New Bern High School
- County: Craven
- Type of school: Public
- Mission: New Bern High School will equip students with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to become productive citizens.
- Grade levels: 9-12
- School Profile: Suburban
- Number of students: 1600
New Bern High School is a suburban school in Craven County, North Carolina. With the mission to “equip students with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to become productive citizens,” they put their focus on a well-rounded education of their students. More than 1,600 students have access to the solar array and the educational solar kits that NC GreenPower provides.
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 select public schools may be eligible for a matching challenge grant from the SECU Foundation of up to $15,000.
The New Bern High School website shows the Sunny Portal dashboard, so students, teachers and community members can routinely check the output of the array. If you’re curious about New Bern’s solar system monitoring data click here for more information about production, performance, energy output and avoided CO2.
We talked to Sandy Parker, AP Environmental Ed. Teacher, science department and leadership team chair, about the school’s curriculum integration efforts and how their students’ career choices and interests are impacted by the solar system.
NCGP: In your initial application you stated that solar curriculum would help prepare students for jobs and hopefully encourage interest in the environment. Have your students showed an increased interest in energy-related or technical careers?
Sandy: We briefly talked about the job opportunities that are available with the installation and maintenance of PV systems in eastern NC. My students are very interested in solar energy careers. As they see solar farms in Eastern NC, they understand that this isn’t an in-the-future option but rather it’s happening now.
NCGP: Your application pointed out that the solar installation can be integrated into your schools math, science, and technologies programs, as well as a social issue to be covered in civics classes. How has your teaching improved or changed since getting the solar educational array? Have you been able to incorporate the system into your classes?
Sandy: So far, approximately 250 students have experienced lessons about photovoltaics. The students had the opportunity to experiment with mini PV cells to see how the orientation of the PV array correlates with the electrical output. In addition, the students completed a home energy audit. The data allowed the students to compare their home’s demands with the output from the school’s PV system. It was a great opportunity to compare the output and the size of the solar array. Many students found the array would meet the demands of their home.
Using the EPA energy profiler, students created a pie graph to show the percentage of New Bern’s electricity generated by coal, nuclear, natural gas, and sustainable energy options. After calculating the quantity (tons) of coal used to generate their electricity, students calculated the emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and NOx that the coal produced. We used their data to calculate the emissions of the entire school population. We also calculated the emissions that would be saved if more families used PV systems.
Currently, my students are working on a PBL (Project Based Learning) Sustainable Energy project. Several teams are studying solar energy and are using the data from the NBHS solar array. The goal of the project is for various teams to create a persuasive video about their sustainable energy source (solar, wind, wave…).
NCGP: What type of reactions have you gotten from students? Are they excited to learn about the solar array?
Sandy: Many students are surprised that the solar array is generating electricity that is used on site!
NCGP: Whose idea was it to apply for the grant? Were you anxious to hear if you got the funds?
Sandy: I applied for the grant. I was excited to hear that we received the funds! New Bern Businesses and NBHS groups did a great job of contributing to the project!