WATSON, LA (WAFB) - North Live Oak Elementary, in Livingston Parish, was built less than ten years ago. It holds 900 students and already they're adding on to it, but not because they've run out of space.
Tonya Dean, a fourth grade teacher at the school, says Friday when the students left the school they saw some panels going up, but had no idea what they were.
"They were asking 'What are the mirrors going on top of the school for? What are those big windows?'" Dean said.
The solar panels are part of a project to teach students about conservation.
"We can teach them about solar panels, but until they see them and how they work, how they apply it's just not something that is important to them," said another teacher, Jamie Griffin.
Both Griffin and Dean came up with the idea to install the solar panels. The two teachers are graduate students at Southeastern Louisiana University. They will finish in December with a Masters in Administration and Leadership, but needed to do a project to complete the requirements for the degree.
As math and science teachers, they picked a project that could be incorporated into several subject areas.
"We can look at kilowatt hours produced on our monitoring system and from there use the current rate of electricity, which is an average nine cents a kilowatt hour, and create a math problem out of that," said Griffin.
During a class Monday afternoon, Griffin pulled up a monitoring site that shows how much energy the panels are helping conserve throughout the day.
"If it's 76.9 kilowatt hours, what could I do to figure out how much money I've saved?" Griffin asked the class.
On average, the panels should save about $600 annually.
A Baton Rouge company called Optimize Solar installed the solar panels. They also helped share the cost of the project. Griffin and Dean say they are hoping to have more installed during the year.
Dean says their hope is that teachers will use the monitoring site to keep all the children connected to the project. There are also plans to use this project to teach other lessons in saving. Griffin says October will be about alternative energy, November about recycling and water conservation in April. A big Earth Day celebration is being planned to end the studies, next year.
Along the way student will be taught little tips that will stick with them for a lifetime. For example, Griffin says recycling a single aluminum can will save enough energy to run a television for ten hours.
What they are also hoping, students will learn the value of saving and take home what they learn and teach their parents.
So far, in the five days the solar panels have been on the school, Griffin says according to the monitoring program, they've saved enough energy to power two homes.