Hamilton Southeastern Schools ‘flips the switch’ for solar farm

Hamilton Southeastern Schools Supt. Allen Bourff speaks prior to the solar panels being turned on Aug. 21 at Sand Creek Intermediate School. (Photo by Anna Skinner)

On Aug. 21, Hamilton Southeastern Schools conducted a Flip the Switch event at the solar farm at Sand Creek Intermediate School, 11550 E. 131st St. The farm is a partnership between HSE and Ameresco, a renewable energy company, to bring renewable energy to the school district.

“Our instructional framework emphasizes learning opportunities for students that are relevant and based on real-world applications. These opportunities make it so much more likely that a transfer of learning takes place between what’s being taught by the teacher and what’s being processed by the student,” HSE Supt. Allen Bourff said. “Renewable and sustainable energy is as real world as it gets. It’s among the most urgent issues of our generation and arguably the most urgent of challenges facing the generation now walking through the halls of HSE.”

There are two solar arrays comprised of 4,800 panels, which will power three of HSE’s schools – Sand Creek Elementary, Sand Creek Intermediate and HSE Intermediate and Junior High. Ameresco also provided HSE with two solar wagons and programming to incorporate sustainable energy into classrooms. Teachers can request a solar wagon to visit their classroom if it is part of that day’s the curriculum. Cost savings from the project have already funded a new interactive playground at Riverside Intermediate School. It’s projected the savings will fund two more playgrounds in the district.

“(The solar panels are) going to help us avoid over $300,000 of utility costs per year, producing energy for schools for more than 30 years,” Bourff said. “Schools have to operate with an intention to good financial decision-making, but schools exist to educate students, and if we are to see students emerge from our classrooms as thought leaders, change agents and concerned citizens, then we have to turn them loose on problems and challenges that excite their curiosity and arouse their creativity. That’s what this is all about. This project was designed as a component of our curriculum.

“Aside from its curriculum potential, the solar array project is a glimpse for students into one of the fastest-growing labor sectors, and that would be green engineering. The pay for these jobs is projected to out-pay other engineering fields, and these arrays will be a gateway to get our students into this profession.”

At the end of the announcement, Ameresco presented HSE Schools with $10,000 for curriculum development, and the switch was flipped to turn the solar arrays on.


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