The building blocks were the simplest lesson teachers could take home. By the end of the seminar Thursday, educators, after-school program coordinators and a school custodian were building solar-powered ovens, capable of cooking pizza or brownies.
“We want students to know solar is a real option that they can use in their own life,” said Tor Allen, director of the Solar Schoolhouse. “When teachers make it hands-on, students get excited, and they’ll go home and share it with their families.”
Participants came home with all the supplies they’d need to build a solar oven in their classes, as well as thermometers, measuring tools and a solar cell, circuits and wires.
“You could power a fan, a pump, whatever, but there’s no battery in between,” Allen said. “You can charge anything from an iPod to a cell phone.”
Norman Ramos, a custodian at Keppel Elementary School, said he had heard a lot about solar energy in brainstorming ideas with teachers, and wanted to learn more.
“We’ve got kits so we can get the kids attention,” he said. “I’m trying to get it to the next step.”
Once students are exposed to concepts of solar power, it turns into more curiosity about the galaxy, renewable energy and social studies, Allen said.
“It’s the big ball of energy shining on us every day,” he said. “The hands-on projects create a better learning environment, not just at a scientific level, but social aspects, like how in parts of the world where there’s no power, solar electricity is changing lives.”
Jessica Lepe leads after-school programs for all grades at Edison Elementary School and said her previous solar experiments were huge hits with the students.
“The older kids were surprised by how much energy they use, and the alternatives they could use,” she said.
With proper discussions and homework assignments, the solar experiments hit just about every first-grade academic standard — addition, weight, design and social studies, said Mary Lou Matheu, a first-grade teacher at Mountain Avenue Elementary School.
“One standard is to compare how we live with how people lived in the past,” she said. She also enrolled to be sure her weekly science experiments are cutting edge.
“Kids are our future so hopefully they use this in their own life — and save our planet,” she said.