GUEST BLOG: Could solar at schools change how we power communities?

GUEST BLOG: Could solar at schools change how we power communities?

Last Updated: June 10th, 2019 at 9:21 pm
Read Time: 4 Minutes

From time to time, POWERHOME Solar likes to open the floor to guest bloggers as a way of showcasing the public’s interest in solar. Today, we are grateful to welcome into this space Jeanie Wilson, a science teacher for sixth- and eighth-grade students at A2 STEAM, a project-based learning school in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Through her own efforts and from the efforts of the community, A2 STEAM earned a $15,000 grant to help implement a solar curriculum at the school. Here is the school’s story, why Wilson believes so much in sharing the value of solar with her students, and how you can help the school yourself:

By Jeanie Wilson

A2 STEAM is a special program in Ann Arbor Public Schools that opened five years ago. We have been learning about environmental sustainability in our project work, and for the last four years we have been learning about how we power our homes, and the ramifications of constantly increasing our energy use. For example, our school has expanded in size and added technology.

At the same time, we have been learning about the increasing carbon in our atmosphere and its drastic effects on our environment. My students each year have become more committed to finding clean energy sources. Our research led us to investigate solar. We want to have a solar array on our building as part of an energy plan to reduce consumption and produce clean energy from a variety of sources.

The district told us that in order to support this project, it needed to see that it was a part of our curriculum. Writing curriculum is one of my favorite things to do, so I dove in. I used the new science standards and the Project Based Learning approach from my Buck Institute training to create curriculum for our K-8 school so every grade can be involved. A parent that wanted to help, Carlene Colvin-Garcia, made connections with the city and learned that this curriculum is the type of sustainability education and practice they want to support in Ann Arbor, so she worked on a grant. With this $15,000 from the city, we will be able to fully implement the curriculum. We will have some solar power by the time school starts in the fall.

Eventually, we are hoping to find funds for every school in Ann Arbor to have a version of this curriculum that works for them. We are hoping that every student K-8 is learning about energy, climate sustainability and thoughtful ways to conserve and produce energy more sustainably.

Sustainability has been a passion of mine ever since a field trip to a wetland when I was in second grade. I was in awe of how the natural space cleans the river it sits beside. Many years later when I was a college student at the University of Michigan, I took an ecology class that inspired me to change my major from math to science because I believed, and I still believe, that we can teach the children of our communities to make small changes that have a large impact on the sustainability of our environment. I think the first step is noticing what we do that is and is not sustainable.

When I noticed how much garbage we were creating and read about a family in California that does not make more than a jar of trash each year, I learned how to reduce waste and gave it a try. We bought used and in bulk using reusable containers. We made our snacks from scratch. We even sold our 2,100 square-foot house and moved into a 988 square-foot house to use less energy and consume less. We did our best, but eventually our family of five had to find a happy medium of making some garbage, but far less than before our experiment. We found that the small changes made a big difference in our family.

In a similar spirit, my students and I want to make small changes at school with a solar array, a wind turbine, and by expanding our rain gardens (which are like wetlands, so I love them). The small changes are already starting to make a big difference in the way students see their consumption and their environment.

At this point, the K-8 curriculum is funded by this wonderful $15,000 grant, but the 20 kilowatt array that we set as our goal is far from funded. We need about $50,000 more. It sounds like a lot of money, but I think if many people that care donate what they can, we will get there. We have a GoFundMe, and if you want to join us we will be so grateful. We want this array so badly. We want to show how wonderful it is to use our beautiful schools to repower our country. This idea can work. It can be cost-effective and it can be replicated all over to mitigate our atmospheric carbon. We hope to raise enough money now to install our array, and to continue until every school has an array and every child has the opportunity to learn about how we produce and use energy.