Pam Ulicny’s students are capturing lightening in a bottle. Using solar energy kits and curriculum she created, students in the heart of coal country are bringing photovoltaic energy to peers around the world through online tutorials.
In 2013, Pam developed a STEM curriculum for her students to make solar powered lanterns using an upcycled glass or plastic jar. She then manufactured the lanterns as kits accompanied by lab manuals and supplemental activities, which she also wrote. Two years later on a Fund for Teachers fellowship, Pam introduced the project to impoverished youth in South Africa to help them learn STEM/business skills, increase hours of productivity, and eliminate fire hazards related to kerosene lanterns.
Building on Pam’s experiences, her students at Tri-Valley Jr/Sr High in Hegins, PA, now serve as online ambassadors for alternative energy. They regularly host Skype sessions with classrooms across America, providing solar lantern construction tips and educational input for spinoff humanitarian projects. Internationally, students in South Africa, Mali and Nicaragua now build solar lanterns after watching instructional videos Pam’s students research and produce.
“Working on the solar lantern project teaches us not only about solar energy and electricity, but it also helps us to understand the situations people in third world countries are dealing with and appreciate what we have more,” said one student.
The social business enterprise Pam developed to empower South African youth continues to grow, as well. Kwelanga Solar recently hosted its first Cape Town workshop, combining construction of solar lanterns with an English class around the theme of peace. Pam helped secure a $10,000 grant to cover hard costs associated with supplies.
“My fellowship learning in STEM applications, social entrepreneurship and sustainability efforts now impacts students in four countries,” said Pam. “Fund for Teachers helped me accomplish my mission as a teacher: To do the most good and give my students the best tools to succeed.”
For more information on Pam’s fellowship, visit the blog she maintained throughout her time in South Africa.