Just as driver’s education tends to have more pertinence when students take the knowledge from their classroom lessons right out onto the road, lessons about renewable energy hit home when students can see an example of the sun or the wind at work up-close and in-person.
That was the theory at the heart of chemistry teacher Catherine Sieber’s decision to spearhead Lincoln-Way Central High School’s application for an Illinois Solar Schools grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation (ICECF) in 2018.
Sieber, who also sponsors the school’s Environmental Action Club, became interested in introducing solar energy in a school setting while attending an Illinois Clean Energy Foundation Solar Workshop. Working with a company that specializes in grant writing, she helped put together the application that resulted in a grant to cover the cost of installing four solar panels at the school.
“I believe that solar is an important resource of energy, as we can no longer rely only on fossil fuels. But there’s still push back in the community with people who say that it’s too expensive or too aesthetically unappealing,” Sieber explains. “I feel that it’s my job as a teacher to educate the youth on the importance of solar, both in terms of helping the environment and providing future job opportunities.”
Sieber’s experience at Central helped inspire administrators at Lincoln-Way East and West to apply for ICECF solar grants, an effort that resulted in a total of $6,600 to cover most of the costs of installing a 1kW Solar PV panel system at each school in September. And much like at Central, Karla Horn expects the firsthand look at the potential of solar energy to inspire her science students at West.