Mackintosh Academy is pleased to announce that the school will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 16, 2015 to celebrate the installation of its solar panels. The panels were funded by a $95,950 service-learning grant from the State Farm Youth Advisory Board and installed by Bella Energy. Mackintosh students are especially excited to see this solar project go live because this initiative was entirely student-driven. When the switch is flipped, Mackintosh Academy will become the first elementary school in Littleton, and one of very few in the nation, to receive the majority of its electrical power (up to 70%) from solar.
Six 6th grade students wrote the grant as part of the student-led service initiative for their 2014 International Baccalaureate (IB) Exhibition Project. The grant funded the purchase and installation of solar panels on all three Littleton campus buildings. While teachers Joe Pausback and Nancy Muhich, as well as former Assistant Head of School Linda Downey-Turner, assisted in the effort, the drive for change came directly from the students. The grant opportunity is available each year and typically awarded to high school students. These motivated 6th graders worked hard and submitted their application, and now, their work and will leave a lasting legacy for the school.
The now-7th graders reflect on the impact they are having on their school. Skyler Bernard comments, “It’s a miracle. It’s like something out of a dream. I can look up at the solar panels and think ‘We did this!’ It may seem small to everyone else, but, to us, it means the world.” Her classmate Delia Guilbert says, “Can I just say WOW! Realizing that we actually got the grant seemed so unreal, I could hardly believe it. But with the solar panels being almost up, it just brings to light this amazing accomplishment.” Sydney Gelman adds, “I feel like I have helped the school and that Mackintosh will have these for a long while. It’s almost like leaving my handprint in the cement.” Because these students have one more year at Mackintosh before they graduate, they will be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
“This is a wonderful example of what students can do when they are empowered,” says Mackintosh Littleton Head of School, Diane Dunne. “The solar panels will reduce the school’s energy use by over 40,000 kilowatt hours. As a result, 40,000 pounds of coal a year will stay in the ground, significantly lowering the carbon footprint of our school and cutting the electricity bill at the school by up to 70%.”
Beyond the environmental impact, the student project will also enhance the school’s education and equity missions. The project includes multiple facets of continued education for students and the larger community. For example, the science curriculum will now involve monitoring and evaluating data from solar energy in real-time, which will continue for years to come. Mackintosh Academy is also looking to partner with the National Energy Renewal Laboratory to develop a curriculum to educate other students and community members about the power and potential of solar to solve energy problems and reduce impacts on the earth. Some of the earned savings from migrating to solar power will enhance the school’s equity mission by providing tuition assistance and scholarships.
The ribbon cutting celebration will take place from 12 pm to 1 pm on Thursday, April 16 and will feature a solar fountain, hands-on displays for students, and a repeat student musical performance of the “Solar Medley” they performed at the fall celebration. Representatives from State Farm and Bella Energy will be in attendance.
Mackintosh Academy was one of 65 community organizations to receive a service-learning, youth-led grant across the United States and Canada. The State Farm Youth Advisory Board has granted over $32 million in grant money since its inception in 2006, empowering youth to implement service-learning in 520 communities.