BOISE, Idaho — The lessons in one 4th grade class at Trail Winds Elementary are partially powered by the sun.  On a clear day, clean, renewable energy is not only helping to power Trail Winds Elementary, but it’s also empowering the students there.

Karen Palazzolo had a bright idea to apply for a grant from Idaho Power.  That grant helped with the installation and activation of solar panels on top of the school this past spring.  Now that the panels are working, it’s making lightbulbs go on all around the classroom, in more ways than one.

"I thought it would be great if we could offset our energy use,” says Palazzolo.

The panels generate around 5,600 kWh of clean, renewable energy each year.  “It's not a ton, but it helps.  Every little bit helps,” says Palazzolo.  

They’re generating power and illuminating lessons in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

While the panels are soaking up some rays, the kids are busy building their own solar-powered models.  

“It was like "poof!" ideas were flying everywhere!  They were hooking the batteries up along with the solar panels or without the solar panels.  They figured out they could make different connections, using the wires different ways,” says Palazzolo.

It's some powerful thinking, powered by solar panels.  

“I guess my overriding motivation is to have the kids think about their world and the impact they have, and the choices they make,” Palazzolo says.

Palazzolo also received a grant from CapEd Credit Union to put a kiosk display in the office, which shows the progress of the solar panels.  She is also able to use that data in her classroom for lessons and activities.

We feature an Innovative Educator every Monday here on Today's Morning News.  

If there's a teacher you would like to nominate, you can email us at innovativeeducator@ktvb.com.