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Solar for East: Lighting up classrooms and imaginations

Cathy Jones
Vice Principal High School, UWCSEA East

Before joining UWCSEA, Cathy has been privileged to have a variety of teaching and leadership experiences, both in terms of location and educational levels. She has worked with students in China, New Zealand, South Africa and England, at middle school, high school and at tertiary level, and in international, public and private schools.

A Geographer and English teacher, Cathy has also enjoyed working with students as they develop leadership skills through a range of service activities, on field trips and excursions and in activities such as Model United Nations (MUN), the publishing of the year book, 'Roots and Shoot's and student leadership groups.

Travel and photography are her favourite holiday pastimes, and she hopes to visit Antarctica when someone works out how to get there cheaply, without being seasick.

Solar for East: Lighting up classrooms and imaginations

On Saturday, 23 February the East Campus community had the opportunity to witness where ‘running with a passion’ can lead when you have a group of committed students with a common cause! Solar for East, a group of Grade 10 students, invited the community to the rooftops to assist with the first set of solar panels they have been working so hard to install. And it was clear that it has been a tremendous learning experience for them, and the installation event was an education for many of us in the community too.

It was incredibly inspiring to see the self-direction, industry, knowledge and confidence that grew from a seed of an idea planted during Middle School, and how it has grown into a project that will impact everyone at East Campus. The students had learned in their Humanities classes about climate change, energy production and sustainability in Singapore, and they were interested in the work that had happened at Dover Campus to address similar energy concerns.

Two years ago, this group of students started to plan, ask questions and research a way forward - discussions needed to be had with the Facilities team, with solar panel companies, with school leaders and departments, and with potential donors. Technical and design questions needed to be explored. Decisions had to be made about which solar panels were best in our location and what impact was possible from which panels; questions about the costs and benefits needed to be asked and evaluated. Students had to learn about fundraising and building community interest and engagement.

The students also had to determine how to persuade the College’s Board of Governors about the viability of the project, including the long- and short-term projections of financial and maintenance issues. This meant they had to be thoroughly conversant with the data, ready with answers and completely confident in their knowledge and understanding of the issues. It also meant developing clear, succinct and persuasive communication and presentation skills - that do not always come easily and rehearsing and refining them takes time!

What was clear by that Saturday morning in February, was that one of the next learnings was about how a team might get a community behind them. The students were able to take a wide range of questions (from the very technical, to the financial) from a floor of intrigued and curious community members who wanted to understand just what the students knew and what they were planning next.

Perhaps one of the most significant plans of all has been the care and thought that has gone into making the project itself sustainable. Through their succession planning ideas, the students are raising awareness in Primary and Middle School, ensuring that future generations of students have similar opportunities and experiences to learn from, and through.

It is difficult to think which of the elements of the UWCSEA profile were not required in this project! Whether it was showing resilience and creativity when being asked by the Board to return once they had further developed their plan, or finessing their communication prowess to persuade donors of the long term impact and value of the project, the students had to draw on their skills and qualities, rely on those of others in the team, and possibly develop particular ones at different stages of the planning, design and implementation.

In terms of students owning their own learning, directing their learning, having real agency and accountability for their project and their team, the learning that came - and continues to come - through the project was incredibly meaningful as was the impact for East in so many different ways!

Learn more about Solar for East and join the student champions who are taking environmental stewardship into their own hands. Adopt a solar panel.

Would you like to learn more about UWCSEA’s sustainability initiatives? Take a Campus Sustainability Tour.

Foundation Parent Ambassadors run comprehensive tours of UWCSEA’s ecosystem of Green Mark Platinum sustainable buildings and built-in features, including composting, gardens, rainwater collection and solar panel grids. If you would like to join a tour, watch eBrief for the next set of dates.

At UWCSEA, environmental stewardship becomes a major part of every child’s education; helping students to develop the essential knowledge, skills and commitment to care for the natural world. Read on for a significant example of student environmental stewardship in action - Solar for East. Launched in 2018, this initiative aims to install 1,130 solar panels at East Campus by 2021, representing a reduction of at least 117.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

8 Apr 2019
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