2018 Solar Schoolhouse Summer Institute for Educators …registration open

[2017.12.29] The 5-day Solar Schoolhouse Summer Institute for Educators (SIE) for 2018 is scheduled for July 22th-27th, in Sebastopol, California. This is the 16th year we’ve offered this solar energy  professional development experience for educators.  Consistent themes are hands-on, relevant, real-world… and fun!  As you explore Climate Science and it’s effects with your students, it’s important to provide an element of hope… through exploring clean energy options. Increased solar literacy provides students the necessary tools to become active participants as we move toward a clean energy future.
SIE2017 304 Group w.id3

Educators at the 2017 Solar Schoolhouse Summer Institute at Red H Farm with farmer Caiti. Yes, photosynthesis is related to sunshine! and it helps grow food. yum!

Participating Educators learn the fundamentals and history of passive solar design, solar thermal, and solar electricity, then apply these lessons in a variety of projects (simple solar ovens, model solar homes, solar powered fountains, cell phone chargers, LED lights, and more).  Lessons are adapted to your teaching situation and aligned with Common Core & Next Generation Science Standard goals.

Limited scholarships are available. To Learn more and to Register visit http://solarschoolhouse.org/sie2018/

Consider sponsoring an educator in your area to attend. Contact Tor  tor@rahus.org or 707-829-3154 for more information.

Scenes from Solar Schoolhouse

Scenes from Solar Schoolhouse

Sebastopol USD passes Climate Change Resolution

Encouraged by Youth Activists, Sebastopol School District Passes a Resolution Recognizing Climate Change as a Children’s Issue

SEBASTOPOL, CA [2017.12.05]— At its December 4th board meeting, the Sebastopol Union School District board of trustees unanimously and enthusiastically approved a resolution recognizing climate change as a children’s issue and resolving to establish a Climate Change Committee to develop recommendations for taking action on climate change in the school district. The board’s action was encouraged by a group of young teens, parents and teachers in the Sebastopol area from a newly formed group called Schools for Climate Action.

In adopting the resolution, the board recognizes that the children of today will bear the burden of the impacts of climate change, and also that our schools have a responsibility to equip them with opportunities to respond with creative and bold action. The board also affirmed that institutions and
elected leaders at all levels have a responsibility to respond in constructive ways to the challenge of addressing climate change.

Sebastopol Union School District has a commitment to providing our students with an education that nurtures their development as globally-minded citizens,” said Trustee Lawrence Jaffe. “Putting this into practice by tackling climate change in our schools not only makes a contribution to reducing greenhouse gases but it provides real-world leadership experiences for our children and school community.”

The Climate Change Committee, which will be formed in January, may focus on topics such as energy efficiency and renewable energy, water conservation, waste diversion, and landscaping, as well as opportunities for education and student engagement. Membership in the Committee will be open to board members, school employees, parents, students, and community members.

“This resolution is a great step forward into a healthy future for generations to come,” said Joey Thompson, an eighth grade student at Brook Haven School who attended the board meeting along with several other students and parents to express support for the resolution. “Sebastopol Union is a role model for other districts to follow to make a cleaner, more sustainable world.”

The full text of the resolution is included here. Sebastopol community members, students and staff are encouraged to express their interest in joining the Climate Change Committee by emailing Trustee Lawrence Jaffe at jaffe.lawrence@gmail.com.
More information about Schools for Climate Action is available on their website.

 

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Book Review: Drawdown

Drawdown-cvr-jpgReviewed by Pauline Allen. Rahus Institute-Solar Schoolhouse. 20171129

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

edited by Paul Hawken, is truly the first of its kind. As an educational tool this book is exceptional. Using mathematical models Drawdown Fellows calculated the impact of the top 80 solutions based on the amount of greenhouse gas reduction and the economic cost/savings.

Education lays a foundation for vibrant lives for girls and women, their families, and their communities. It also is one of the most powerful levers available for avoiding emissions by curbing population growth.

Combining # 6 and #7  to make Empowering Women the top solution to Climate Change. Education lays a foundation for vibrant lives for girls and women, their families, and their communities. It also is one of the most powerful levers available for avoiding emissions by curbing population growth.

First off, let’s look at the meaning of “drawdown”. Most previous climate change literature tells us that we need to “mitigate” and “reduce” emissions in order to “combat” or “fight” global warming. As Paul Hawken says, “if you are going down the wrong road and slow down, you’re still going down the wrong road.” For the Drawdown team it is important to stop using violent military analogies when referring to climate change and to draw the attention from what we are doing wrong to what can be done. Drawdown refers to the specific goal of lowering carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere and bringing that carbon back to earth.

Microgrids: This is the Solar Settlement in Freiburg, Germany. A 59-home community, it is the first in the world to have a positive energy balance, with each home producing $5,600 per year in solar energy profits. The way to positive energy is designing homes that are extraordinarily energy efficient, what designer Rolf Disch calls PlusEnergy.

Microgrids: This is the Solar Settlement in Freiburg, Germany. A 59-home community, it is the first in the world to have a positive energy balance, with each home producing $5,600 per year in solar energy profits. The way to positive energy is designing homes that are extraordinarily energy efficient, what designer Rolf Disch calls PlusEnergy.

Drawdown uses language that is understandable to the public, instead of using alienating technical lingo. On the website all the solutions in the book are listed by rank and sector (Energy, food, women and girls, buildings and cities, land use, transport, materials, coming attractions) with references and methodology provided. This means that if you want to have every student in your class research a different solution and report back to the class, all the information is available online! On the website, one can also read about the research fellows— the impressive diverse group of women and men from all over the world that put Drawdown together.

A third of the food raised or prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork. Producing uneaten food squanders a whole host of resources—seeds, water, energy, land, fertilizer, hours of labor, financial capital—and generates greenhouse gases at every stage—including methane when organic matter lands in the global rubbish bin. The food we waste is responsible for roughly 8 percent of global emissions.

A third of the food raised or prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork. Producing uneaten food squanders a whole host of resources—seeds, water, energy, land, fertilizer, hours of labor, financial capital—and generates greenhouse gases at every stage—including methane when organic matter lands in the global rubbish bin. The food we waste is responsible for roughly 8 percent of global emissions.

In Hawken’s talk on Drawdown at Seattle Town Hall, he mentions what the Drawdown team found most surprising about the results. Eight of the top 20 solutions are in the food category (including #3 reduce food waste and #4 plant rich diet), while 5 of the top 20 solutions are energy related. But most surprising is that if you combine #6 educating girls with #7 family planning, then empowering women is the top solution to climate change!

Hawken makes it clear that although some solutions have bigger impacts, we need all of them. If people want to take action, they should work on whichever solution they personally resonate with.

top ranked Solutions

Top ranked Solutions

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Book Review: Let It Shine – The 6000 Year Story of Solar Energy

LetItShine_cvr_f

Perlin’s historical solar stories will provide students of all ages with insight into the Sun’s enormous potential to fulfill our energy needs

Reviewed by Rebecca Canright.
Rahus Institute-Solar Schoolhouse. 20171111

John Perlin’s Let it Shine proves that solar energy has powered human communities long before the dawn of photovoltaic technology. Nowadays we consider solar an “alternative” form of energy, but Perlin’s in-depth analysis illustrates that it has not always been that way.

Perlin’s account of the history of humankind’s relationship with the Sun would serve as a reliable teaching tool for high school and college classes in environmental science, engineering, and science history. It is a trusty must-read for anyone entering the solar industry who seeks a deeper understanding of our ancient experiments with sun energy. Students interested in engineering will learn how numerous advanced civilizations have tapped into this abundant resource to warm their water, food, and homes, to enhance their quality of life, and most recently, to generate electricity. Students interested in political studies will learn of the ability of government to make or break the advancement of solar energy technology, especially in the last couple centuries. Even middle-school science teachers could integrate excerpts of Let It Shine into their classes’ studies of energy and natural resources. Accompanied by hands-on experiments with solar ovens, solar phone chargers, or a field trip touring a passive-solar residence or rooftop photovoltaic array, Perlin’s historical solar stories will provide students of all ages with insight into the Sun’s enormous potential to fulfill our energy needs.

SSHSpecial-BannerAd-LetItShineEtcV2Order a copy of Let It Shine in 2017 and receive a Solar Schoolhouse bonus package

This book needs to be in the hands of the next generation of engineers, architects and political decision-makers so that we can learn from history and harness the truly limitless capacity of solar energy. Our communities can thrive not only through the widespread adoption of rooftop photovoltaic systems, but also through the implementation of the simpler solar technologies of the ancients, like passive solar architecture. Imagine the energy saved and comfort gained if all new homes were built with south-facing windows and reliable insulation! We are speedily depleting our once-abundant fossil fuel reserves, and given their climate change-accelerating consequences, we would be wise to educate our youth, heirs to the energy problem we have created, about the solutions that lie in the orb in the sky.

Abel Pifre's solar-powered printing press, 1880. While exhibiting it at the Gardens of theTui9leries, he printed five hundred copies of the Solar Journal

Abel Pifre’s solar-powered printing press, 1880. While exhibiting it at the Gardens of theTui9leries, he printed five hundred copies of the Solar Journal

Perlin takes us on a journey through the ages as humans have harnessed the power of the sun, focusing heavily on the evolution of passive solar home design around the world. From heating the famous Roman baths, thereby reducing the need for charcoal, to sustaining the post-medieval European penchant for greenhouse cultivation of exotic plants, to providing hot water for innumerable 19th and 20th century homes, all the way up to the invention of photovoltaics, Perlin leaves no stone of the solar story unturned.

Designed and built by Steven Strong in 1980, the Carlisle House was one of the first Zero Net Energy homes using photovoltaics, passive solar heating, and solar hot water heating strategies.

Designed and built by Steven Strong in 1980, the Carlisle House was one of the first Zero Net Energy homes using photovoltaics, passive solar heating, and solar hot water heating strategies.

His analysis reveals that solar knowledge has varied widely among different civilizations. Within societies like the U.S. and Europe especially, the use of solar building and heating techniques has fluctuated with sociopolitical changes; for instance, people of the Middle Ages largely forgot the earlier Greek and Roman knowledge of orienting buildings toward the sun to keep warm in winter. More recently, as oil, natural gas, and nuclear power entered the energy scene of the 1900s, government investment in solar faltered severely. The reader learns how a perceived abundance of cheap fossil fuel has been many times interrupted with sudden scarcity—and a renewed interest in solar “alternatives” inevitably follows. One cannot help but sympathize with solar, the ever-present energy underdog, waiting to be realized as the genuinely endless, harmless power source. We learn of other insightful nations’ rewarding solar ventures: from Israel and Denmark’s heavy reliance upon the Sun for hot water, to Japan and Germany’s widespread incentivization of rooftop solar, to African villages’ achievement of energy independence thanks to micro-arrays of photovoltaic panels. Perlin also thoroughly covers the research-based improvements made to solar technology over the centuries, recounting for us the challenges faced and victories won by numerous engineer and architect solar champions, including Leonardo Da Vinci, Bernard Christoph Faust (German advocate for the sonnenstadt, or utopian solar city), Freeman Ford (hippie entrepreneur of solar pool heaters in the 1970s), and countless others who recognized both the risk of conventional fuel shortages and the bounteous rewards of tapping into the original source of all light, heat, and energy on our planet.

Gustav Vorherr's plans for a solar schoolhouse. (1820s)

Gustav Vorherr’s plans for a solar schoolhouse. (1820s)

Perlin’s tone when recounting the successes of the various solar pioneers is decidedly optimistic, and rightfully so: these are moments in history when humanity recognized the potential for thriving, resilient solar communities, and acted upon it. Despite the inevitable naysayers and obstacles hindering the path to widespread solar prosperity, the one crucial ingredient—the Sun—has not gone anywhere (and won’t be, for a while, anyway). It shines patiently as humans grapple with other more fluctuating, finite forms of energy, until we (hopefully) arrive at the sensible conclusion that there really is no other light at the end of the tunnel except the one that has been here all along.

Freeman Ford tesing one of the many configurations of his revolutionary plastic solar pool heating panels. (1970s)

Freeman Ford tesing one of the many configurations of his revolutionary plastic solar pool heating panels. (1970s)

Anyone who questions our current energy system and who seeks the solar path will learn a great deal from John Perlin. After reading Let it Shine, I regard the brilliant orb in the sky with much more awe and gratitude. It has sustained humans (and countless other life forms) for eons, and with luck, will keep our planet humming for many more. The decision to transition to a fossil fuel-free future (and thereby save the lives of our children) rests largely in our hands. Yes, government plays an important role in encouraging the transition, but we as individuals can climb aboard the train of solar revolution whether the political powers that be are with us, or not. Given the threat that global climate change poses to humanity’s continued survival, I reckon that if we want to stick around, we had best tap into our very own cosmic power plant. Thanks, John Perlin, for eloquently shedding light on the long line of foresightful advocates of the Sun. May many more of us join their ranks.

SSHSpecial-BannerAd-LetItShineEtcV2Order a copy of Let It Shine in 2017 and receive a Solar Schoolhouse bonus package

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