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Welcome to the Sonoma County Gazette ARCHIVE of PAST EDITIONS. Our NEW WEBSITE is up and running, so GazExtra is serving as your path to archived articles. Thanks for being part of our Sonoma County community...stay in touch...e-mail me - VESTA

Friday, August 5, 2011

Raising GREEN Children

By Natalie de Renzy
With so many stories about our California schools under fire and under-funded, we thought we’d shine the light where there are rays of hope - this time literally - with solar.

Real Goods Solar is on a mission and it’s anything but business as usual. Over the past 33 years their objective has been to educate the public about the benefits of renewable energy and to empower people to reduce their ecological footprint while saving money. Today they are taking this one step further, helping schools educate students about renewable energy while raising some much needed funds through their Solar for Schools program.

Woodland Star is one of a number of schools, from elementary to high school, in Sonoma County that has joined Real Goods in generating awareness about solar, while raising funds for the school as a Community Solar Partner. “Any school can be a Community Solar Partner. We have created a unique partnership where parents, faculty or anyone who wants to support a particular school can go solar with Real Goods and we will donate $500 to the school,” notes Anthony Abaté, Real Goods Solar Power Consultant and Woodland Star parent. Of course the funds are great for the school, but there are other benefits as well. Real Goods will donate books, solar education tools, free online classes for teachers and students offered by the Solar Living Institute, and even host field trips to the Solar Living Center in Hopland, CA.

On Friday, May 20th, a group of students from Woodland Star Charter School in Sonoma made an eco-pilgrimage of sorts to the Solar Living Center and learned that “sustainability” isn’t just an environmental word - it’s an abundant way of life. A group of thirteen students, one teacher and three parents received a free tour of the grounds of the Solar Living Center. Some of the highlights of the tour included learning how yurts and straw bail houses are constructed, touring the picturesque gardens and ponds, playing on the solar-powered carousel and visiting the “memorial car grove,” where trees grow through cars in a powerful display of nature reclaiming its glory. After the tour, the students spent the remainder of the afternoon building solar-powered boats. Their teacher, Philip Stone, comments, “The kids thought the straw-bale house was really cool, but they truly enjoyed tinkering and figuring out how to make the solar-powered boats move in the water. That alone was worth the trip.” One of the Woodland Star parents adds, “I was impressed by how creative and resourceful the kids were with this project. They really had to think outside the box.” The young solar engineers used an array of solar powered propulsion - jet, water, wind - and a lot of imagination.

In a few short years, these young adults will be making decisions regarding their future careers, so it may feel like play, but toying with renewable energy is the best way to see the future in action. It may intrigue them enough to impact their career path or simply shape their views of renewable energy as future consumers and voters.

A paradigm shift is occurring in how we view the earth’s resources, and there’s no better catalyst than our youth. “I grew up thinking that pollution and waste were necessary evils that I was powerless against,” observes one Woodland Star parent. “As an adult it becomes more difficult to change established ways of thinking, even if they are faulty. The best thing we can do is enlighten children, the younger the better, about more environmentally responsible choices. We can’t just charge mom and dad with this responsibility; businesses and schools should also get involved.”

If you are interested in going solar in support of a local school, would like to set up a Community Solar Partnership to help your school fundraise, or are interested in solar learning tools, please contact Real Goods at 1.888.567.6527, or Anthony Abaté directly at (707) 331-9679. You may also visit the website at

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