Dedicated to programs that introduce communities and individuals to solar energy through the sculptural arts

Education

Welcome to the Solar Tree Project: North School

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It all started with a dream....A solar Dream....and a magical enchantment found in the trees.... a simple e-mail communication between a school teacher and an artist...on opposite coasts of the US...and the SEED of The Solar Tree Project found a home... and germinated...nurtured by the hopes and dreams of children of North School...the support of administration, teachers..and parents...it grew...and grew...into a project with intentions to erect Solar trees all over the GLOBE!

Introduction

The "Solar Tree Program" is designed to provide students with hands on solar sculpture experiences that encourage innovative thinking and entrepreneurship through S.T.E.A.M. (science technology, engineering, ART, and math) curriculum based learning.

The Solar Tree program was founded by Rein Triefeldt and first implemented in 2007 at Hillsborough, California and later at Princeton, New Jersey. Currently Rein Triefeldt is working with Dr. John Gould, Drexel University School of Education to develop a “Solar Tree” k -12 curriculum that meets and exceeds National and International Standards. Schools presently using the program include the Central Charter School in Florida, Highgate International Schools in Cyprus and the Global Learning Exchange - GKE US/China. Plans are in the works to take the project to Dubai, Turkey, Israel, Ireland and Great Britain. The program is designed to run in a variety of ways; as a classroom(s) activity during school hours, a lunch hour enrichment program, or as a school club.

International Solar Kinetic Artist, Rein Triefeldt, collaborates with the educational institution’s educators and students in developing an experiential, cross-curricular learning project. The objective is to design, create and fabricate an energy-producing Solar Sculpture that makes use of energy-producing solar panels.

Purpose/Intent

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The Solar Tree is an activity to develop entrepreneurial skills. Students are guided through project design and review, solar energy, material research, and share in budget decisions, with the goal for building their solar sculpture project.

One of the breakthroughs of the Solar Tree Project has been that it captures the student’s attention. It is designed to actively involve all students by having them explore their personal creativity and to work in collaborative teams. It’s been observed that an otherwise bored or disruptive students focused on the project and are often the most creative and engaged.

The Solar Tree Project is catalysis for cross-curricular project-based learning. The cross-curricular activities will include the following:

The Arts: This includes visual arts, with poetry, drama, dance and instrumental music and vocals. Students may extend the experience into video production and social media.

Social Studies: Opportunities exist for cultural exchange, where students have an opportunity to meet other kids through video messages or email exchanges (a potential lesson in literacy), “Wow! I met kids from another country today!”

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Math: Students are asked to calculate computer or school lighting energy use. This information can be used to figure out how many solar panels are needed to off set the energy used.

Science and Physical Fitness: Students explore the biology of how trees grow. Nature walks or runs can be used to help students identify local trees and vegetation. PE can also be included as a way to conduct a daylight hour survey needed to find the sunniest areas on campus.

Marketing: Once the solar tree products are developed, students explore ways they can market these products to the community and beyond. This allows the students to utilize their writing skills in developing a marketing campaign. This also, allows for them to demonstrate their abilities in the use of both video and social media as a marketing tool.

As the project grows, all teachers will be invited to explore ways to incorporate into their teaching cross-curricular, project-based learning activities. The Solar Tree project will be the starting point to begin to explore other activities related to creating sustainable communities. We offer professional development for teachers interested in expanding project-based learning into their classrooms.

The Project Timeline

Phase One

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Session One: A slide presentation and lecture showing past experiences with other kids and how they took control of the Solar Tree Project and the out comes.

As an introduction to environmental issues, this presentation includes solar photovoltaic and other renewable energy options. The talk concludes with an interactive discussion with the students and a brainstorming session that considers possible school projects.

The brainstorming session serves as a way to develop meaningful concepts for the project and encourages the students to consider different ways the energy produced can be used. Lead artist Rein Triefeldt and staff assistants are required for this presentation session, to record ideas and to facilitate when students challenge their concepts. The goal is to create as many concepts as possible.

Model Building: In a 40 to 60 minute period most students are able to make least one model illustrating their concept using simple materials. The record number of models is 6 for kids above grade 2 and 3 models for kindergarten kids. “I made this in school today!”

The first phase establishes a knowledge foundation for the students. Participants research solar technology online. Students establish an image bank to share video and images of interesting solar technology applications. They will have the opportunity to learn about photovoltaic solar energy with local solar expert and visit art museums, or sculpture parks.

Final Selection: Reviewing notes from the earlier brainstorming sessions will help to identify recurring concepts. Rein Triefeldt will guide students (in person or online meeting) in a discussion of the students’ top concepts. The students will identify the top three to five concepts, which are chosen for further development. Kids then revisit the design process, building simple models, learning about and developing diagrams, as well as written descriptions of their concepts.

Collectively, the students will select a single final concept to represent their Solar Sculpture Project. In preparation for phase two, Rein Triefeldt will take this vision and make a realistic architectural illustration for the kids. Refinement and revisions are expected to occur in phase two.

Phase Two

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Professional Development of the Solar Sculpture: The ultimate goal of the Solar Tree Project is to fabricate and install a full-scale solar sculpture at the educational institution.

The students will review and be responsible for design approval. Based on the students’ concept drawings and diagrams, a small, scale model of the solar sculpture will be produced. This may take place at the school (depending on facilities), or at Rein’s New Jersey studio. Students will be included (via shared photos and online chats) in the steps taken to create this model.

This process takes the project to an entrepreneurial level, with students assuming a role similar to that of a board of directors. With guidance from teachers, area experts and Rein Triefeldt, the students participate directly in the marketing and production the Solar Sculpture. This includes making presentations to the community and other marketing activities. We may find parents within the school community who can contribute their expertise. The students are involved in key decisions with regard to site location planning, learning about engineering planning, fabrication, solar installation and what the energy will be used for. This provides direct, hands on participation in the development of a functioning large-scale solar sculpture for the permanent display on campus.

Sustainability of the Solar Tree Project: Once the educational institution has completed the program, they will have the ability to repeat and modify the program.

The Solar Tree Project is intended to make a powerful technological and environmental statement for the educational institution and display the education opportunities available at the school in an international forum.

Solar tree sculptures make a powerful environmental statement. Hand-signed, numbered, solar tree sculptures by environmental artist Rein Triefeldt are engineered to produce energy for your home or business. Information.
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