Solar in the Schools program educates students at all grade levels

By Ben Delman on April 25, 2016

A barrier to increased solar adoption is the relative lack of public education about the technology. Solar Energy International (SEI), a Colorado-based organization is working to change that. They are doing so dozens of students at a time. The organization’s Solar in the Schools program works with elementary, middle, and high school students to teach them about solar.
Solar in the Schools has developed a grade-relevant curriculum that teaches students about solar energy. The organization educates hundreds of students each year through this effort.

In addition to its work with students, SEI also provides job training and further industry education to solar workers. The Solar in the Schools program is able to take advantage of these resources with its working solar laboratory. The group’s elementary program provides Renewable Energy Science Kits that include solar ovens and other devices to teach the kids how solar energy works. SEI takes middle school students on field trips to its training laboratory.

“Equipment is a big part of it,” said Andrea Wang, the group’s Solar in the Schools coordinator. “You need to have that to have the kids have a hands on experience.” At the laboratory, students can observe energy efficiency, power measurement, the impact of solar orientation and site analysis, and the properties of a photovoltaic cell.

Paonia, where SEI is located is going through an economic transition. For decades, it was the hub of Colorado’s coal industry. This is no longer the case. It is why SEI recently began a job-training program for high school students. The goal of the training is to prepare the students for jobs in the solar industry. SEI has also developed an on-line classroom for high school students to learn about solar.

Solar in the Schools works closely with the local school district, Wang explained. At first, she said it was difficult to get in to classrooms as teachers were busy. But over time, the program worked to build relationships with educators and the school’s administration. Wang found it helpful to tailor the solar curriculum to integrate into things that the students were already learning. She also said working locally has helped the program grow, as the county where she works is small enough that everyone knows everyone.

Wang said she is looking to expand her program’s efforts by further integrating solar education into the local curriculum and create a continuum of learning throughout students’ educational careers.

To learn more about SEI and its work in schools, contact them here.