In the Community: Taking Solar Lights Into Classrooms

Though we’ve spanned the globe with our solar lights - from Puerto Rico to Kenya and beyond - there’s one place where we realized we’d never gone… The classroom!  

When we launched our one-of-a-kind Build Your Own Luci (BYOL) kit in 2017, we always envisioned it as a great way for kids to explore STEM-related activities and opportunities. Then our customer support team started getting emails from teachers who talked about having used the BYOL in their classrooms to talk about solar energy.

As a New York City-based company, MPOWERD  began to think about how our own employees could engage with local students about solar power and   clean energy. That’s when Cynthia McKnight, President of the PTA at Dock Street School,   contacted us. The STEAM-focused middle school has robust initiatives in place to engage with their local community - and they were just down the block from   us! After hearing about what we do, they invited us to   come in for a period of Technology class to teach the students about solar energy. 

The verdict: Teachers loved the BYOL kit! It gave them the perfect opportunity to talk about solar energy in a way that engaged students’ engineering and critical thinking skills. With that in mind, we partnered with MSU Denver to create a base curriculum that could be applied to K - 12 classrooms. 

As a New York City-based company, MPOWERD began to think about how our own employees could engage with local students about solar power and clean energy. That’s when Cynthia McKnight, President of the PTA at Dock Street School, contacted us. The STEAM-focused middle school has robust initiatives in place to engage with their local community - and they were just down the block from us! After hearing about what we do, they invited us to come in for a period of Technology class to teach the students about solar energy.

“The workshop was important for us as a school too because we are trying to build our own capacity to create fruitful partnerships with local DUMBO businesses,” Dock Street School Technology teacher Sebastian Braithwaite said, “The team really got that part of it and helped us build our capacity to engage with our local professional community.”  
Now it was go time. A group of MPOWERD employees put together a pilot lesson plan with the idea that, if all went well, the company would launch a local education initiative for NYC schools.  

We began by introducing the team and explaining day-to-day operations in each role. Then we posed a scenario: A huge storm has hit Brooklyn and the students are trapped in school due to flooding! Without electricity, the students are tasked with designing a product that will be useful for surviving over the course of the next few days. With a few guiding questions, the kids were given time to design and discuss their inventions. 

Then, the cool part. We paired up the students and handed out our BYOL kits. They had no problem figuring out the mechanics of it all and were giddy when their hard work paid off in the form of glowing lights popping up around the classroom.

The question section at the end of the lesson showed just how invested the kids were in the project: They asked about the   company, solar energy, Luci lights, the list  went on!  

“The team put together an activity that totally engaged the kids on so many levels,” Braithwaite said after the MPOWERD visit. “They were able to explore science and engineering concepts   and the design process in a really meaningful social context that spanned events in our neighborhood and around the world… Our kids left the activity feeling like their ideas were important and connected to a bigger picture.”  

Encouraged by the positive feedback we received, we decided to officially launch our local education initiative called ENLIGHTEN. This initiative will take us across the city to classrooms of varying grades and sizes. Guided by our adaptive pilot lesson plan, we’re excited to take our education channel to the next level. 

“We developed the BYOL kit to encourage young people to stoke their curiosity, engage their minds, and develop critical thinking skills,” MPOWERD Head of Education Joe Rappaport said. “We see a bright future for the program, especially as we continue to develop more STEM-focused products and designs.”

Though BYOL was the first of our educationally focused products, it’s certainly not the last.  

As we tour local schools in NYC, we can’t wait to talk to students about the future of solar energy, the mechanics behind it, and watch their curiosity grow!

Interested in getting your school or STEM-focused foundation involved? Contact Joe for more details.