Smart Parks use the power of play today to generate a greener tomorrow.
About Your Organization
All Saints Catholic School
United States, CT, Norwalk
Country where this project is creating social impact
United States, CT, Norwalk, Fairfield County
Is your organization a
Non‐profit / NGO / Citizen sector organization
Your role in Education
The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with
How long has your organization been operating?
More than 5 years
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Select the stage that best applies to your solution
Growth (your pilot is up and running, and starting to expand)
How long has your solution been in operation?
Operating for less than a year
The Need: What problem are you trying to solve?
Global dependence on fossil fuels to generate energy has created a planetary environmental crisis. We need to develop creative, economically viable alternative energy sources. Young people will need to rethink our approach to energy. In order to lay the foundation for development of new energy technology, we must educate students about energy and provide ample opportunity for them to observe and experiment with various alternative energy sources throughout their academic careers. Abstract concepts, like energy, can be difficult for students to grasp in a traditional classroom setting. Students need fun, hands-on, long-term experience to enhance their understanding of energy.
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
We can empower children to solve the energy crisis. “Smart Parks” integrating energy elements into school playgrounds provide hundreds of hours of fun, hands-on exposure to energy concepts. For example, parks with solar panels, wind turbines and piezoelectric tiles allow students to observe alternative energy sources at work. Meters invite students to compare energy generated by each source under various conditions. Students can see how much energy the school uses (a LOT) and how much energy is generated on the park (not as much). Smart Parks double as outdoor classrooms where teachers can use inquiry-based activities that tie to National and State Science Curriculum to reinforce classroom lessons. Custom energy exhibits are created through collaboration with local universities and museums.
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities
In 2011, All Saints built a new and innovative science & energy playground which doubles as an outdoor classroom and serves as a model for similar Smart Parks throughout the world. The ASCS Smart Park provides students with informal experience with alternative energy sources and is tied to science and math curriculum through fun, inquiry-based activities. The Park includes playground equipment, like comparison slides and pendulum swings and alternative energy components, like piezoelectric tiles, solar panels and a wind turbine. Energy components are metered inviting students to observe and compare energy generated under various conditions. The Park is modular and easily replicable (i.e., another school can select any element and we will share the curriculum). We will collaborate with local museums to design custom “snap and go” exhibits that can move from school to school.
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others also working to address the needs you are and what differentiates you from them. What challenges could these players pose to your success or growth?
Discussions with several museum professionals and international playground equipment manufacturers have indicated that the ASCS Smart Park is the first science and energy school playground in the U.S. Our closest peers are science/children’s museums. Our model – building Smart Parks at schools – can be distinguished from a museum because students spend hundreds of hours every year using school playgrounds while students generally visit museums only once a year. As museums have enthusiastically supported the Smart Park model, we do not anticipate that they will pose a challenge to the growth of a worldwide movement to build Smart Parks.
Now that you have thought out your entry, help us pitch it.
Define your company, program, service, or product in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]
Smart Parks use the power of play today to generate a greener tomorrow.
Identify what is innovative about your solution in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]
Smart Parks use the power of play to open young people's minds to the limitless possibilities for tomorrow's energy solutions.
This Entry is about (Issues)
What has been the impact of your solution to date?
When the ASCS Smart Park opened, a seventh grade student pointed at the wind turbine asking, “What’s that?” After six months of daily exposure to the Park’s energy sources, all 500 All Saints’ students have been taught what a wind turbine is and generally understand how it harvests energy from the wind. Students “dance” on piezoelectric tiles at recess observing the tiles light up using energy created by their movements. Students participate in energy scavenger hunts, identifying ways of harvesting energy. Teachers formed a task force to leverage existing energy curriculum developed by the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund and develop additional inquiry-based activities. Stepping Stones Museum for Children and the Discovery Science Museum have agreed to collaborate on energy exhibits for the Park.
What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?
Over the next 1-3 years we plan to fully integrate the Smart Park into the curriculum, making classroom lessons, Park activities taught by teachers and informal play during recess seamless and consistent tools for fostering energy literacy and a deeper understanding of energy concepts. We will: (1) develop a custom curriculum; (2) train teachers; (3) sponsor an energy science fair on the Park and (4) collaborate with universities/museums to develop energy exhibits. We plan to broaden impact (reaching at least 5 schools) by hosting field trips for Norwalk Public School students and sharing our ideas/curriculum with schools around the world.
What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?
Securing funding is the primary barrier. We plan to overcome this barrier by leveraging existing energy curriculum from the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, and sharing all design ideas/curriculum with other schools. The ASCS Smart Park is replicable and modular (i.e., another school can select equipment that best fits its space and meets its needs and take the curriculum for that equipment). For example, a school can install one solar panel and use the solar curriculum. Energy exhibits will be designed to fit into a standard frame so that they can be moved from school to school.
Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
We will have a robust model Smart Park that is fully integrated into the Connecticut Core Science Curriculum for grades K-8.
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Design, fabricate and install educational signage and website content for QR code links.
Develop Inquiry-based Activity Guide. Review existing activities for Park and develop additional activities, as needed.
Design, fabricate and install at least one exhibit.
Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
We will have held a science fair on the Park, conducted a solar feasibility study and performed community outreach.
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Hold energy science fair on Park.
Track energy generated by solar panels, measure roof of school and conduct feasibility study for placing panels on roof.
Share Inquiry-based Activity guide with Superintendent of Norwalk Public Schools and invite students to Park for field trips.
Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world [125 words]
In 2010, we decided to build a much-needed playground at All Saints (for 20 years there was no playground – the students played on the unsafe blacktop parking lot). We began to research unique playgrounds and equipment. We found an article about an amazing project Ben Markham (Empower) was doing to design playground equipment (like a merry-go-round) that generates enough energy to light lanterns for remote villages in Africa that are “off the grid.” Although that equipment was not “market-ready” in the United States, we fell in love with the idea of educating children about energy through play. Further research led us to POWERleap, a company developing piezoelectric tiles, and an incredible engineer who helped us select and program our solar panels, wind turbine and meters.
Tell us about your partnerships
We have a strong partnership with Stepping Stones Museum for Children. The COO, Kevin Carter, and the Director of Exhibits, Sheri Cirfaldi, were involved throughout the project as conceptual partners. We also have a partnership with the Discovery Science Museum and CL&P for curriculum development. We stay in close contact with our large donors, TK Ventures and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section? [75 words]
We have a committee of extremely dedicated parents who oversee the maintenance and continued development of the Park. A task force of teachers, chaired by Erin Snow, the head of the Science Department, is actively working with CL&P and the Discovery Museum to develop activities for the Park’s Inquiry-based Activity Guide. We have a team of volunteer builders to assist with installation of exhibits and signage.
Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list