Science Teacher Sparks Solar Dreams

It took more than a 1 kW photovoltaic system to make Jane Douglass eligible for the Renewable Energy Teacher Award. It took the fifth and sixth grade students at Basalt Middle School to help install the system, and Solar Energy International (SEI) to nominate Douglass for the award because of her efforts to teach the students about renewable energy.

Douglass is a sixth-grade math and science teacher. She established a Solar Club for her middle school students, and helped them get a solar photovoltaic (PV) system to install at the school. “Jane decided the implementation of a PV system would serve as an amazing education tool for the students while helping to offset the school’s carbon emissions,” Soozie Friedmar from Solar Energy International said. “After hearing about the success at Basalt Middle School, SEI has received many inquiries from other teachers about how they can implement the same sort of project for their schools.” The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) gave Douglass the Renewable Energy Teacher Award during the Colorado Science Teachers Convention, which was held this week. NREL’s Office of Education Programs develops and implements energy science programs to cultivate partnerships with schools and community organizations. Programs designed by the government organization offer opportunities to teachers that revitalize their research interests and skills while giving them additional classroom science applications and technical content. Douglass secured more than $13,000 in local grant money to help purchase the PV system and data monitoring system for the school. She worked with Solar Energy International (SEI) to design the system, and it was SEI that nominated her for the Renewable Energy Teacher Award. Students in the Solar Club helped with the installation of the PV panels on April 28 after working with SEI to learn how to wire the panels. The next week, the Solar Club showcased the new system at a Solar Fair for Basalt Elementary and Basalt Middle School students. For the Solar Fair, the students organized booths, held solar car races and baked cookies in solar ovens. “How our growing energy needs will be satisfied is becoming more of an issue and I believe the use of solar energy will become a major theme in my students’ lifetime,” Douglass said. “It was exciting to see such a mix of students working together for the common goal of renewable energy.”

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