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Schools Go Solar

Students in Reno, Nevada, pose behind their school’s solar panels. BLACK ROCK SOLAR

There are lots of trees near the public schools in Sheridan, Indiana. Their leaves soak up sunlight, which they turn into energy.

In Sheridan, the sun fuels more than just plants. It keeps schools running, too. Environmentally friendly solar panels harness harness JOHN RUCOSKY—THE TRIBUNE-DEMOCRAT/AP to control or make use of (verb) The teacher tried to harness students' creativity by asking them to paint a mural. the power of sunbeams and turn it into energy. When the sunlight hits a solar panel, tiny particles particle KATARZYNA BIALASIEWICZ—GETTY IMAGES a tiny portion of matter (noun) The furniture was covered in tiny particles of dust. in the panel called electrons start to move around. This creates usable electricity.

The science behind solar energy is not new. But Sheridan Community Schools is the first school district in Indiana to be completely solar-powered. The district finished installing solar panels for all three of its schools in 2016. Some of the panels can turn to follow the sun across the sky. “We were able to put in enough panels that we can power all of our buildings,” Doug Miller, superintendent of Sheridan Community Schools, told TFK.

Sheridan’s solar push is part of a trend trend MARCIN KAMINSKI—CAIA IMAGE/GETTY IMAGES a general direction in which something is developing or changing (noun) (noun) The store noticed an upward trend in sales. . In 2008, fewer than 1,000 schools used solar power. By 2014, there were 3,727 schools with solar panels in the U.S. This data comes from a report by the Solar Foundation, an organization that promotes promote SARA BURNETT—AP to support or actively encourage (verb) Signs promote candidates for elected office. the use of solar power. Roxie Brown, a program director there, told TFK that the number of schools with solar panels has continued to rise since 2014.

Costs and Benefits

Solar power has some notable advantages over other energy sources. Sunlight is a renewable resource, which means it won’t run out. Solar panels don’t harm the environment. Also, sunlight is free. So by using solar power, schools can save money on energy costs over time.

Brown thinks more schools should run on solar power. “The sun is [Earth’s] energy source,” she says. “We’re trying to make it the energy source for our houses, cars, and schools, too.”

But switching to solar power isn’t always easy. Solar panels can be expensive to install. Miller says Sheridan Community Schools had to borrow money to pay for its solar transition. The panels also take up space.

But for many schools, going solar is worth it. “I think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks,” Miller says.

Workers install solar panels on the roof of an elementary school in Denver, Colorado.


A Bright Future

The use of solar energy can also help students learn about electricity and environmental issues. Teachers at schools that use solar power often incorporate it into their science lessons. “The kids talk about it in the classroom. Then they can go look at it in action,” Miller says. According to Brown, the educational impact impact BETSIE VAN DER MEER—GETTY IMAGES the effect or influence of one thing on another (noun) Hours of practice had an impact on the final performance. of solar panels is “the most compelling compelling GETTY IMAGES interesting (adjective) The story was so compelling that Lisa lost track of time. reason” for schools to install them.

Miller hopes the panels will give Sheridan students a global perspective perspective BRUCE LAURANCE—GETTY IMAGES a way of looking at something; a point of view (noun) Ben's article explained the issue from the perspective of a teenager. . “The world is bigger than the boundaries of our school district,” he says. “We’re doing things to help the world as a whole.”