rgj.jpg

 

Ben Miller
bmiller@rgj.com

Aleph Academy students are learning about solar energy. / Handout

 

A local private school is working with elementary schools and the Nevada Discovery Museum to teach children as young as preschoolers about solar energy.

The Aleph Academy, a private Jewish preschool, has used a grant from NV Energy and the Department of Energy to install a solar panel array on its building, design an early childhood curriculum about solar power and develop an exhibit for the Discovery Museum, directors of the academy said.

The school's program, called Maohr Solar, had its beginnings a year and a half before the building's 2009 opening.

Rabbi Mendel Cunin, the facility's director, applied for the solar grant.

The building's design — siding on its south-facing end tilted upward and a similar design for a shade roof over its parking lot — fit nicely into plans for a solar array.

On July 21, the 276-panel array was turned on, providing enough energy to power the entire facility, Cunin said.

But even before the array was turned on, the school's children already were learning about the renewable source that would power their building.

Exhibit

The children, along with students from schools such as Huffaker and Brown elementary schools, the Davidson Academy and some home-schooled students, sat down together to design three boxes' worth of material to teach others their age about solar power.

The result, when finalized, will include a three-dimensional puzzle that illustrates the composition of photovoltaic panel, a model of one of the solar-powered Mars rovers and solar-powered Lego robots.

The boxes are designed to complement the "Build It" exhibit that will open with the Nevada Discovery Museum on Sept. 10, said Patrick Turner, the museum's marketing manager.

Besides the boxes, the exhibit will feature a four-pronged display in which children must work together using solar, wind, geothermal and bicycle power to light up a model of the Reno arch.

It also will contain a realistic energy audit system that will allow children to weigh the costs of revamping a house's energy input with renewable sources against the benefits of a smaller power bill, Turner said.

The Aleph Academy's pursuit of early-childhood solar education doesn't end there, however. The school also is working to develop a renewable energy curriculum to teach its students and then expand to museums and schools around the country, said Chaya Sara Cunin, the academy's associate director.

"Because Nevada wants to be the premiere renewable energy place, we want our children, which will be our future workers ... to feel really invested in green energy," she said.

The curriculum will translate into more forms of renewable energy than solar, she said.

The project will address a lack of renewable energy education programs nationwide.

"Our hope is to really empower these children to become the scientists of the future," she said.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, will visit attend a dedication of the Maohr Solar project later this summer, Mendel Cunin said