Throwing Solar Shade®

Throwing Solar Shade®

Throwing Solar Shade® is an innovative program of citizen science that unites high school students from across Virginia in a hands-on initiative to reduce surface temperatures in local communities. Developed in partnership with leading climatologist Jeremy Hoffman, PhD and the School of Education at Virginia Commonwealth University, the program is available to Secure Solar Futures customers at K-12 schools that have gone solar.

An image showing urban heat islands from Dr. Jeremy Hoffman’s study of urban heating in Richmond, VA.

Involving both research and implementation, Throwing Solar Shade® builds on Dr. Hoffman’s work to study and mitigate the urban heat-island effect in the city of Richmond, called Throwing Shade RVA.

The Science Museum in conjunction with the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project provided a curriculum compliant with Virginia Standards of Learning and trained teachers in its use. Under those teachers’ direction, students worked in project-based teams to research local issues and possible solutions for potential risks related to heat islands, climate, and the benefits of solar energy. 

Launched as a pilot program in 2019 with two school divisions, Richmond and Augusta County, Throwing Solar Shade paused during the pandemic. On its return in 2022, the program was expanded to an innovative partnership of one independent school, the Collegiate School in Richmond, and four public school divisions across Virginia: Richmond City Public Schools, Augusta County Public Schools, Lee County Public Schools, and Wise County Public Schools. At the end of the program, students from all schools had the chance to meet in person and share what they had learned in person at the Science Museum of Virginia.

Thermal image of Richmond’s Linwood Holton Elementary School roof and solar panels produced by Secure Solar Futures drone outfitted with a high resolution infrared scanner. Students can use creative and critical thinking skills to analyze this thermal imagery.

Throwing Solar Shade has received praise from education experts in the public and private sectors. For example:

The Throwing Solar Shade 10-week program enabled over 40 high school students to enhance their STEM learning and increase their 5 C’s (communication, citizenship, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity) won rave reviews from students, teachers, and school administrators for the quality of program, as attested by a third-party evaluation team from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Elizabeth Walker Green, Virginia State Director, U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Rural Development

I can verify that Throwing Solar Shade is the most innovative, applicable, and exciting curriculum I have seen to engage students in clean energy, climate science, and related topics.

Tish Tablan, Program Director, Generation 180
Emily Betts, science teacher at Open High School in Richmond, visits Huguenot High School with Secure Futures staff and her class.
Emily Betts, science teacher at Open High School in Richmond, visits Huguenot High School with Secure Futures staff and her class.

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Sample Projects

  • Students take a drone photo of themselves as they fly the craft above a school in Augusta County, Virginia.

    Augusta County Schools

    A curriculum that evolves with the sun in Augusta


    Solar panels on campus have helped Augusta County’s schools integrate clean energy into their curricula through the Throwing Solar Shade® program.

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  • Solar panels are seen on multiple parts of the roof on a Richmond City Schools campus.

    Richmond City Schools

    Seeing the future in Virginia’s capital

    2.87 MEGAWATTS

    Along with the installation of solar panels on 10 campuses, Richmond Public Schools received a $100,000 grant from the RVA Solar Fund.

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