By Andrew Cluley- AAPS Director of Communications
Efforts for A2 STEAM at Northside to go solar are moving forward thanks to the City of Ann Arbor awarding a $15,000 Sustaining Ann Arbor Grant. Students at the school are fundraising to have solar panels placed on the building, while a teacher is developing unique curriculum so students at each grade level can learn about solar and alternative energy sources.
Principal Megan Fenech sees the solar effort at A2 STEAM as only the beginning for the effort for a more sustainable future, led by students. “We are thrilled to see this grow,” Fenech says. “I mean I feel like this is just the first step of this solar project. Not only do we want to grow this physically and instructionally here at A2 STEAM, but we hope to have a model that we can share with all Ann Arbor Public Schools and actually even further because sustainability is something we want to be the work of all of our young people.”
In awarding the grant, Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor thanked the students for their efforts. He says the city and Ann Arbor Public Schools working together and using the energy students have on this important issue is the type of collaboration community members like to see. “We are incredibly excited to partner with the schools on an administrative level, and the students on working on common goals of sustainability,” Taylor says.
Science teacher Jean Wilson is excited about the energy A2 STEAM students have shown for bringing solar power to their school. She’s also been working for more than a year to develop curriculum that meets the requirements for each grade level but will also tie into solar panels that will one day help power the school. “Looked for ways that we could incorporate concepts about solar in each grade level with like a project based learning lense, with one overwhelming driving question, ‘Why do we have solar panels on our school?’” Wilson says. “So at each grade level they have a task or they have an essential question they are working on and I aligned that to the standards.”
Wilson’s efforts to develop curriculum around solar power and renewable energy inspired former A2 STEAM PTSO President Carlene Colvin-Garcia to seek outside support. “I became her champion and advocate to make sure that this is something that actually becomes more formalized and that can be shared within the district and beyond.” Colvin-Garcia says. “I love starting projects that have a very long term impact and growing impact.”
Colvin-Garcia says she knew this project was so strong that outside funding would be found. Ann Arbor’s Sustainability and Innovations Manager Missy Stults agrees, describing the grant proposal as a homerun. “We’re hitting renewable energy for sure through the solar education put also then through the eventual installation of the panels,” Stults says. “Then of course education, anything that we can do to teach people about renewable energy, to be able to think creatively about how we power our future and alternative sources is essential, and then the students right, empowering the next generation to really own this.”
For First Ward City Council Representative Jeff Hayner the solar project at A2 STEAM is exactly the kind of project that the Sustaining Ann Arbor grants were created to support. “I think these micro-grants are a great idea because it really gets an opportunity for some of the city to let some new ideas come forward from the people, because the people have really great ideas and we’ve seen it here with these students.”
Donations to help fund solar panels at A2 STEAM at Northside can be made: https://www.gofundme.com/f/make-our-school-solar-powered