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Winchester’s ‘Turbinators’ honored

Winchester, MA – As Winchester’s leaders considers solar panels at the Transfer Station, its future leaders already have their heads in the clouds.

McCall Middle School’s Turbinators are an enthusiastic group of seventh-graders determined to turn Winchester into ‘Windchester.’

The group of about 20 dedicated students started their project to find suitable sites for wind turbines last year in Lanie Higgins’ sixth-grade science class.

“It all started with the Disney Planet Challenge, where if we won we would all get a free trip to Disney World,” explained 13-year-old Amanda Fontana.

Fontana explained that as part of the challenge, classes had to come up with a plausible idea for saving energy in their town.

“One of the kids thought of a wind turbine, so we went around town and looked at places we could put it,” she said. “We also had a few people in to talk to us [from the town’s energy committee] about turbines.”

After researching wind energy, studying Winchester’s wind speeds and learning of some of the red tape involved in such projects, the students presented their information to Lincoln School’s first graders, senior citizens of the Jenks Center and Mayor McGlynn in Medford.

The class then presented their findings to the Board of Selectmen, who were very pleased with the work done by students and told them to keep investigating the topic.

“The Board of Selectmen was very impressed with Lanie’s leadership and the interest and passion the sixth graders demonstrated,” said Amanda’s father Forrest, who serves as the board’s vice-chairman. “They came across very fluid and articulate, and really understood some of the big picture issues as well as the technical issues.”

Secretary of the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles agreed, as he awarded Winchester’s Turbinators a First Honor Certificate of Excellent for their project at the 16th annual Secretary’s Awards for Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education in April.

Winchester was one of 10 towns that earned “First Honor” certificates. In all about 50 schools were honored by Bowles.

“I felt really honored to get an award saying I did something to help my community and to help the environment for the whole world,” said Turbinator Brendan Pulsifer, who, along with a number of his classmates, is still meeting with Higgins afterschool to keep the project going.

“We’re trying to keep this effort alive,” he said, by continuing to evaluate possible sites in town where wind turbines might be feasible.

According to Higgins, the class has looked at the Transfer Station, Middlesex Fells Reservation and Vinson-Owen Elementary School as possible locations, and is working with several pro bono attorneys to see whether grants may be available.

“This is all the students,” said the proud teacher. “I’m just there as a coach and a facilitator.”

Pulsifer thanked Higgins for “being our leader and captain of the ship,” and said he’s committed to helping the environment change for the better.

“I know that global warming is happening – Florida is probably going to be underwater soon. I want to help stop all this terrible stuff from happening.

I want to try to make everything good again.”