Archive for the 'Student Perspective' Category

Hanging With Mr. Munford

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

By Alex Kizer

In Richmond, Virginia, the trees glow a particular gold in autumn. There is plenty of history and even more friendly folks. Greg Muzik, the principal of Mary Munford Elementary School, is no exception.
“I ride it to school most days,” Mr. Muzik boasts, showing off his Ego electric scooter.  Greg Muzik is a large man with a voice that contains life. “I don’t live far from the school and so it costs me about a penny a mile in electricity costs!”

For the last 7 years, Principal Muzik has followed an environmentally responsible personal life. But like all hard workers, it is difficult to separate work and private life. Mary Munford Elementary has been a solar school for a little longer than Principal Muzik has been seen buzzing through the streets on his electric scooter. “The school’s 1 kW system was an inspiration to me and the students. Frankly, I hoped it would show our young kids the viability of new energy technologies – I didn’t suspect I’d be so excited too!”

American Electric Power (AEP) donated the system to Mary Munford, hoping to create an awareness of energy issues like solar and recycling in the school. Looking at Principal Muzik’s attitude 7 years later suggests that it has been working. The school now has a PTA committee that makes energy efficiency a priority. “They worked on projects to make us more “green” before anyone started using the word “green,” said Muzik.

Not all of the Richmond School System has progressed as far and as fast as Mary Munford, however. Maryan Cammarata, a long-time Richmond resident, thinks that the energy efficiency policies of Mary Mumford have influenced her community, with more opportunity to come. “Mary Munford was the first school, for a long time, to have any recycling policy in the region,” she said. “I’ve heard about [Mary] Munford’s recycling and energy management policies for sometime now. Just look at Principal Muzik. He’s always zipping around, setting a good example for everyone.”


“I’m a big guy,” Mr. Muzik laughs, “and my weight has limited the range I can get from my scooter.” Mr. Muzik’s larger-than-life personality has definitely contributed to his standard-setting example, with students looking up to him for advice, and watching him live by the examples he preaches: “The students and I figured that the power generated by the solar array, while not much, would provide enough electricity to fuel my scooter forever.” With his good example and with new technologies on the horizon, Mr. Muzik’s next scooter should get him much farther, hopefully alongside an army of his former students, all embodying Muzik’s lessons of efficiency and excitement for life.

Spreading the word about Solar

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Hi, I’m Lucy Whitmore and I go to Evergreen 6 in Paradise California. Today I’m going to tell you about a special trip that five kids from my school got to go on to Red Bluff.

Evergreen 6 is a PG&E solar school. We have our own solar array, which powers Evergreen’s computer lab. Sometimes, Evergreen is invited to go on special trips to teach other people about solar power. This year, one of the trips was to Red Bluff to teach other sixth graders about solar. There are about 96 kids that go to Evergreen, and fifty qualified to go on the trip because they had all their work in. Many people wanted to go, but only five were picked. I was really happy that I got to go. Two days after they announced who was going, the lucky five got to school at 6:00 in the morning. Once everyone got there, we left for Red Bluff.

When we got to the Red Bluff science fair, a day where all of Tehama county’s sixth graders went to the fairgrounds for lessons on hands-on science, everyone set up the solar equipment. Some people set up solar gadgets on the tables, and others put up the “Evergreen 6” banners and blew up a solar balloon, which eventually popped. When all of that was set up, we got out the solar ovens and started making cookies so that the kids could try solar cooked food. By the time we finished that, we only had a few minutes to practice our presentations before the first group of kids showed up.

The first time that we did the presentations, it was nerve-wracking. I expected some of the kids to goof off and start talking to their friends, but they all just sat and listened. They were all really interested. With each presentation, it got easier to project your voice and just speak to all of the people.

We taught the other sixth graders about solar gadgets, like solar cell phone chargers, and about how solar ovens work. We also taught them about what solar power could be used for in the future and how it could work. After each group had listened to the presentations, we let them come up and try the solar gadgets and taste the cookies. It was really great, because all the kids were smiling and looking really excited. Most of the people there had never seen a solar panel in real-life, and they really liked it.

Going to Red Bluff was really fun. Besides, about a hundred more people now know more about solar. Some of those people could go home and tell their parents or siblings about solar power, and then even more people know about solar! It feels really good to know that you’ve taught more people about something important in our world. Also, it was so much fun!

Lucy Whitmore, 11, is a sixth grader at Paradise Intermediate School in the Evergreen 6 program. She enjoys reading, playing with friends, and making tie-dye things.

Lucy was among five students who, using the NEED philosophy, taught various aspects of solar energy to their peers in a neighboring county. Her contribution to the Red Bluff Solar day was to talk about large-scale solar, solar concentration, and alternative transportation. (Using solar to power small electric vehicles.)

Arnold Schwarzenegger Tastes Solar Cooking: “Fabulous!”

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008


On Tuesday, March 25, 2008 solar cooking became “mainstream” in California. California Ag Day was held on the west steps of the state Capitol building. This year’s theme was “Decisions Today will be Impacting Tomorrow.” Thousands attended to see booths relating to agriculture in California and healthy eating. Over 1,200 people sampled solar cooked sweet potatoes made by 6th graders from Paradise Intermediate School’s Evergreen 6 program and 4th-5th grade students from Plainfield school in Woodland. Those sampling the solar-oven-made goods included hundreds from the public, celebrity chef Guy Fieri from the Food Network, and several policy makers including assemblymen and the Governor himself! The following story shares some perspectives from that day.

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“Talking to many people at on time about how our solar ovens work and what we came to do that day, was hard, but soon got easier as the day wore on. I started to say the same thing over and over again, and had to find something new to say. When I found something that sounded right, I would start to say that over again and would start the process again. Near the end of the day, the governor came around to all the booths to try the great food and listen to people talking about the agriculture of California. At first I was nervous, but near the end of my part of the speech, it was just like talking to a regular person.” Serenity Fitzgerald, 6th Grade – Evergreen 6


“On Tuesday March 25, 2008, Evergreen 6 took thirteen students to the California State Agriculture day. I was one of those lucky thirteen students to attend. Serenity Fitzgerald and I recited the following speech: ‘Hello, would you like to try a sweet potato that we have made in our solar ovens? We are a solar school in Paradise, California and our name is Evergreen 6. We are a solar school because we have a solar panel at our school and we have sixteen ovens that we have cooked in today.’ Little did we know that one of the people we would be reciting this speech to was the governor of California: Arnold Schwarzenegger! After he tried one he said, ‘Good job. Fabulous, keep up the good work.’ Serenity and I shook his hand and then he moved on. The task of serving the governor was exciting and rewarding.”
Jennifer Olson, 6th Grade – Evergreen 6


“In Sacramento, at the California on Agriculture Day, I was cooking sweet potato fries. We cooked them at about 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes. We cooked 30 bags of them. The normal temperature for cooking them is 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 18-20 minutes. Since our ovens did not get that hot we had to make do with what we had. It was very quick going after a while. We put salt and pepper on the fries. We served them on toothpicks and in cups.”
Cooper Hawkley, 6th Grade – Evergreen 6

“Our students were thrilled to serve Governor Schwarzenegger some of our solar-baked fries and tell him about our solar oven project. The students working at the serving table, Jennifer and Serenity were very professional and did an awesome job talking to the governor, as well as all of the other visitors to our booth. Other students kept an eye on the food as it cooked in the sun and talked to passers-by about how the solar ovens cook food using only the energy form the sun. Watching our students educate others about the importance of conservation and renewable energy was a powerful experience!”
Amy Behlke, a teacher from Evergreen 6

“The students really stole the show. They were incredibly professional and well prepared. I am so proud that they are part of the PG&E Solar Schools Program.”
Karalee Browne, Charitable Contributions/ Solar Schools Program Manager

students-being-interviewed.jpg oven-cooking-sign.jpg students-being-interviewed2.jpgA PG&E “Bright Ideas Grant” made the students’ purchase of 16 sun ovens possible. These durable yet portable ovens will bake virtually anything you can bake in your home oven and they use zero electricity! The project is aimed at teaching students to understand solar and renewable energy through hands-on activities. One goal of the project is to sell baked items, then use the proceeds to send more solar ovens to a remote village in Africa. With PG&E’s help, the students are on their way to sending a second oven! Another goal of the project is to increase awareness of solar energy.


As a major sponsor of the event, PG&E did more than just “talk the talk.” “What better, and fun way, to illustrate the impact renewable power can make on our future than to have a celebrity chef instruct our future leaders on the importance of healthy eating by using solar power?” said Vice President of Civic Partnerships and Community Initiatives Ophelia Basgal.While a solar trailer powered the California Ag Day sound system, celebrity chef, Guy Fieri was cooking in a solar-powered kitchen. His enthusiasm and energy were contagious. He mingled with the crowd, happily signing autographs and talking with fans.


An event like this does not happen without hard work and great organization. There are many at PG&E that created this perfect “solar storm.” A special thanks to the following:

  • Event Planners: Susie Martinez, Tracy Gremillion
  • Solar Schools Program Manager: Karalee Browne
  • Public Affairs: Dan Kim
  • Area Support: Dolly Hazel, Jeannette Ho (Helmet)
  • News Support Jennifer Ramp , Paul Moreno

In the end, the day exceeded everyone’s expectations. Greg Holman, another teacher from Evergreen 6 adds, “The students were extremely excited to be part of California Ag Day. As the hundreds in attendance started to crowd around the solar ovens, they began to see that they were truly sharing something most people are not aware of. Many asked where they could buy their own solar oven, and even more walked away with a huge smile. Not only was the food delicious, it was made virtually carbon-free! Solar cooking on the Capitol steps seems like it could not be topped. Add to that the huge interest in solar cooking, friendly celebrity chef Guy Fieri, and a visit by a genuinely interested celebrity governor! Everyone involved will never forget that day….”



NEED Low-Cost Solar Hot Dog Cookers For Your Class?

Friday, February 1st, 2008

With school budgets shrinking as fast as our polar ice caps, it is not always easy to come up with hands-on solar projects. Thanks to NEED, the National Energy Education Development project, we used their plans to build the fastest, lowest cost, most portable solar oven not on the market. Let me introduce Sydney, a bright, social, and witty 8th grader going to school in Paradise California. Here she recounts a solar project she did two years ago:


Hello my name Sydney Zimmerman I am 13 and an 8th grader at Paradise Intermediate. I am also a teacher’s assistant for Evergreen 6 – an amazing solar school. I was enrolled at Evergreen 6 in the 6th grade where I experienced solar energy for the first time. Mr. Holman fascinated all of us with solar energy. Well I am not a fan of science but solar energy was a subject that I was amazed with and still am. Just like the rest of Evergreen, we were anticipating the arrival of our new solar system. There was so much to learn about. We were having different lessons about solar energy everyday. With little examples everywhere there was so much to take in all at once. Evergreen taught all of us how we can cook using solar energy. One way they taught us how to cook with solar energy was using Solar Hot Dog Cookers made from Pringles cans. It was so much fun and really easy to make these cookers.

From the NEED Project Instructions (Download here- need-solar-hot-dog-cooker.pdf):

  • Cut Pringles Can. Cut a 7′ line going horizontal on the side of the can then on each end of that line cut a 3′ line going vertical. Bend the flaps back but do not remove the flaps from can for they are important in cooking your hot dogs.
  • Cover opening on side of the can with a transparency film and tape film into place.
  • Make two small holes – one on the metal end of the can and another on the lid. Remove lid from can.
  • Put hot dog on skewer. Fit the skewer through the hole on the bottom of the can. Then put on the lid fitting the other end of the skewer through the hole on the lid. The hot dog should now be in your cooker.
  • Place the Solar Hot Dog Cooker into direct sunlight. Making sure the flaps are reflecting energy onto the hot dog.
  • Time how long it takes to cook your hot dog.
  • When Hot dog in cooked remove out of Can and enjoy your delicious Solar Cooked meal!

* You Can Experiment with your cookers using other high light sources.

Two useful tips we have learned at Evergreen over the years:

  1. To make the hole in the metal end of the can, gather up a nail and hammer. Place the plastic lid over the metal end of the can. Use the small plastic dot in the center of the plastic lid to use as a pattern. This will allow you to hammer the nail dead-center in the lid and metal end at the same time.
  2. Roll the 8.5 X 11 transparency film into a loose roll. Slide it into the can fom the open end. When you let go, it will expand to the size of the can’s interior, not needing tape to hold it inside.


It was a lot of fun to make these cookers and it did not cost a whole bunch. The kids get to experience solar power using something that they created themselves. I think that all teachers should try this project the kids bring in their own Pringles can and all you provide is a skewer and a transparency film, it is that easy! The kids will have fun and be able to eat what they make. It taught us a whole bunch on how solar energy can be used in different things and can be used in our normal daily lives.


These ovens are great for hikes, lunch, and to take home when they are done. Many students report taking them camping and sharing the ovens with family and friends. For those that “do not eat hot dogs,” remember there are turkey dogs and garden dogs out there. “No-Smoke Smores,” Bagel Bites and mini cheese melts can also be made in these ovens. On a hot day, hot dogs can be cooked in around 15-30 minutes. If your hot dog gets finished early, just aim the window away from the sun to keep it warm. For interesting flavor, some report a mild taste of the variety of Pringles that originally came in the can – just be careful not to clean it out before use.


Whatever your budget, Pringles can solar cookers are a great introduction to solar energy. Often students will start to think of other ways they can harness the sun’s free energy…

Spring and summer may seem to be a long way off, start collecting empty cans (with lids) now – you may be ready in time for solar hot dog season!

Go Solar, and Kill-a-Watt!

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

Hello! My name is Mario Visinoni and I go to Paradise Intermediate School in Paradise, California. I am in 8th grade and have a strong interest in Earth Science, including solar energy. Solar can minimize your energy bill in many ways. Even if you do not have solar energy, you can save energy through conservation. A kilowatt meter is one way to check how many watts your everyday appliances use.


Kilowatt meters are extremely easy to use. You simply plug your meter into the wall and then plug your appliance into the meter. My particular meter has four buttons: volt, amp, watt, and kilowatt-hours (kWH).

By pressing one of these buttons you can view how much an appliance is using. The most common brand of kilowatt meters is the KILL-A-WATT®. The meters can range in price anywhere from $30.00 to $40.00.,,, and are all online warehouses that carry kilowatt meters.

Many people believe that when an appliance is plugged in but turned off that it doesn’t use any energy. This is not true! An Epson® Powerlite Projector uses 4 watts when turned off and 240 watts on. By the type of the appliance the wattage will obviously increase and decrease.


Using a thousand watts for an hour equals one kilowatt-hour. So if lights are on for two hours using 1,000 watts per hour, it would use two kilowatt hours (kWH.) At Evergreen 6, a PG&E Solar School, our system will make about 7 kilowatt-hours on an average summer day. So the lights would use up a little less than a third of the solar energy brought in that day.

Many people don’t realize that almost every appliance in their house uses some sort of energy, even being turned off. One eMac® computer turned off for a weekend will use 144 watts. Every year that same computer will use 6,912 watts (about 6.9 kilowatt hours.) Paradise Intermediate School has about 70 eMac® computers. All energy combined for those 70 computers turned off for one weekend, the wattage would be about 10,080 watts (10.08 kilowatt-hours.) For every year that equals 193.8 kilowatt-hours!

The following list shows appliances at our school and how many watts they use:

  • A Panasonic® Microwave (OFF): 123 watts
  • An eMac® PC (OFF): 4 watts
  • Conair® Hair Dryer (ON HIGH): 1497 watts
  • Motorola Talkabout® charger (charging): 123 watts
  • Yacker Tracker® Plugged in: 6 watts
  • Goldstar® mini-refrigerator (see picture): 86 watts while running, approximately 1kwh every 2 days
  • A Power Strip with following appliances: eMac®, RCA® Boom-Box, and a Panasonic® VCR (OFF): 18 watts
  • kill-a-watt-and-fridge.jpg charger1.jpg kill-a-watt-and-powerstrip.jpg

    Using this data, we can figure out approximate costs. Mini Fridge: Approx. 15kwh/month, 180kwh a year. At $0.10 a kwh, that equals $18 a year. When you multiply that by 272 teachers, it costs the district $4896 a year!

    If each of those teachers has a power strip that is “on” with the above plugged in appliances turned “off” for a year the following energy use would result:

    • 18watts x 24 hours =‘s 432 watts x 365 days =‘s157.68 kwh x 272 teachers =‘s 42,888.96 kwh x $0.10 =‘s more than $4288! Remember, that is when the appliances are OFF! WOW! That is REAL money!

    As you can see, the amount of energy used can decrease significantly by just turning off power strips when they are not being used. Remember, even the smallest thing can really make a big difference in your energy bill.


    -Submitted by Mario Visinoni

    Thanks Mario for the great lesson in conservation! So many people are focused on going solar that they skip the simple steps in reducing their energy use. Often times, it is much cheaper to find “leaks” in your system to save energy…and sometimes going solar makes all of us look for these leaks to make the solar go even further. The “off” power strips are often referred to as “phantom loads,” or “vampires.” These suck energy with no real benefit.

    Depending on your television, you might use more energy on standby than using the TV. For example: You watch television 2 hours a day, using 100watts of power on so the total = 200watts. Off, your same television uses 10 watts per hour. Over the other 22 hours, you use 220 watts!

    Especially at schools, where some electronics are not even used weekly, by all means unplug them or turn off the power strip. By being careful about your energy use, you may be able to get a much smaller solar system to meet your new and improved energy needs. Happy watt hunting!

    Solar Shines, even in the Sunset

    Thursday, July 12th, 2007


    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.

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    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.

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    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:


    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!

    -Michaela Mundt
    Paradise, California

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    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!


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