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O&R Grant Lights the Way for Bergen Classroom Solar Energy Studies

Company Awards Over $4,000 for Innovative Hi-Tech N.J. School Projects

Jodi Sardanis has come up with a bright idea to make science lessons more powerful for her students at Northvale Elementary School.

Building on the success of the K-8 school’s hands-on hydroponics project that turned a barren school courtyard into a lush oasis, with gardens planted and maintained by students, Jodi, a special education teacher, thought a similar approach to the study of solar energy might further engage students.

So, she undertook a project to build a solar power station in the school’s courtyard.

The solar station is composed of two solar panels mounted on top of a wooden garden arbor about six feet high. Those panels are connected to a simple set of electronics that converts the solar energy collected by the panels into electricity.

The station is powerful enough to operate fans, power cell phones, run outdoor lighting, filter water and power small cars. Using the power station as a resource, teachers have developed age-appropriate lessons for grades 2-8 at the 400-student school. Using the same resource, students can explore how much energy the school building uses, how to conserve that energy and what alternative sources could provide that energy. They can track that data, chart the outcomes, work as teams and create presentations in print and video media.

The more Jodi thought about it, the more applications for the solar energy station she found. So, she consulted with the school administration, created a materials list, shopped around, got some prices, ran the numbers and came up with a tab of $1,300 that would cover the materials needed to construct a mini solar power station.

All Jodi needed to do then was find a way to pay the $1,300.

Jodi applied for and was awarded an O&R STEM Classroom Grant for the 2018-2019 school year for $1,000, and the Northvale PTO pledged another $300. The students got to work, and the project — Power Up — became a reality.

The results from the project are strong: students are engaged and enthusiastic, the lessons are thoughtful and challenging, the outcomes are enlightening.

Jodi applied for an O&R STEM Classroom Grant for the 2019-2020 school year as well, and was awarded a $1,000 grant. That project features the study of weather.

O&R today awarded grants throughout its service area totaling over $54,000 to support 63 creative, cutting-edge classroom projects, like this solar power station project, that focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

In Bergen County, O&R awarded 5 grants totaling $4,154.50 for the 2019-2020 school year. A complete list of this year’s Bergen County winners is at the end of this press release.

O&R’s STEM Classroom Grants provided up to $1,000 each to educators at schools (pre-kindergarten through grade 12) and youth group leaders for the 2019-2020 school year in communities located within O&R’s service area. That encompasses: Rockland and parts of Orange and Sullivan counties in New York and parts of Bergen, Passaic and Sussex counties in New Jersey.


Talented, hard-working, thoughtful teachers, like Jodi Sardanis, have crafted ambitious, interesting, ingenious, sparkling lesson plans that sizzle. These out-of-the-box proposals are designed to challenge students to think, plan, act and achieve — and have fun doing it.


View a video of the Classroom Grant Program in action at Port Jervis Middle School’s seventh grade Life Science class.

O&R President and CEO Robert Sanchez said, “This year’s winning proposals are impressive in their scope, their sophistication and their application. They are certainly well designed to educate, guide and train, but they also engage, entertain and inspire. Those are all the hallmarks of a successful program.”

Over the past five years, O&R has awarded 197 STEM Classroom Grants totaling nearly $174,000. Those grants ranged from $197 to $1,000.

The grants were awarded based on a review of teacher-submitted proposals by the O&R STEM Education Advisory Council, a panel of educators and engineers assembled by O&R expressly for this purpose. This year, the Council reviewed 114 applications and awarded 63 grants.

In Bergen, O&R made five grants totaling over $4,154.50. The winners are:

  • Norwood Middle School – Norwood – Aaron Gulko
  • Daisy Girl Scout Troop 97479 – Oakland - Lisa Conforti
  • Memorial Elementary School –Montvale - Debbie Katz
  • Northvale Schools – Northvale – Jodi Sardanis
  • Academies at Gerrard Berman Day School –Oakland - Sheila Barbach and Robin Kelly

Orange and Rockland Utilities, Inc. (O&R) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Consolidated Edison, Inc., one of the nation’s largest investor-owned energy companies. O&R is a regulated utility. It provides electric service to approximately 300,000 customers in southeastern New York State (where its franchise name is Orange & Rockland) and northern New Jersey (where it’s Rockland Electric Company) and natural gas service to approximately 130,000 customers in New York.