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.

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