STEM camp with solar

Anne BrockOur Town Outdoors

What does it take to build a sustainable school these days? A group of third through fifth graders in South Knoxville accepted the challenge as part of their spring break camp focused on science, technology, engineering and math or STEM.

Cardboard, glue, tape and repurposed materials came together for these students to stretch their problem-solving skills into new construction. STEM related arts teachers Leah Lindstrom, Nathalie Murphy and their team coordinated a week-long effort at Dogwood Elementary so students could learn energy efficiency and put it to work.

Teachers followed a curriculum from Gear Up 4 STEM with Knox County Schools, Trane and that directed students to design their model schools. Instructions included looking at climate, energy efficient ways to heat and cool buildings, ways to use natural lighting, and adding sustainable sources of energy.

Solar Alliance representatives were invited to teach an abbreviated Solar 101 class to students on one day of camp. The class included an outdoor demonstration with a commercial scale solar module and a sunlight measuring device. Most of the students incorporated an array of solar panels into their school building designs. They learned about free design resources like PV Watts Calculator to help plan for solar energy production to meet their building’s needs.

Students were able to learn some STEM project development skills along with teamwork in research and problem-solving. They proudly displayed a variety of tomorrow’s school buildings that offer fun amenities like state-of-the-art gymnasiums along with energy-efficient details. The spring camp is one of several Gear Up 4 STEM efforts in East Tennessee public schools.

Anne Brock is marketing coordinator for Solar Alliance, which designs and manages solar installation projects for manufacturers and small businesses. It also offers a Solar 101 class that can be hosted by community centers in Tennessee. She can be reached at or 865-221-8349.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *