JMU student Greg Miller shows Northumberland students how the blades of a wind turbine work | courtesy of Virginia Center for Wind Energy
For years, Jenny Christman tried to find a way to get a wind turbine to educate the students at Northumberland Middle and High School about wind power. The Northumberland County Public Schools instructional technology resource teacher and veteran science teacher of 27 years had tried before to secure a grant for a turbine, but with little success. Now, with help from the Wind for Schools project and the Virginia Center for Wind Energy at James Madison University, the students at Northumberland are learning about wind power first-hand from the newly-constructed turbine at their school.
Northumberland Middle and High School is participating in the Wind for Schools project through a $20,000 Recovery Act grant from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, funded by Department of Energy’s State Energy Program. Wind for Schools raises awareness in rural America about the benefits of wind energy while simultaneously developing a wind energy knowledge base in communities across the nation. The Northumberland wind turbine is the first Virginia school to build a wind turbine through the project.
“We would not have been able to do this without the grant -- there’s just no way,” Jenny told us in the days following its construction.
The general approach of the Wind for Schools project is to install small wind turbines at rural elementary and secondary schools while developing Wind Application Centers at higher education institutions. The Northumberland Middle and High School is collaborating with Rappahannock Community College and the Chesapeake Bay Governor's School, whose students act as wind energy consultants to Northumberland’s turbine. The college students also work on engineering projects in the wind energy field, preparing them to enter the wind workforce once they graduate.
Jenny considers herself a long-time supporter of wind power, and is excited to see the benefits the turbine will have on the rest of the Northumberland community. “It really does your heart good to find out there are people out there who really support clean energy and are willing to help you,” she said. “Having the wind turbine on our property will help everybody in our community learn about wind power. It’s the education value of the turbine that’s the reason for getting it the first place.”
Remy Luerssen, the Director of Outreach and Education for the Virginia Center for Wind Energy, helped facilitate Northumberland’s wind turbine installation. During the construction of the turbine last Friday, Remy and her team held an assembly for the students to teach them about the real-time data from the turbine that they are now able to observe in the classroom. The students then visited the turbine and discussed the science behind its placement and the energy it’s producing for the school.
For Jenny Christman, having this wind turbine at Northumberland means her students can experience the real-world application of science, which she hopes gets students interested in careers in science, technology, engineering and math -- a goal she shares with President Obama, who expressed the same sentiment in his 2011 State of the Union Address.