After seventeen years teaching all grade levels and developmental stages of the growing mind, I’ve found that actively engaging students in hands-on activities that get them moving and preferably outside can have a profound impact on their education. By tapping into several of the “multiple intelligences”(visual-spatial awareness, bodily-kinesthetic, logical-mathemantical, naturalistic, existential, interpersonal, interpersonal, etc.) at one time students are stimulated on many conscious and unconscious levels and in many cases they do not even realize how much they’re learning.
RevoluSun/Project Empower has put together a variety of activities and presentations meant to inspire, invigorate, and inform kids about renewable energy and photovoltaic energy in particular. These lessons have varying degrees of sophistication that can work with a wide range of ages.
Pre K through 3rd grade:
- Solar beads: these translucent white beads change color when the sun hits them and then they change back to white when they’re in the shade. They do a nice job of showing young kids that the sun is working even if we can’t see it. Leads nicely to a conversation about sun safety.
- Solar crickets: little plastic bugs with rudimentary solar cells on their backs that cause the bugs to vibrate in the sun. The crickets work for all ages but the level of investigation can be adjusted depending on the grade level. Older kids can experiment to see what type of materials— cotton or nylon from their clothing; leaves or other organic material; plastics, etc.— prevent the bug from vibrating.
- Solar paper: this paper changes color in about one minute when it’s placed in the sun. Kids can put shapes, letters, leaves, etc. on the paper paper to spell their names or make design. Also effective at helping kids become aware of the power of the sun’s rays and sun safety.
For 4th through 7th grade:
- Solar/Renewable energy Powerpoint: basic intro to renewable energy and the photovoltaic process (works well with this Youtube video on how a photovoltaic cell works)
- Design your own system worksheet: kids use basic math— addition, averaging, multiplication, division, scaling— to take a utility bill to determine their electricity needs and then design a PV system for a house (could be their own if their parent’s are willing to let them bring a utility bill to class). Also works well as a homework assignment.
- solar car building and race: comes in a kit; good for team work
- “Quality of Life Game”: kids are put into “families” with a finite amount of money and they are confronted with consumer choices that are either sustainable or not. Once they’ve made those choices they then see the consequences of their decisions when certain “energy shocks” occur (natural disasters, wars in certain parts of the world, heat waves, etc.— determined by a roll of the dice).
- “The Next Big Thing”: kids invent their own renewable energy breakthrough after researching renewable/sustainable energy. They then take basic “building materials” (paper clips, clay, cardboard pieces, paper, rubber bands, etc.) to build/represent a “breakthrough idea” for generating energy that satisfies a need while minimizing the impact to the earth.
John Cheever is a Commercial Project Developer at RevoluSun and a key member of the Project EmPower team. Born and raised in Honolulu, John graduated from Punahou and Cornell with a Bachelor of Science degree in Urban and Regional Studies with an emphasis in Environmental Policy and Planning. John worked in that field for a couple of years before deciding to go back to graduate school to pursue a career in teaching. For over seventeen years, he taught every grade level except for 2nd and 5th, most recently at Punahou from 2000-2011 in the senior capstone Economics/Community service class, before joining the RevoluSun to educate Hawaii about solar.