Solar in the Schools – A 21st Century Education for the Next Generation
The final weeks of summer brought teachers, as well as students to Solar Energy International’s (SEI) campus. Ben Graves, a science teacher at Delta High School (about 30 miles from SEI), came to SEI for PV 201L: Solar Electric Lab Week (Grid Direct). Ben joined the hands-on lab week as part of the partnership with the Delta County School District for SEI’s Solar in the Schools program. Ben teaches Environmental Science at both a freshman and Advanced Placement level. As part of the Solar in the School’s High School Career and Technical Pathway Program, Ben teaches the high school adaptation of SEI’s PV 101 class. In the PV 101 class, students utilize SEI’s textbook, online curriculum and come to SEI’s lab facility in Paonia for hands-on training.
As for Ben,“I’m at SEI to get more hands-on experience working with solar energy, installing panels, racking modules, and working with inverters to help inform the classes I teach, both at a freshman level and my senior level solar electricity class. In that class the students actually get certification from SEI as introductory PV installers and we’re really working to make that class more hands on and work more for the students who take it. “
Ben is able to come to SEI in part because he is a Teaching Fellow with the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation, a nonprofit founded to increase the number of high-quality high school science and mathematics teachers with the ultimate goal of improving STEM education in the United States. Ben brings an innovative and hands-on approach to science for his students. Describing his PV 101 class he said “the students in that class are hands-on learners. They are students who have self-selected that they would like to go into the electrical industry or the solar industry… I’m hoping to take what I learn at SEI back to the classroom to make that PV 101 course that my high schoolers are taking much more hands-on day to day.”
And he knows that classes like PV 101 have a reach far beyond the semester; they are geared to prepare students for the “job market of the next decade.”The mission of Solar in the Schools resonates strongly with Ben. “That’s our target audience at Delta High School: to target students who self-identify as wanting to pursue a vocational pathway and providing them an opportunity to get a 21st century education in solar and renewable electricity.”