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Youth in New London construct solar panels for community's storied theater

Jakson Martens, 13, from left, Alisha Engelberkt, 13, and Tyson Hanson, 13, build passive solar panels Tuesday at New London-Spicer High School. The panels will be installed at New London's Little Theatre. John Duevel, not pictured, is the owner of Three Seasons and More in Willmar and is leading the students in their effort. Duevel also built solar panels at Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in rural Spicer. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

With materials measured and cut, and power tools in hand, members of the New London-Spicer Youth Energy Summit began building solar panels Tuesday at NLS Middle School.

The panels will help heat the Little Theatre in New London, part of a continuing effort by summit members to make the building increasingly energy efficient. In recent years, summit members, eighth-grade students at NLS, have also installed "green" insulation and compact fluorescent lighting at the theater.

Teresa Copley is an NLS teacher who leads the gifted and talented pull-out class where summit members work on the theater project. She said the students have attended a summit event in Marshall and a winter workshop at Prairie Woods.

John Duevel, owner of Three Seasons & More in Willmar, designed the panels, which are similar to those he built to heat the climbing wall area at Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in rural Spicer.

As he worked with the students Tuesday, Duevel said some adults aren't going to change their mind about alternative forms of energy. That's why it's important to show young people what technologies like solar can do, he said.

A $5,000 grant from the Minnesota Clean Energy Resource Teams is funding the project.