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The Gordon School

Wheels are turning

Gordon leads historic consortium serving students and sustainability

It is a classic Rhode Island elementary school field trip destination.


Slater Mill in downtown Pawtucket offers lessons in history as well as science.


Here, in 1793, workers began spinning yarn from raw cotton using the force of the river, earning the spot the title of "birthplace of the industrial revolution."


It's a revolution with a mixed legacy.


In October 2021, Gordon science faculty visited the neighborhood, along with Gordon's Chief Financial Officer and a host of educators from across the state.


They had no students with them.


They were there to learn about a quieter, more modern revolution.


The Pawtucket Hydroelectric Facility is three hundred yards downstream from Slater Mill.


The building opened in 1896 to provide power from steam and water, and it continues to provide clean, reliable electricity to the region, one of only three hundred hydropower projects nationwide certified as Low Impact.


For the past five years, Gordon's Chief Financial Officer Tom Cicatiello and the school's Buildings and Grounds Committee has been looking for a way to direct Gordon's energy spending to support a local, sustainable energy producer.


The Pawtucket Hydroelectric Facility could provide what they were looking for—and more.


Mr. Cicatiello worked to bring other educational institutions into the deal, ultimately bringing together six other independent Rhode Island schools, and industrial arts center the Steel Yard, in a consortium that forged a net metering agreement with the facility's owners.


It's an agreement that will help keep the facility providing clean, low impact power for the next twenty years.


The agreement will also provide students and teachers with a powerful classroom for real-world lessons in sustainable energy production and ecologically healthy community development.


For Gordon's youngest students, the oversized machinery will be an immediate connection.


For older students, there are lessons in engineering, physics, hydraulics, ecology and sustainability.


Along the way room for conversation about the benefits—and tradeoffs—involved in generating power in an urban environments.


The agreement was just announced yesterday.


No circuits have been completed yet, and no switches have been flipped.


No field trips have been scheduled, or webcams installed.


But for the Gordon faculty, the wheels have been turning all year.


More on the partnership on the website of Gravity Renewables, the owner of the Pawtucket Hydroelectric Facility

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