Spring has definitely sprung in Florida. Air conditioners are being turned up, and the energy consumption in homes is rising. You might hear screams, “Close the door. Did you grow up in a barn?” of someone nearby heating up, which is where this lesson idea was brewed.
Now is the time to teach kids about solar energy and how we can utilize the power of solar. The first step is to discuss the sun. Ask questions about the sun, how it feels, how it makes children feel.
General responses should be, warm, hot, happy. Discuss how people need sunlight to provide happiness, to help us consume enough vitamin D for our skin, and for plants to grow. Talk about how the sun is a natural resource to us and plants, and that we just like plants need sunlight to stay healthy.
Discuss how we use solar energy: solar panels that heat up swimming pools, stop lights, flashing lights at school crossings, fountains in our yard, or lights in our yard, etc.
An activity to follow this discussion is to take a bean seed, and plant the bean seed without soil. Focus only on the ingredient of sunlight. Wrap the seed in a moist paper towel, and leave this in an area for two to three days in a sunny location. Make sure the paper towel stays wet, and you will see how with one ingredient, the root of the plant will start to grow. You can then transplant the bean into soil and continue to watch the plant cycle.
For more in depth discussion, you might want to discuss the importance of photosynthesis, an excellent example of solar energy at work.
A second activity on the subject focusing more on conservation, is to make solar s’mores. You can take the ingredients of a s’more with a child or group of children, build the s’more, and let it essentially “bake” in the sun, in foil, for about an hour. This is a great visual demonstration for kids to see how hot the sun can get, and the ability to use solar energy for every-day needs.
Lastly, let children create a mobile of the earth and the way they can conserve energy or use solar energy more wisely.
Take a coffee filter and color with markers. I like using the coffee filters to create a global perspective of the Earth.
Once this is complete, glue the coffee filter onto a plastic throwaway plate with a small amount of glue.
Then take a small hole punch and punch holes around the edge of the paper plate to hang items to creat a mobile. They can draw pictures, find items that represent conservation, solar energy, etc, and use string to connect and hang from the mobil.
With these activities, children can easily see the use of solar energy, the need for solar energy, and how we might better use this resource.