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Solar Education

Posted by Asher Budwig on
Solar Education

Introduction 

One of our ambitions at Next Day Solar, was to share our knowledge with younger generations, after all they will be the one's that will be cleaning up the mess we have made. One of the ways we can all live more sustainably is generating and using our own power, reducing our reliance on the grid, which, in-turn will reduce the amount of fossil fuels being burnt, and the number of power plants being created. If homes in 10 years time generate their own energy, think of how much copper would be saved when new homes are built, reducing any requirement to be connected to the grid ! 

Below you'll find some useful lesson content/structure if you are looking to run a similar session on teaching youngsters about solar energy. 

Electric Dynamo

Clean sheet of paper... 

We began assuming those I was talking to new absolutely nothing about electricity, let alone solar energy. 

Introduction (ages 4 and upwards) 

For younger children I usually start with a wind turbine in my hand, which is powered using a solar panel, using a handy torch I am able to demonstrate 'magic' by making the wind turbine spin with only the power of light. This is a good way to dive into energy and electricity. A few easy questions such as (what is making the propellor spin) can be helpful. 

 

From here, we start to talk about electricity, what do we use when we wake up in the morning ? what makes the lights shine, what else does electricity power. 

Electricity

Now we've introduced the concept of energy, I start to discuss how electricity gets to the house. I use a large gauge DC cable, with red and black covers to illustrate the principle. 

From here the discussion moves to how energy is made, most children will talk about static/friction/rubbing from things like jumping on a trampoline, or rubbing a balloon. I like to talk about power stations, nuclear, wind, hydro as places that energy is made. We then move on and talk about the dirtier means of making electricity such as coal fired plants. 

I have created a small dynamo and light setup, and at this point I generate my own electricity, to try to demonstrate the notion that energy doesn't have to be made in all of these distant places.

 

 To make the session fun, each child is given the opportunity of having a go generating their own electricity, on the winder which keeps everyone very engaged. 

For younger children, I then bring along a set of solar powered toys, and let the children play with these. One of the best games is letting the cars race against each other. One of the best ways to educate the children about the suns energy, is to let the children cover the panels with their hands, and then un-cover and watch the toys come to life. 

Typically, I finish the session talking about where solar panels could fit on a home, and get the children to draw a house with solar panels on top of it. 

 

Below you can find a draft lesson plan for children above the age of 7.  

The World of Solar @ Schools (7-10 Years of Age)

Introduction to Asher

  • Background in food retail and production
  • Started getting involved with solar in 2018, with our vehicles transporting goods.
  • Completed a number of large and small installation projects
  • Genuine interest and passion in trying to improve/reduce impact on world
  • Incredibly difficult to live in an un-impactful way, a sustainable way, but energy production is an area that I wanted to look into.
  • Today focus on solar
  • 2025 no gas boilers, new building regs all homes must have solar installed. 

Introduction to Electricity (underpins solar energy)

  • Who knows what electricity is? Movement of electrons in a material

Power (watts) is an expression of how much work an electric current can do

Voltage force required to make electrons flow

Current movement of electrons

When do you use electricity?

All related

Watts (volts x amps(current) = 240x1 = 240watts,

Often here 13amps, x 240 = 3120 watts, most appliances less

  • Can you see electricity
  • Can you hear electricity

 

What are the ways we can make electricity?

  • Nuclear/hydro/wind/solar/geo/coal
  • What is the pro’s/cons of these? efficient/dirty
  • Today want to focus on cleaner ways of making electricity, we know that developed countries consume more and more.
  • Can you make your own electricity? what might be the advantages of making your own electricity, grid failure, lower costs, independency, cleaner, no cabling. Sometimes homes without power, mobile systems.

Solar Panels

  • What is a solar panel (glass with silica crystals)
  • How does a panel work, takes light energy converts to electrical?

solar panel works by allowing photons, or particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity. Solar panels actually comprise many, smaller units called photovoltaic cells 

  • How it works You can have lots of panels on your roof, connect them to your houses electricity and they will feed the house with electricity.
  • DC current (convert to AC) What uses DC or AC in home.
  • What are some of the advantages/disadvantages of solar panels, how can we overcome? (Free energy/locally produced/ without carbon/installation/permission.
  • What happens at night?

Storage

  • How do you store electricity?
  • What happens to electricity when its stored?
  • What are different types of batteries?
  • Why do batteries catch fire?
  • Make electricity and use it at a different time. 

Interactive

Each child is given a solar toy to construct / play with (donation from NDS)

Conclusion

  • What can you do to save energy?
  • Where can you fit a solar panel in your home?

 

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