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Program teaches Pennsylvania teachers about solar

Citizen Power trains teachersCitizen Power announced this week that it has trained its 1,000th Pennsylvania teacher in solar and other renewable energy applications and energy efficiency practices.

The nonprofit conducts free training sessions for teachers so they can take lessons and free tools and equipment back to their classrooms and introduce students to energy efficiency and renewable energy.

“We know some of the things we do are likely to very quickly be passed onto parents,” said Citizen Power spokesman Titus North. He has an 11-year-old daughter who would certainly share what she learned about energy efficiency and solar power at school and bring it home with her.

The organization was created in the 1990s to promote environmental and consumer interests, North said. The organization’s founders discovered that most of the policy makers weren’t well-versed in the science behind energy issues and renewable energy. That’s when the organization began reaching out to teachers.

“By going to teachers, we figured we would be able to reach hundreds of thousands of children,” North said. Those children would not only grow into more educated adults, they would also pass a lot of the information along to their parents.

The training programs teaches teachers about the science behind renewable energy and provides them with small windmills and solar panel kits they can build with students so kids can see how those renewable energy resources work.

Teachers also do a mini energy efficiency audit during the training and show their students how to do the same. That’s one that kids frequently take home with them to parents, North said. “A lot of what we do is really fun,” he said.

Citizen Power conducts 12 to 13 teacher workshops a year. And the program has been extra popular the last few years since Pennsylvania slashed $860 million from school budgets. Since the workshops are free and count toward teachers’ continuing education credits required for renewing accreditation, more have been participating.

North said some schools have had trouble letting teachers go for the free program because they can’t even afford to hire substitutes. To make it easier on schools, Citizen Power has been helping to pay for substitutes on a case-by-case basis.

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