Carolina International School

School Facts:

Carolina International School (CIS) is a suburban charter school in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. Their mission “The world is our family” emphasizes the dual focus on international and environmental education. With more than 900 students and 82 acres of property CIS is excited to integrate the solar array they received as part of the NC GreenPower Solar Schools program into their curriculum.

The NC GreenPower Solar Schools grant program provides matching grants for 3-5 kW solar educational projects at schools, complete with a weather station, real-time monitoring, energy curriculum and training for teachers. Any K-12 school in North Carolina may apply for a 50% matching grant, up to $10,000, and NC GreenPower assists the school with raising the balance of funds required.

We talked to David Kukielski, Head of School at Carolina International School, about his school’s sustainability efforts and how students are interacting with the new solar system.

NCGP: In your initial application you stated that you would like to invite scientists and engineers who work with solar power to visit your school to deepen the students’ understanding of the subject. Are you still planning to go forward with these plans?

DavidYes, details and initiatives will reside with individual teachers. The lived professional expertise of these scientists and engineers will be invaluable to increasing our students’ engagement with and understanding of the subject.

NCGP: Can you tell us more about your school’s sustainability efforts?

David: We have a recycling program, with one of our grade levels having responsibility for gathering on a weekly basis the recycling bins placed around the school and emptying their contents into our recycling canisters for pick-up by a local recycling company. We also have a weekly zero-waste lunch program competition among classrooms.

NCGP: How have teaching methods improved or changed since getting the solar educational array? Have your teachers been able to incorporate the solar installation into their classes?

David: One teacher states that having the solar array makes it easier to integrate green issues in classroom discussions. Students seem to really respond positively towards topics regarding sustainability. Recently, they learned about Human and Natural Sources of pollution and containment that can be harmful to humans, animals and plants. Students had great  ideas to help remedy these issues. In our discussion about renewable and nonrenewable energy, we briefly discussed how the CIS solar panels work.

NCGP: What type of reactions have you gotten from students? Are they excited to learn about the solar array?

David: Students have shared several ways that they have become more responsible at school and at home. At times it seems as though students take on the role as educator when they remind the class about the importance of conserving energy around the class, i.e. turning off laptops when not in use, unplugging devices like speakers when not in use, and turning off classroom lights. They were excited when I shared with them that the solar array would eventually power the entire front office allowing CIS to save money that could go towards other school initiatives.

NCGP: That sounds great! Our last question is about the grant itself. Whose idea was it to apply for the grant? Were you excited to hear if you got the funds?

David: I took the lead in applying for the grant and was assisted in the writing of it by our Environmental Studies Coordinator. We were very excited about this opportunity, and very hopeful we’d be selected, and thus very anxious to hear.