by Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Students line up to buy “sun-kissed” cookies and pretzels while new batches slowly bake in various types of sun ovens and parabolic solar cookers in the courtyard of La Mirada High School. Raising enough “dough” for the donation of solar ovens through Sun Ovens International — an organization that not only manufactures ovens but helps earthquake victims on Haiti — is the purpose of this five-day holiday season fundraiser, organized by the school’s Solar Energy Academy and the CTA Institute for Teaching’s Green Jobs Prep School project with the help of community partners.
The “school within a school” is part of the California Partnership Academy sponsored by the state Department of Education, and is one of 48 green academies in the state designed to incorporate academic and career technical education, business partnerships, mentoring, and internships.
Thanks in part to a grant from CTA’s Institute for Teaching (IFT), academy students are able to move scientific theory into practice and prepare for clean technology and renewable energy professions that combat climate change. In addition to IFT, the academy is partnered with Our1World Foundation, Plug In America, Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District Nutrition Services, and UC Irvine, which provides college interns.
“Haiti needs food, water, shelter and solar ovens,” says Norma Williamson, a Spanish teacher at the school who also serves as the academy’s grant author and program director. “The cookie sale helps academy students care about those less fortunate in other countries and also think about environmental concerns globally.”
Williamson, a member of the Teachers Association of the Norwalk-La Mirada Area, asked Cathy Lam of Our1World Foundation to bring her solar-baked cuisine and portable solar cooker to the bake sale. Lam works side by side with Williamson and other Solar Energy Academy teachers, students, classified employees, administrators, and UC Irvine intern Michael Weber, cooking and selling the delicious baked items to benefit those in need.
“Young people are our future,” says Lam. “Our population is approaching 7 billion, and we need to make alternative choices so students can understand there are alternative ways of cooking that are energy efficient. And students can help Haiti at the same time.”
Students in the academy have converted the school’s campus security golf cart and a 16-foot boat to run on solar power. They recently traveled to Lynwood with Williamson to offer solar-baked goodies to volunteers with GRID Alternatives who were installing 10 solar electric systems on 10 low-income homes, built by Habitat for Humanity. Students and teachers have also given presentations at Educating for Careers Conferences and other green summit meetings.
“The Green Jobs Prep School projects could not have been completed without the generous support of CTA members and IFT,” says Williamson. “And it is wonderful to use that generosity, in turn, to help others.”
For more information about CTA’s Institute for Teaching, visit www.teacherdrivenchange.org.