Ann Arbor school receives $15,000 grant to create solar curriculum, install solar array

A $15,000 grant from the city of Ann Arbor will allow Ann Arbor's Ann Arbor STEAM school to expand its K-8 solar curriculum and install a solar array on the school's roof.


The Sustaining Ann Arbor Together (SA2T) grant will allow for an expansion of solar curriculum the school has had for many years. Ann Arbor STEAM middle school science teacher Jean Wilson says most of the grant funds will be used to buy supplies for solar-related mini-projects for each grade level, aligned with project-based Next Generation Science Standards.


"The new science standards push the authenticity of 'How does this affect me?'" Wilson says.


For instance, depending on grade level, children might read a book about solar energy, make observations outside, or write a letter home about why the school should use solar energy, Wilson says.


Included in the supplies will be three bicycles tied to the power grid. Pupils can ride the bikes to burn energy during the day, and the eighth-grade curriculum will include monitoring and analyzing energy production.


Wilson says she and other teachers will spend a year rolling out and testing a pilot curriculum, getting feedback, and refining it along the way. Ultimately, Wilson hopes to create a curriculum that other schools in the area with different sets of resources can adapt for their own uses.


A small part of the grant funds will go towards the Solar at STEAM project, an initiative to install a solar array on the school's roof, which arose from previous solar curriculum at the school. One year, Wilson invited the owner of a local solar business to the school to use a solar meter to see where the best spot on the roof to capture solar energy would be.


Pupils used that as a learning opportunity for students to crunch data to create a cost-benefit report.


"The next year, a similar project came up, and the kids formed a committee of students to put solar on the roof," Wilson says. "Their proposal almost identically matched the proposal from the professional who came out to our school."


Pupils in the after-school Eco Innovations Club and the PTO launched a crowdfunding campaign for the solar array, which will run through the end of February. They're also accepting direct donations from parents and community members, and local businesses. The more money raised, the larger an array the school can build.


Once installed, the array will likely offset only about 5 percent of the school's energy use, Wilson says.


"We recognize (the array) won't completely shift how we're powering the school. It's a supplement," Wilson says.


More information about the Solar at STEAM project can be found here.


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She has served as innovation and jobs/development news writer for Concentrate since early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to Driven. You may reach her at


Photo by Jean Wilson.

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