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Solar Energy

Environmental Literacy and Inquiry Working Group, Lehigh University

In this activity, which comes at the beginning of a 40-day sequence of activities in an energy module, students observe the transfer of solar energy to different appliances with a solar cell and investigate the effect of using different solar sources to supply energy to appliances.

1 or 2 90-minute lab periods, depending on students' familiarity with building circuits. Solar Energy Kits: Wires/ photovoltaic cells/ light bulbs/ music box/ fan / etc.

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Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Energy Literacy

Humans transfer and transform energy from the environment into forms useful for human endeavors.
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4.1 Humans transfer and transform energy.
Electricity is usually generated in one of two ways.
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4.5 Electricity generation.
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Various sources of energy are used to power human activities .
Sunlight, gravitational potential, decay of radioactive isotopes, and rotation of the Earth are the major sources of energy driving physical processes on Earth.
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2.2 Sources of energy on Earth.
Physical processes on Earth are the result of energy flow through the Earth system.
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Physical processes on Earth are the result of energy flow .

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
Learn more about the Benchmarks

Energy from the sun (and the wind and water energy derived from it) is available indefinitely. Because the transfer of energy from these resources is weak and variable, systems are needed to collect and concentrate the energy.
Explore the map of concepts related to this benchmark

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Students should have previous experience wiring circuits and be familiar with the differences between series and parallel circuits before completing this activity.
  • Could be used in technical schools that focus on engineering or could be used informal education.

About the Science

About the Pedagogy

  • Students investigate solar energy with a combination of watching video clips and building their own photovoltaic cell to power several small appliances.
  • Assessment requires a log in, so is protected against students going online to look up answers.
  • Does not offer a lot of inquiry, as it is 'cookbook style.'

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Photovoltaic Cells video clip seemed to end early as if the entire clip wasn't loaded all the way.
  • Pictures of wiring in instructor and student handouts may help students who have not had much experience with creating different types of circuits.
  • Lab kits must be purchased (wires/ photovoltaic cells/ light bulbs/ music box/ fan / etc.), which may be a major limitation for some schools.

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