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Glendale educators access free resources to bring solar energy into the classroom

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Christine Ramirez, a teacher at Cerritos Elementary School, uses a desk lamp to test her miniature solar carnival ride during workshop at the Glendale Central Library.
(James Carbone)

One after the other, teachers tested their miniature solar-powered carnival rocket rides under the light of a desk lamp waiting for them to spin.

A handful of local teachers gathered last Wednesday night in the auditorium at the Glendale Central Library to learn about solar-energy projects they could bring back to their respective students at Cerritos, Edison and Mark Keppel elementary schools. Instructors from Glendale Community College also took part.

When asked why solar energy is important to introduce to students in a classroom, the group chimed in with similar answers.

“It’s always good for them to know that there are other options, some kind of power to make things work in your daily living besides electricity,” said Juliet Ainian, a teacher at Mark Keppel.

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“It’s the future of energy,” said Sandra Mims, science center outreach teacher at Glendale Community College.

“There’s unlimited supply,” added Joy Hinckley, a teacher at the college.

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Tor Allen, right, led a project to teach educators about solar energy and how to bring it into the classroom.
(James Carbone)

Some of the materials spread out on the workshop table were common — cardboard, manila folders, tape, hot glue and scissors. Other materials were less common — mini solar cells, motors and cables.

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Glendale Water & Power funded all of the materials and the workshop instructed by Tor Allen, executive director and founder of the Rahus Institute, which is a nonprofit focusing on the research, education and policy change of resource efficiency. It was founded in the late 1990s and develops projects to promote the use of renewable energy in California.

The Solar Schoolhouse is the organization’s educational program introducing solar energy to students in kindergarten through 12th grade through various projects. The program offers lesson plans, curriculum consultation, teacher-training workshops and solar-energy project kits.

Allen has worked in Glendale for about 15 years, bringing solar-energy projects to schools. Last year, he worked with culinary teachers at Toll and Roosevelt middle schools, using solar-powered ovens.

"[The projects are] sort of a gateway to learning about other clean energy. A lot of the schools in the Glendale Unified School District have solar panels that provide a lot of electricity to the school[s]. Most kids don’t know that. There’s faculty [that] doesn’t know that. You can’t put your hands on it. It’s out of reach. So [these projects are] a way to demystify it a little bit,” Allen said.

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Tor Allen founded the Rahus Institute in the late 1990s and has brought solar-energy projects to Glendale for about 15 years.
(James Carbone)

The free, hands-on workshop for educators was the last of the day. Earlier, there were other workshops for librarians and the community.

Isis Leininger, a librarian specialist, said a range of 7- to 80-year-olds attended the workshop open to the community, and one of the goals was to make sure seniors don’t feel alienated from technology.

“We’re trying to educate the population. They don’t have to be in school. It can be anyone, any age. They can come in and learn all these things that otherwise they wouldn’t have access to,” Leininger said.

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Mayor Ara Najarian and City Councilman Vrej Agajanian also attended the community workshop and expressed their support for the program.

Each school represented at the educator workshop will receive free Solar Schoolhouse solar cell kits and carnival project materials for a class.

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