Solar School Tour

By Emma Pabst
Environment Texas Associate

This past weekend I stood outside of Austin High School, waiting for guests to arrive to our tour of the schools’ rooftop solar installation. I hung our “Go Solar” banner on the closest railing I could find, pulled out the small stack of nametags I’d brought, and looked out over a parking lot packed full of cars that belonged to students and parents attending athletic practices that morning.

Six-year-old Khoi Hoang explores Austin High’s rooftop solar installation

Fifteen minutes before starting time, a dad and his little girl showed up. I asked how they’d heard about the event, and they said that a teacher at their school, Hill Elementary, had told them about it. Then, another dad, with his two young girls. He said the same thing. Then another family, and another, and another. They just kept coming! And they all said the same thing: a teacher at their school had emailed them, the morning of, and told them about the event. Hill Elementary had so many solar supporters that I ran out of name tags.

Our Go Solar banner [© 2018 KVUE-TV]

I stood there, surrounded by a group of families eager to explore the ins and outs of solar energy, and all I could think was “wow.” Each of these parents rolled their kids out of bed on a Saturday morning, and piled into the car so they could learn a little more about solar energy. How great is that. And a single email, from one supportive teacher had made it all possible.

Kids learn about the power of rooftop solar

The event was awesome. We journeyed up to the roof with Austin High’s head custodian, laid out our quilts, and sat in a circle where we made solar ovens. We loaded up the ovens with cookies, pointed them towards the sun, and while we waited for them to heat up, we walked through rows shining of solar panels. We learned all about the power of rooftop solar, and the kids asked tons of questions and drew adorable doodles all over their solar ovens. One of them even made it on the news.

Natalie and Joey build solar ovens 

Solar ovens at work!

Khoi Hoang asks Kevin Chavez, Commercial Solar Developer from Performance Contracting Inc., about the rooftop solar installation

The holidays are a time for giving thanks, and this holiday season, I’m thankful for what a single teacher from Hill Elementary did. I’m thankful for each and every family that spent their Saturday morning on the roof of Austin High with us. And I’m thankful for every donation, piece of advice, or moment of time that folks gave to us.

We all came together to protect our planet, and in doing so, we hosted a great event that those kids will remember for years to come.

Activism can sound like a big job, but when it comes to changing the world, all it takes is a little from each of us. A donation at the door, a letter to your school board representative, or an email to your friends and family can make all the difference.

You give what you can, and last weekend a group of enthusiastic kiddos from Hill Elementary gave me exactly what I needed for the holidays. They reminded me that sometimes, the best gifts are ones that don’t come wrapped in shiny paper and bows. An email, five eager families, and a environmentally-friendly school district are my favorite gifts yet this holiday season. What are yours?