Schneider Electric’s approach to school transformation doesn’t end once the dust settles on construction projects. More than just infrastructure, we make sure our work with schools also opens the door for endless student engagement opportunities —including STEAM and career readiness curriculums, interactive renewable energy installations, and expanding hands-on learning programs.
These programs are made possible via our most common funding model, energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs). ESPCs allow us to help public schools overcome their biggest roadblock: limited budgets. A lack of funding makes it challenging for districts to afford upkeep on school buildings, let alone invest in new educational programs. But ESPCs work by upgrading building systems (like lighting, HVAC, plumbing, building envelopes and more) to significantly cut energy use and subsequently save school districts millions on utility bills. These savings are then reinvested into high-value projects.
The result is a multi-benefit capital improvement plan that not only addresses infrastructure issues, such as wiping out deferred maintenance backlogs, but also supports more innovative goals, such as creating hands-on learning environments that create excitement about green energy, STEAM and sustainability. Read on to see some of the stories of student engagement programs we’ve created with our K-12 education clients.
Hands-on learning opportunities create tangible student engagement
We know that student engagement is higher when kids can collaborate with each other and get hands-on with learning. That’s why Schneider Electric is eager to partner with our K-12 clients to create custom, hands-on learning events— including Earth Day celebrations, tree plantings, interactive displays on energy usage, and solar battery demonstrations.
We also host a program called Conserve My Planet, a behavioral modification program that aims to motivate students, teachers and staff to take an active role in their school’s sustainability initiatives. This program makes it fun and easy for students and staff to see the impact of their energy-saving actions in real time.
Building a STEAM Lab in a cash-strapped school district
Blount County Schools, a district in rural Alabama, was able to generate $14.6 million in energy and operational savings as part of their comprehensive facility modernization project. In addition to upgrading school infrastructure, the district enhanced student programming and curriculum. Blount was able to introduce nationally recognized STEMscopes™ curriculum, a Schneider Electric partner, for their early elementary students, while also establishing an advanced STEAM Lab for older students featuring robotics, 3D printing and coding courses.
Blount County’s teachers were given the lesson plans and training necessary to teach this new STEAM focused material, plus credit towards any continuing education or graduate school programs. This forward-thinking project not only supported great educational outcomes for Blount’s students, but also demonstrated the unique long-term value of undertaking the ESPC to their local community.
Engineering Job Shadowing promotes career readiness
Our infrastructure modernization projects put real life engineers and energy professionals to work inside schools. Teachers can do an Engineering Job Shadow Day to show students real-world applications of what they teach in the classroom, and to show actual professionals using those skills right on campus. This kind of first-hand learning can open students’ eyes to a broad array of opportunities they may not have considered and spark an interest in engineering or energy, which could lead to exciting future career paths.
Quitman County Schools Superintendent, Victoria L. Harris, Ed.S. saw how much her students benefitted from this program. “We’re always looking for ways to expand our STEM curriculum so when we found out Schneider Electric offered this [learning] opportunity we couldn’t have been happier,” she said. “The fact that it was part of our energy efficiency savings program was just icing on the cake.
Advocating for women in STEAM across the US
Research shows that women are significantly underrepresented in many STEAM fields. Women in the United States represented only 26 percent of computer and mathematical occupations and only 14 percent of architecture and engineering occupations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Despite these statistics, girls have proven time and again that they have the foundational knowledge and aptitude to be successful in STEAM fields.
Schneider Electric recognizes the value we can provide to schools with student engagement opportunities, as well as the importance of inspiring the next generation of leaders. To support more women entering this field, we regularly host regional events across the country like the Girls in STEAM Empowerment Conference. These events invite students and teachers to attend a day of activities centered on encouraging girls to pursue careers in STEAM.
A new robotics team for the next generation of STEAM professionals
A recent collaboration with Clarksdale Municipal School District opened exciting new avenues for hands-on learning: a robotics lab. Through the financial support and encouragement of Schneider Electric’s experts, Clarksdale was able to form one of Mississippi’s first robotics teams, leading to two student competitors placing in the global top 50 at their first tournament!
Our engineers also worked with the district to provide solar car racing events, guest lectures on renewable energy, and STEAM labs, all of which have given Clarksdale’s science classes an extra boost by providing hands-on technology experience. Students will have more hands-on technology experience as a key component of their curriculum for years to come, turning science into a tangible experience.
Creating (and funding) unique student engagement programs
Beyond providing safer, more modern environments for learning, schools should view energy and facility improvement projects as a unique opportunity to inspire their students. As your infrastructure modernization partner, Schneider Electric is poised and ready to assist district leaders with creating engaging programs for student engagement.