A Northland school is celebrating being the only one in the country to be granted a $20,000 solar panel package to power it up and help the students learn about new technology.

Otamatea High School will soon be harnessing the power of the sun, thanks to a solar panel package from the new non-profit, Genesis School-gen Trust.

Based at Maungaturoto, the school is one of the first to receive STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) equipment from the trust's first round of funding.

More than 400 schools applied for STEM packages from the trust, which was set up by Genesis to provide schools with solar, science, technology, engineering and mathematics equipment to help rangatahi (young people) solve real-world problems. Only one school was granted solar panels.


Otamatea principal Rachel Clothier-Simmonds said the school was fortunate to have staff who were passionate about giving students authentic learning experiences.

"This solar equipment package will help engage our students in real-world learning. We are already making plans to create a new cross-curricular programme that will use the solar panel equipment, together with the data it generates, to explore science, mathematics, technology, business economics and sustainability topics."

Clothier-Simmonds said the award was a huge win for an isolated, rural school with limited resources.

Deputy Principal Dirk Smyth said the school's primary motivation for seeking solar equipment was to allow educators to develop integrated programmes for students, and to "raise awareness of sustainability and help involve and educate our community on the importance of investing in renewable energy resources".

"Environmental sustainability is an important issue for New Zealand and we need our students to be engaged in a meaningful way."

A date for installation of the solar panels is still being worked out.

Schools across the country applied for funding from an initial pool of $50,000. Genesis School-gen Trust chair Lee Mauger said Otamatea High School's interest in wanting to involve and educate the community on the importance of renewable energy made its application stand out.

"We saw in Otamatea's application a real desire to engage in learning that would be relevant to the students' lives and their communities. We also liked their focus on engaging more girls and Māori in STEM subjects, because those two groups are under-represented in STEM subjects and careers."


The Genesis School-gen trustees, including education, IT and energy-generation experts, determined which schools receive equipment packages.