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Inspiring young environmental stewards with solar

4 min read

Authors: Kathryn Wagner and Mila Mezei from Inside Education

Inside Education and the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre have shared goals of helping Alberta students and teachers better understand energy in Alberta, and equipping schools with the resources they need to educate about, and act on Alberta’s enormous solar energy potential.


Inside Education gives incredible teachers the means to venture far beyond their teaching objectives. We empower them to inspire and engage young stewards by incorporating environmental and natural resource education into their classrooms.

Energy is everywhere (light, heat, electricity, transportation, communication) and our energy systems are changing, having implications for our environment, economy, and society.

With that change, it is vital that teachers – possibly our most important change facilitators – have tools to educate their students in a meaningful way.

Over the past 10 years, through support from government, industry, and the Action Centre, schools across Alberta have demonstrated leadership across Canada when it comes to solar energy installations and education.

A solar energy system installed in a school has tremendous and lasting benefits, and can influence the way young people engage with energy and climate change now and in the future.

“You’ve empowered our youth to reach goals they never thought possible and the skills to be lifelong stewards.”

Alex Bernier | Teacher St. Paul Regional High School, St. Paul

Benefits of school solar projects:

  • Empowering students to apply their knowledge of energy and electricity generation in a hands-on and impactful way.
  • Providing opportunities to explore the costs and benefits of various energy sources and share their ideas throughout project development.
  • Opening doors to a wide variety of conversations about energy sources & systems, low carbon economies, energy efficiency and conservation.
  • Inspiring students to realize their potential academic and career paths in renewable energy research, development and installation.
  • Engaging in meaningful stewardship action brings valuable lessons of responsible consumerism, engaged citizenship, and informed decision making to the entire school community.
  • Encouraging meaningful discussions and critical thinking, and an innovation mind-set with solar panels, especially those installed in a place where students can see them.

Tip: Funding for installing solar panels on schools is available from the Action Centre’s Solar for Schools Program

Through Inside Education’s award-winning Generate Youth Energy and Climate Leadership Program and A+ for Energy Grant, we have the opportunity to help schools in all stages of incorporating solar energy into the curriculum; from those that have systems already installed, those that are considering solar, and those that are just learning about energy with their students.

Did you know? Schools can access funding for a solar project from the A+ for Energy Grant and the Solar for Schools Program.

New Myrnam School in tiny Village of Myrnam

Through an A+ For Energy grant in 2018, students at New Myrnam School designed and constructed a passive solar greenhouse and tower garden.

Then through another A+ For Energy grant the following year, students built an eco-classroom. Alongside the eco-classroom project, the students developed prototypes of a solar array, wind turbine, and biofuel generator to test which form of electricity generation would be most cost effective and energy efficient to power their eco-classroom.

Their project demonstrates the value of installing solar projects at Alberta schools.

The entire community of Myrnam was invited to attend a showcase event, demonstrating the hands-on skills, leadership, and critical thinking abilities, that the students at New Myrnam School developed through their projects.

This project led New Myrnam School to be recognized by the Alberta Emerald Foundation and Energy Efficiency Alberta with the Energy Efficiency Champion Award in 2019.

“You are doing an incredible service! Changing lives, changing schools! So many amazing opportunities have been made available to our students. They are learning to be great critical thinkers, how to build relationships, how failure is really just another opportunity for growth and success, another opportunity to make change, to shift your perception.”

Roxy Zahara, New Myrnam School, Myrnam
Minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon with students and teachers from New Myrnam School at the 2019 Emerald Awards.

Related: Read the article about how Myrnam School is engaging students in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

At Inside Education our mission is to support teachers and inspire students.

We are an environmental and natural resources education organization with over 35 years of experience encouraging K-12 teachers and students to explore their role as environmental leaders through the lenses of science, careers, innovation and stewardship.

“Currently we are planning a renovation for our school. I am going to have students research & present ideas that would make our renovation green and sustainable, it does need to be LEED silver. This will fit in with our environmental chemistry unit.”

Jennifer Vermillion

We work with partners in industry, government, conservation, and academia in the development and delivery of our engaging, multiple perspectives environmental and natural resources education programs.

 “I am able to tell my students about what initiatives are already happening now in Alberta. I can show them how that can lead to careers too.”

Michelle Savoie, Eleanor Hall School, Clyde

Inside Education has a full suite of programs available at no-cost to schools across Alberta.

The Solar for Schools Program and A+ for Energy Grant are great opportunities and we encourage anyone on the fence about solar in schools to go for it and apply now!


About the Author: Kathryn Wagner, Program Director, Inside Education

Kathryn Wagner is Inside Education’s Program Director. She leads a team of educators with enthusiasm and creativity through the many classroom and field programs, professional development workshops, youth summits and grant programs they deliver. Kathryn is an enthusiastic, experienced science educator who loves to play a role in creating ‘aha’ moments for others. Connect with Kathryn by emailing kwagner@insideeducation.ca

About the Author: Mila Mezei, Education Program Coordinator, Inside Education

Mila is newer to Inside Education, starting her role as an Education Program Coordinator in February 2020. Mila loves to teach, learn and share her enthusiasm for energy and natural resources. Inside Education is the recipient of the 2020 Emerald Award in Public Education and Outreach. Connect with Mila by emailing mmezei@insideeducation.ca

Learn how to install solar on your school!

Join Inside Education and the Action Centre for a webinar on August 27 to learn more