SunPower's Horizons program brings solar learning into the classroom of its solar school customers.

SunPower has been installing commercial solar power systems at K-12 schools, colleges and universities for almost a decade. After a few years, we began to hear a common question from school administrators and teachers: “We have this awesome SunPower® solar system on our campus — can you teach us about it? We want our students to learn about solar.”

SunPower embraced the opportunity to educate the next generation of energy leaders. We began developing innovative and engaging educational content about solar energy. We also established partnerships with organizations that share our educational goals. The result? The SunPower Horizons™ program.

To date, we estimate that SunPower Horizons has reached more than 10,000 students in the U.S. with hands-on curriculum and lesson plans. The program is designed to promote student engagement and curiosity in the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). It challenges students to consider how they use energy and where it comes from and prepares them for advanced academic study and professional careers.

The lack of STEM education in American schools is a great 21st century challenge that must be overcome. The World Economic Forum ranks the United States No. 48 in quality of math and science education. In a ranking of 34 countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, U.S. students recently finished 27th in math and 20th in science.1

SunPower Horizons is helping to address this problem by working with schools to fundamentally transform STEM education. We offer schools complete customizable STEM programs designed to spark students' curiosity and give them the tools they will ultimately need for success.

SunPower Horizons offers schools three approaches — classroom-based, field work and professional development – that can be mixed and matched to best serve each community.

In the Classroom

Through a partnership with Project Lead the Way, SunPower delivers activity-, project- and problem-based comprehensive STEM curriculum.

Project Lead the Way’s programs promote critical thinking, creativity, innovation and real-world problem solving, with the goal of exposing students to career opportunities in STEM-related fields. The curriculum is aligned with relevant national standards and developed by subject matter experts, including teachers, university educators, engineering and biomedical professionals and school administrators.

 “There’s an engineer inside each one of these kids, and SunPower is helping us make sure that potential doesn’t go untapped,” said Steve Gunter-Murphy, a retired STEM professional and Project Lead the Way classroom volunteer at Hoover Elementary in Oakland, CA.

Organizations participating in the SunPower Horizons program get access to our standards-based K-12 solar energy and energy efficiency lesson plans, which include teacher guides, student worksheets, presentations and links to online resources. They can also request that a qualified SunPower employee present the material and work with students in the classroom.

In the Field

Outside of the classroom, the SunPower Horizons program allows students to imagine a range of career possibilities while they develop essential insights on energy. The hands-on learning appeals to both teachers and students.

SunPower’s innovative Summer Solar Energy Academy offers a work-based learning experience for high school and community college students.  In this intensive 40-hour week-long summer course, students learn how to become solar entrepreneurs. Coached by teachers and solar professionals, they learn the engineering, design and economics of a solar power system and help design their own system. Students also develop a professional solar sales proposal and, at the end of the week, pitch it to a prospective “customer.”

Jack Gillespie, Summer Solar Energy Academy instructor and high school teacher, notes, “The best way to learn something is to do it yourself. I won’t remember the information if I just read about it. But if I read about it and then DO it, I’ll remember it.”

More than 600 students and 86 teachers have participated since the Solar Energy Academy was launched in 2012. We often hear from Academy graduates about the difference this program makes in their lives.

“Thanks to my experience with the Summer Solar Energy Academy, I’m now a second-year mechanical engineering student. I greatly appreciate the impact SunPower has had on the course of my life,” said Ashley Osborne, SunPower Horizons participant and current undergraduate student at the University of California, Davis.

Professional Development

The program includes opportunities for educators to learn about solar energy, giving them the tools and knowledge to better educate their students.

SunPower Horizons extends teacher learning beyond the classroom through teacher trainings such as a continuing education solar certificate course.

Want to learn more about how you can help your school go solar? Visit our schools solar page. Want to learn more about the SunPower Horizons program? Visit our website at us.sunpower.com/horizons or email horizons@sunpower.com.

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1Source: The Stem Crisis

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