In late May, AP Giannini Middle School in South San Francisco dedicated their 1kW solar array with a solar celebration. As part of the PG&E Solar Schools program, it is one of 8 systems provided to schools in the San Francisco area this year. PG&E has awarded dozens of these systems to schools in California – cost free…by the end of the year, there will be 100.
This dedication was unique in that it included students from another solar school. These students were from Evergreen 6 in Paradise, California. Evergreen was awarded a solar installation in 2005, and was given the opportunity to share what they had learned with students just beginning to learn about solar first hand.
Pat Snyder, one of the teachers from Evergreen said, “This is a great opportunity for students in our small community to travel to the city and interact with students from the city. It is a classic case of country meets city and at the end of the day, all students recognized that being responsible about energy is something we can all do – regardless of where we live.”
Students from Evergreen set up a number of stations including: solar beads, solar cooking, facts about the sun, a solar telescope, renewable vs. non-renewable energy, hydrogen car (with hydrogen made from the sun), as well as a station that explained the PG&E grant and the online monitoring of all solar schools. PG&E was there with their Mobile Customer Education Center (bus), “Helmet” (the mascot of PG&E), a Hydrogen Fuel Cell car, and several staff.
The Foundation For Environmental Education, The National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project, and representatives from SolarCity were on hand to assist in student learning. Several school and government officials were also on hand to support the project and to convey how renewable energy fits into their vision.
Greg Holman, another teacher from Paradise observed, “What a great way to get students excited about solar! Today has been a sort of ‘passing of the torch’ from students that have had an installation to students just starting the journey.”
Here is how one of his students felt about the day:
EXPERIENCING SOLAR FIRST HAND
My school, Evergreen 6, located in Paradise California, went to San Francisco to teach the students of A.P. Gianinni Middle School about their new sharp solar array. It felt great to teach students about the gift their school was getting! I worked the arts and crafts booth where we gave the students solar-bead bracelets. The students of A.P. Gianinni were very excited about the bracelets and learning how dangerous ultra violet rays are. The students learned that solar beads change color when the ultra violet rays become harmful. They were amazed how exposed we were, even on a cloudy day!
The students will have the chance to see first hand what their science books are saying. After all, books can only get you so far; experiencing solar power ‘hands on’ is far more exciting! One of the questions a student asked that really stood out to me was, “How will solar energy help the world and my school?” We told that student that solar energy was a renewable energy source that would help us be less dependent on fossil fuel. All in all, I think the students of both A.P. Gianinni and Evergreen 6 had a great time and learned a lot about solar energy. I know I did!
Although it was overcast for the entire Solarbration, there were many lessons to be learned about solar. Solar ovens were not able to bake cookies. However, they did get forty degrees above the ambient temperature. Photovoltaic cells were able to generate electricity, even with heavy clouds. The pigments in solar beads changed color, reminding us that we need to protect our skin from the sun – even when we cannot see the sun.
What will be fascinating over the coming months, will be to compare data from the Bay Area solar schools installations. Although there will be several installations in and near San Francisco, we will be able to see micro-climates and how two systems can have different results, even if just a few blocks away. We will be able to investigate this large-scale science project with the only variable being the location – all with a few clicks of the mouse.
With so much excitement and enthusiasm from the students, staff and parents at A.P. Gianinni Middle School, the solar schools program is a seed that will rapidly grow to be a huge part of the experience at APG!