Soaking up the Sun: Solar Faire offers sustainable energy takeaways

Solar ovens. Solar artwork. Solar phone chargers. Out of electricity? No problem. You can still power up.

That was the lesson many took away at the third annual Solar Faire, hosted by Glendale Water & Power in partnership with Sebastopol, Calif.-based nonprofit the Rahus Institute and the Glendale Unified School District.

This year’s festival, which took place on Saturday at Woodrow Wilson Middle School, featured hands-on workshops where participants could build their own solar ovens, create solar etchings and watch demonstrations of solar power, such as how to power up a solar fountain.

More than 300 people attended the free fair, held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., which featured quesadillas and cookies basked on a solar oven, as well as vendors providing information about residential solar power.

It was the second year of attendance for Glendale residents Vishal Goel and Ashima Gupta, one of 11 families who signed up to build solar ovens.

“My wife did 80% of the work,” Goel said. They brought their 5-year-old daughter Avishi, to “learn the concept of how important it is to save the planet,” he said.

The couple was so inspired after attending last year’s event they had solar panels installed on their home.

“It is the responsibility of people from our generation to make sure the kinds of things we are enjoying — this nature and mountains and all these green things, we want to make sure our next generation can enjoy these things,” he said.

Goel and Gupta learned about the event through a Glendale Water and Power newsletter.

“[Building the oven] was a little difficult, we are not very handy, but the volunteers were really helpful,” Gupta said. “Hopefully we will actually use it.”

“We will use it,” Goel responded. “We’re going camping in May and we’re going to take it with us.”

Woodrow Wilson Middle School sixth-grade teacher Elizabeth Bitow, who teaches math and science was one of the festival’s main organizers.

Bitow attended a weeklong Solar Schoolhouse workshop about six years ago in Northern California and said she was so inspired, she started teaching her students about solar energy. And after a solar energy event took place at Mark Keppel Elementary, the math and science teacher wanted to bring a similar event to the middle school.

The fair was also an opportunity for Woodrow Wilson teachers to raise money for a science-themed field trip by selling hot dogs, burgers and drinks.

“I’m very excited, the turnout has been fabulous,” Bitow said, adding that she thought many students might not show up due to the Easter holiday.

Tor Allen, executive director of the Rahus Institute, said Solar Schoolhouse has tried different events throughout California since 2000, including hosting solar Olympics events at different schools. The Solar Faire is the nonprofit’s major annual event, held in Glendale for the last three years.

“Our overall hope is that as we introduce more solar and energy literacy in to the classrooms, students will be better prepared to be actively participating in clean energy as adults,” Allen said.

Goel added that he plans to share his new oven-building skills with others.

“I learned [how to build a solar oven], I will tell 10 more people, and hopefully out of 10 people at least two will follow,” he said.

FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that in addition to curriculum resources, teachers at the Glendale Unified School District can receive up to $1,500 worth of solar teaching supplies they can pick from for their classrooms through the benefit program. The grant now takes shape in different forms, such as the fair.

Follow Sameea Kamal on Twitter: @SameeaKamal.


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