Powhatan Teachers Energize Their Energy Curriculum

Posted Sep 29, 2022

For most teachers, the phrase “district-wide professional development day” does not usually elicit feelings of excitement. But this September, Powhatan County teachers participating in a Solar Energy Workshop proved the exception. Elementary and middle school science educators – classroom teachers, STEM coordinators, and curriculum specialists with the potential to reach 1,900 students every year – from across the district enjoyed an opportunity to transform into students for the day as they explored lessons and experiments related to energy. The 7-hour workshop covered everything from energy fundamentals, illustrated through curriculum-aligned hands-on experiments, to site-specific solar resources such as solar energy dashboards. In the morning “oohs” and “ahhs” could be heard throughout the day as teachers worked through the activities with curiosity and excitement. In the afternoon teachers assembled solar circuits outside against the backdrop of the solar panels on the rooftops of the middle school and nearby elementary school. "The [Professional Development] day this past Monday was outstanding,” said Jimmy Roberts, PCPS Science Teacher. “The BEST I have been a part of in quite some time." Over half of the teachers said it was one of the best workshops they had ever attended.

PCPS teachers rotate through stations of energy-related experiments

PCPS teachers have already put what they learned into action in their classrooms and beyond. For example, Elementary STEM Instructional Coaches Barbara Adcock and Lisa Brown designed a Renewable Energy Camp for 3rd through 5th graders that incorporated many of the activities from the workshop. Campers learned about solar energy, interpreted the schools’ solar energy dashboards, flew a solar balloon, and designed and built model homes with solar panels to run lights and a fan. They plan to offer the camp again next school year.

Students participating in the Renewable Energy Camp fly a solar balloon, which uses heat from the sun to rise
Students begin construction on their model solar houses
A model solar home constructed at the Renewable Energy Camp

All of PCPS’s elementary and middle schools are powered by solar energy. In 2020, when the systems first went online, Dr. Eric Jones, Superintendent of Powhatan County Public Schools, remarked “The effects from a financial standpoint are significant, but even more important to me are the educational benefits. All of these arrays have a wealth of scientific data that we use in all our science classes and a lot of our social studies classes when we talk about environmental issues and public policy issues,” he said. “It is a great real-life example of what we want our students learning about, discussing, and thinking about. To be able to see it in their own community up close and personal is a real gift to us and a great learning opportunity.” We are happy to report that, through the dedication of teachers and our solar partnership, Dr. Jones’ vision has become a reality at PCPS.

NOTE: Madison Energy Infrastructure acquired Sun Tribe Solar in April 2024. The team remains dedicated to continuing - and growing - the reach and impact of Solar Empowered Schools.

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Solar Empowered Schools’ mission is to help students shine through renewable energy education. Madison Energy Infrastructure manages Solar Empowered Schools to extend the benefits of solar energy beyond roofs and into classrooms, preparing students for STEM careers and empowering youth to actively participate in their clean energy future.