When today’s parents and teachers were kids, solar energy was still considered a fringe option that was not easily accessible. In less than a generation, however, solar energy has grown up. There is now enough solar energy generated in the U.S. to power over 4.6 million American homes, and 784,000 business and homes have gone solar. A new solar project is installed every 2 minutes, due in part to the dropping cost of solar installation (down 73 percent since 2006).
The Solar Energy Industries Association reports that the nation’s solar capacity will double from 2014 by the end of 2016. In other words, solar energy in a period of growth explosion, making it a great time to talk about the renewable resource with kids.
For parents and teachers who want to take advantage of the educational opportunity that solar energy provides, there are plenty of resources. Take a look at some of the best places to start your solar energy lesson planning:
For comprehensive solar energy information that is appropriate for 12 year old learners and up, visit the Solar in Schools page on Solarenergy.org. Teachers and parents can access a 10-lesson packs that include videos, suggested reading, activities, discussion topics, and quizzes. The content is intertwined but individually relevant – meaning that educators and parents can pick and choose which material to teach and it will still make sense to learners. Solar lab activities are available for 8th graders, and high school career pathway information is also included.
Environmental Protection Agency
The EPA has a solar energy page designed for children that talks about solar thermal technology, photovoltaic cells, passive solar heating, and more. The science of solar energy is broken down in easy-to-understand terms that accent the benefits for kids, parents, and teachers. Further resources are listed to give educators and learners more options for exploring solar energy information.
Another U.S. government site, this page has a wealth of alternative energy downloads for parents and teachers who want to discuss solar energy options and technology with students. The site offers downloads for an activity book, energy action list, energy literacy framework, and even a pizza box solar oven experiment. All of the content is available in Spanish, too. For teachers working on a larger renewable energy unit, there are links to pages that cover other forms of energy collection.
National Geographic Education
Designed for students in grades 4 – 12, this site from National Geographic encourages energy efficiency and conservation. The free, digital educational material highlights alternative energy solutions like solar and puts emphasis on the need to shift from fossil fuels to renewable ones. The initiative is connected to the Center for Science that includes museums in Maryland, Ohio, Washington, California, and Illinois.
Kids Energy Zone
The renewable energy lesson plan on this site covers five main forms of the energy – solar, wind, biomass, hydropower, and geothermal. There isn’t a lot of in-depth information on solar energy but it is a good jumping off point for young learners. The site also provides several more suggestions for places to learn about each type of renewable energy discussed.
Your Local Library
While there are a lot of solar energy resources online, there are plenty in print too. Take your kids to your community library, or school one, and head to the section of books that discuss alternative forms of energy. Read up on solar energy and compare it to other forms, like fossil fuels and wind energy.
The expansion in solar energy options in the U.S. provide a wonderful educational opportunity for parents, teachers, and kids. Take advantage of the free resources available on solar energy to start the renewal energy educational journey for your kids – and for you, too.