Meet the man who’s turning students into changemakers
Not many schools in Dubai can claim to provide courses, competitions and extracurricular activities that prepare students to transition to an economy led by clean technology, nor can they count a Chief Star Organizer amongst their faculty. Dunecrest American School is truly a world apart.
Mother, Baby & Child caught up with Adam Hall, Middle School Science Teacher and Chief Star Organiser to learn how and why he combines his roles as educator and impact driven social entrepreneur.
Adam, can you tell us a bit about your professional background and work with schools?
I have always been passionate about science and its ability to solve problems and improve life on earth. In my early career I worked in sales and marketing for some of the trailblazers in the renewable energy/social impact space, like Renewable Choice Energy, Clif Bar and recycOil.
I was then provided with an opportunity to help run Dr. Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Programme at Shanghai American School. Roots & Shoots is an umbrella organisation that empowers youth to affect positive changes in their communities by providing organisational and networking tools, as well as amplifying each group’s mission and needs to foster collaboration and innovation.
Through Roots & Shoots, I was able to participate in Dr. Jane Goodall’s Million Trees Project (MTP) in Inner Mongolia. In this effort, Dr. Jane Goodall realised that forests were vital for all life on Earth – from their unique role in our ecosystems as food and habitats, to their critical role in ridding the atmosphere of greenhouse gasses. MTP sought to mobilise students and the private sector to conserve, restore and grow a million trees. The initiative was so successful, it is now the Trillion Trees Project! This experience really inspired and motivated me. I looked at the world and my skill set and considered what I could do to help improve the planet. This is how the Million Solar Stars Project was born.
What is the Million Solar Stars concept and how does the Million Solar Stars Science Course at Dunecrest incorporate this?
The aim of the Million Solar Stars organisation is to engage one million students in the process of scaling up solar energy at 100% of schools globally.
Esol Education, Dunecrest’s parent company, believed in my vision. They hired me in Dubai in 2015 and gave me the platform to create a hybrid science-social impact course that harnessed students’ natural creativity, curiosity and empathy and provided them with the technical know how, social awareness and leadership tools to be able to understand the need for clean energy and how to deliver it via solar power.
What’s been even more rewarding is Esol Education’s authenticity. They not only allowed the platform to develop this course, but they have also shown their commitment to being leaders in the Million Solar Stars movement by enabling me to collaborate with the students themselves to bring solar power to our family of schools.
Solar Power results from the transformation of light energy into electrical energy using semiconductor materials that exhibit the photovoltaic effect. Photovoltaics is considered part of Physics. We begin our Million Solar Stars (MSS) course by looking at schools and understanding how their energy requirements are met today, what type of costs are incurred in terms of actual expenses and maintenance as well as the “cost” of greenhouse gas emissions generated when we source energy from fossil fuels.
We then study the principles behind the photovoltaic effect and how solar panels convert light into electrical energy. Students begin working with solar panels through basic solar sensors. From there they work with Namene Solar to build portable solar lights for light impoverished communities in Kenya. Students begin to understand the social connection with solar and the problems that can be solved in bringing light to communities in terms of health, safety and increased productivity in the form of work and education.
As a next step, they begin to apply what they know to design and build solar cars and boats. Then they work in TinkerCAD and Minecraft Education to evaluate, model, pilot and commercially scale solar installations at the Dunecrest Campus, and to carry out top-level feasibility studies in terms of capital costs, running expenses and return on investment.
Is your child a changemaker? Are they interested in clean tech or high impact social entrepreneurship? Join Dunecrest’s Virtual Open House on May 4th at 10am on Zoom to find out more:
How does the opportunity to develop leadership in students manifest itself on the Million Solar Stars Science Course?
Dunecrest American School follows a trans-disciplinary, project-based approach to learning, particularly in Early Childhood and Elementary School. Further, via our CREST foundational value matrix: Creativity Respect Excellence Service Teamwork, we are always supporting community and social impact initiatives.
The students in my MSS Middle School are our resident solar experts. As such when grade 3 students had the opportunity to create solar cars for a solar derby, it was actually my grade 7-8 MSS solar students who helped the younger ones through the design thinking process in terms of the car design and solar panels. These older students also managed the solar race derby itself from A-Z.
Finally, it’s the students rather than me who are meeting with the Dunecrest’s Board of Directors to present their feasibility studies and designs. It’s the students who are contacting DEWA to understand our electric bills or the solar companies to ask for roof top analyses and quotes for solar installations. I am there to support the kids but this course is about giving them the tools to develop STEAM leadership skills and trial authentic career opportunities.
What learnings and skills can students achieve through this course at Dunecrest American School?
What I love about this course is that the knowledge and skills they acquire can immediately be tested and put into action. Further, through our various professional alliances, challenges and service in action initiatives, students develop a tangible understanding of why clean technology is so vital to our future and how solar can play a role in improving people’s quality of life and financial outcomes.
More than any other course I’ve seen, MSS really leaves students with a sense of accomplishment. Their research, proposals, calculations and efforts are what make the difference in communities where MSS projects have taken root – from the UAE to the US, to China and Sub-Saharan Africa. As students transform into Solar Stars, and as conventionally powered schools transform into solar-powered schools, we have the opportunity to significantly reduce our carbon foot-print as a global community.
At my first Esol school, as part of the Million Solar Stars curriculum, I worked with students to install a 600 kilowatt solar installation. This was a massive undertaking, but ultimately my students and I achieved solar success. For the next 25-30 years, a significant percentage of the school’s electricity will be generated by clean, renewable energy.
Since then, I have brought the Million Solar Stars Middle School Science Course and mission to both Dunecrest American School and Fairgreen International School. Presently I work with students in both schools to design Solar Star Challenges and evaluate the feasibility of solar installations at the respective school campuses. Our aim is to expand this not only to Esol’s other 8 schools, but also to schools throughout the UAE, the US and beyond. This is very powerful stuff!
Adam, what outcome would you like to see as a result of students completing the course?
I love the idea of sparking interest in clean energy and seeding ways for my students to find their passion. MSS is an elective course. By default the students who choose MSS have an interest in social impact initiatives and clean technology. I get a real sense of accomplishment when I see that spark. I know I am helping educate and scaffold the world’s future leaders.
While not all of them will go on to become clean tech engineers, there are those who will be politicians, others who will be business people and others who work in product design and marketing industries. If I have done my job, they will make more sustainable choices and will collaborate with stake-holders, which will always include members of the community and their future generations.