Living Green: Florida Green School awards

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SARASOTA COUNTY - The Florida sunshine is helping some very bright students learn more about science and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has taken notice. The agency has named a Pine View class as a finalist in its Florida Green School awards.

The solar panels have become a normal sight at Pine View School in Osprey. Normal, because science teacher Neal Gleitz believes younger students learn at an early age, the sun makes electricity. It's not the future, it's happening now. This solar array produces power for the school.

For the older students, Gleitz came up with a unique way to teach them about using the sun's energy. "What I had the students do is to use a smaller solar panel to make a smaller model of what we have behind us here and that's how I teach them about it and what better way to relate to teenagers than to have them do something with their cell phone, so we made solar powered cell phone chargers," says Gleitz.

These students took it one step further. Pine View seniors Mark Allseits, Happy Hale and Tommy Scarpinato built a solar powered laptop charger outside the school's media center. "The big part for me that really impacted me was when I figured out that I could do this myself, it didn't require a special degree, it didn't require a lot of training, its just a matter of if you can follow instructions and have a general idea of how a solar panel works, you can put it together and use it," says Hale.

And they hope it will inspire other students as well. "I had personally no idea that, like I said we would be able to do something that would help the school with solar energy, so maybe this will get them started at an earlier age seeing this and they'll realize what they can do for the school or the whole community," says Scarpinato.

The DEP Awards happen later this month in West Palm Beach. But its clear Pine View and its science students are already winners in using the abundant energy that comes from the sun.