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S1 BLOG

Solar One’s Green Design Lab Helps NYC STEM Teachers Transition to Virtual Learning During the Pandemic

GDL Online Learning

GDL Online LearningNearly 100 New York City Schoolteachers have been able to continue offering quality STEM education to over 6,000 students through innovative virtual learning resources created by the Green Design Lab (GDL), a program of NYC nonprofit Solar One.

Since the closure of New York City schools on March 16th, teachers have been struggling to adapt their classes and lesson plans to the online environment. Working fifteen-hour days has not been uncommon, and teachers themselves have had to learn new technology and how to deliver STEM instruction, often very hands on and experiential, in the new virtual classroom.

New York City has been devastated by the COVID-19 crisis, and research has clearly shown that the virus is hitting low-income and underserved communities extraordinarily hard. These are the exact communities that Solar One’s education programs are designed to serve. The city has also implemented massive cuts to in-school and after-school education programs for the remainder of this school year and for the 2020-2021 school year as well. Solar One has responded by offering its educational programs remotely and stands ready to offer its programs in the future once in- person delivery is permitted.

At the start of the pandemic, GDL quickly realized it had to shift focus from in-school delivery of hands-on programming to a virtual format that provides critical support for NYC Department of Education (DOE) and Newark public school teachers. GDL’s distance learning programs include video resources, PowerPoint presentations, interactive and real-time mapping activities, assessments and more. All resources were made available for free to NYC and Newark teachers.

In addition, our GDL team recently created a hands-on environmental STEM curriculum to accompany the documentary Point of No Return – the story of the first solar powered flight around the world. The curriculum was created through a partnership with Far West Films and is a separate curriculum that is not part of existing GDL offerings. Title 1 schools can access the film + curriculum for free.

Solar One and the Green Design Lab are committed to adapting and innovating through this crisis and into the economic and social changes that are sure to follow.

 

When Manhattan Was Mannahatta

Manahatta photo

Manahatta photoBefore the first Dutch colonists sailed through the Narrows into New York Harbor, Manhattan was still what the Lenape, who had already lived here for centuries, called Mannahatta. Times Square was a forest with a beaver pond. The Jacob K. Javits Federal Building, at Foley Square, was the site of an ancient mound of oyster middens.

Eric W. Sanderson is a senior conservation ecologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society, based at the Bronx Zoo. In 2009 he published “Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City.” The book geolocated old maps onto the modern city to reimagine a cornucopia of hills, beaches, fields and ponds.

In this virtual tour, NY Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman goes on a virtual tour with Mr., Sanderson, starting at the Staten Island Ferry terminal and imagining a September afternoon in 1609, around the time Henry Hudson sailed into NY Harbor.

Michael Kimmelman Aside from Hudson’s ship, what do we see?

Eric W. Sanderson Whales and porpoises. One of the earliest sketches we have of Manhattan shows a whale in the Hudson River. The charter of Trinity Church includes a provision specifically saying dead whales found on beaches in the province of New York are property of the church, which could use them to make oil and whale bone. So whales were clearly a meaningful part of the local economy and ecosystem.

What was the ecosystem?

Ecosystems, actually. Manhattan is something like one percent the size of Yellowstone. Yellowstone is 2.2 million acres and it has 66 ecosystems. Mannahatta had 55.

It’s an interesting thought exercise to imagine what might have happened had the United States been colonized from the West, instead of from the East. We might have decided to make Manhattan a national park. We would be coming to New York for an entirely different sort of wildlife.

You can read the rest of the interview/tour on the NY Times website here.

 

Solar One in the Time of Coronavirus

Park Spring Flower

Dear friends,

On behalf of the staff and Board of Solar One, I sincerely hope this email finds you and your families well and safe. In these unprecedented times, communication and continuity are more important than ever, and it’s in that spirit that I want to check in with you about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, as it now seems likely that this pause in normal life is not going to end anytime soon.

Like other organizations, our entire staff is working from home, having regular team and staff meetings via teleconferencing, and are working up plans to continue serving the communities that depend on us while keeping our staff, our students and trainees, and our partners from falling ill.

Like virtually every nonprofit in NYC and around the country, many of our programs have been cancelled because they require in-person delivery.  While this has had an effect on our budget, we are adapting and trying to transform our programs to meet a new reality: remote delivery.  This is particularly true of our Workforce Training and Green Design Lab programs, both of which serve populations (public school students and workforce trainees) who often bear a disproportionate brunt of hardship in a severe financial downturn.  To continue providing high-quality, practically useful information, education and training despite inhospitable conditions is a central part of Solar One’s mission.

Here are some of the ways we’ll be continuing our programs during this time of social distancing:

Our Green Design Lab team had been ramping up for our busiest Spring season ever with the delivery of our programs in classrooms throughout the city; understandably, those classes have been cancelled.  As the New York City Department of Education transitions to distance learning, our team of K-12 Educators is working to modify our hands-on lessons for a virtual learning environment. The GDL team hopes to be able to provide online environmental STEM curriculum and resources for NYC teachers and students that explore energy efficiency, climate change, and solar. Our Educators are also developing webinars and other interactive content to share with our networks.

At the same time, Stuyvesant Cove Park staff are also working with the GDL team to create virtual field trips, webinars and other topics that complement current school science and nature-based programming, while continuing to virtually manage our high school internship program, and creating and sharing free content on Instagram, with a focus on nature-based solutions to climate change, organic gardening and pollinator insects.

As with our GDL program, our Workforce Training program had classes fully booked for March, April and May.  Now that those classes have been cancelled, our Workforce team is working with our partners to establish ways to deliver webinar-based training for already scheduled April/May classes. We have already created an online curriculum for one of our NYSERDA projects and hope to be able to do this for other courses like OSHA (occupational safety) and NABCEP (certifications for renewable energy practitioners). Additionally, workforce instructors are looking at ways to adapt our regular green construction, building operations and other courses to a virtual delivery system.

Our CECP (NYSERDA Clean Energy Communities) program is continuing its emission reduction work with the NYC Mayor’s Office and Division of Energy Management remotely, helping with policy proposals and consulting with building owners and operators to get their buildings into compliance.

Here Comes Solar is continuing to deliver solar technical assistance services for high-impact solar projects in NYC. Our team is offering clients remote solar consultations, and we are working closely with our partners to modify our community solar outreach strategy to minimize face-to-face interactions. To join a community solar initiative, please fill out the form at herecomessolar.nyc and someone from our team will follow up in 1-2 business days.

As with all of you, we do not yet know when the ground will settle or when we will be able to resume in-person delivery of our programs.  We are planning for a long ride and will continue to keep up our communications with you through our weekly eNewsletter.  But, as you can see, we’re having no trouble keeping busy, and we’ll send out more info on what we’re doing programmatically as the situation changes.

Stay safe and healthy,

Chris Collins
Executive Director

 

Is the Spirit of Giving Contagious?

December 3, 2019

Today is Giving Tuesday, a coordinated effort of year-end giving that was started in 2011 to help counteract the overwhelming and exhausting consumerism and anxiety that often accompanies the demands of the holiday season. And while Giving Tuesday can itself seem overwhelming, the fact is that over the past eight years, it has been a tremendous success. From raising about $10 million in 2012 to as much as $400 million last year, the Giving Tuesday groundswell shows that the spirit of giving is contagious.

And it turns out that there’s a scientific basis for that: Giving has measurable effects on the brain, promoting both physical and mental health. According to research from the Cleveland Clinic, the benefits of charitable giving include:

Giving to a cause we are passionate about can also help soothe feelings of helplessness and stress, even in the face of crisis and uncertainty. It lifts us up out of ourselves and makes us part of something much bigger.

When you choose to make a gift to Solar One, you are supporting a clean energy revolution, innovative ways of teaching sustainability, the empowerment of environmental justice communities, and offering the hope of dignified employment to the formerly incarcerated and addicted. This Giving Tuesday, help yourself by helping the many students, teachers, trainees, and low-income residents who depend on Solar One’s programs to enrich their lives and improve their futures.

All gifts are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law, and gifts can be split into monthly donations.

Thank you in advance for your support, and thank you for being part of the Giving Tuesday community.

Chris Collins
Executive Director

 

An Innovative Solar One Program Empowers Vulnerable Communities with Resilient Solar + Storage

solar power

New York City, NY Through a program funded by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR), NYC nonprofit Solar One and its network of installers are helping volunteer emergency responders and community organizations keep the lights on during blackouts.  

solar powerWhether triggered by unprecedented storms, heatwaves, or wildfires, blackouts are becoming increasingly common and hazardous. New Yorkers who weathered Superstorm Sandy understand better than most how challenging disaster recovery can be when the grid fails. But thanks to a new approach to disaster recovery, a few NYC community centers are about to become clean, resilient power hubs.

These projects are led by Solar One, an NYC non-profit dedicated to bringing clean energy to under-served urban communities. Solar One has received U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant–Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding to implement the Solar Power and Battery Back-up Program for Community Facilities. Together with GOSR, qualified installers, and community leaders, this Solar One program builds resilience in front-line communities for the battle against climate change.

When the power goes out, grid-tied solar installations automatically shut down to protect utility line workers from excess power feeding back into the grid. While there are thousands of solar installations deployed on buildings in NYC, only a tiny fraction can use their solar power during blackouts due to this safety measure. When paired with batteries, however, solar can safely disconnect from the grid while still providing onsite back-up power. Battery adoption has been slow in NYC due to high costs and nebulous regulations, but following years of diligent project development, research, and technical advances, solar + storage installations are finally moving forward.

Here’s how it works. The Solar One team identifies which community facilities are the best candidates for energy storage installations. Building location, availability of outdoor space, vulnerability to flooding and blackouts, and other infrastructure considerations are all assessed. Solar One issues a Request for Proposals to installers for the most viable of these sites, aggregating sites for scalability and impact. Finally, Solar One contracts with the most qualified installer and site owner and then serves as a fiscal liaison with GOSR, facilitating the projects from contracting to commissioning and supporting them wherever possible.

The first of these pioneering projects will be installed by Solar Liberty at four community facilities in Brooklyn and the Bronx:

  • Birch Family Services (Brooklyn)
  • Flatlands Volunteer Ambulance Corps (Brooklyn)
  • Throggs Neck Volunteer Ambulance Corps (The Bronx)
  • Villa Maria Academy (The Bronx)

Once completed, these projects will provide reliable, renewable back-up power to the buildings during future blackouts, no matter how long they last. Each site will utilize this critical power supply according to its unique strengths. For example, in the case of Throggs Neck Volunteer Ambulance Corps, maintaining building functions during blackouts so it can respond to neighborhood emergencies will be invaluable.

The nearby Villa Maria Academy has been a community hub for over 130 years. Ravaged by Superstorm Sandy, the school is keenly aware of its precarious location on the shore of Long Island Sound. A solar power and battery back-up installation will help Villa Maria offer refuge for hundreds of people during emergencies, providing lighting, cooling, device charging, and basic food services.

School Principal Sr. Teresa Barton says:

“When Superstorm Sandy knocked out our power, we had no way of servicing our students and community for about a week. We are so thankful to the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery for providing us with the solar power and energy storage that is necessary to avoid a similar circumstance in the future. We are also excited to reduce our environmental impact by using renewable energy.”

These initial projects are paving the way for many more of their kind in the future, including a second round of installations slated for development in late 2020. And these projects don’t just present a new model for resilience in the face of extreme weather events – they also foster awareness and enthusiasm for urban solar + storage installations. That means energy cost savings for neighborhood organizations, more renewable energy in under-served communities, and tangible steps mitigating the effects of climate change.

If you are in the solar or storage industry and interested in these projects, please join Solar One’s webinar on Monday, November 18th  to learn more and discuss cultivating resilience in vulnerable communities. Please sign up here to join.

For more information contact:
Michael Barry
Solar One Communications Manager
(646) 576-5656
barry@solar1.org

 
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