-Dade.

Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

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