Solar Curriculum, Activities, Events and Resources

Solar Curriculum, Activities, Events, and Resources

A number of excellent solar curriculum and teacher-training resources are available for all grade levels.  The most important educational opportunity is involving your kids in the process of taking the school solar. From assessing the site to selling cupcakes to raise money, or giving presentations to school officials, kids can play a powerful role.

Curriculum Resources

  • The US Department of Energy has put together an Energy Education program that includes a database of lesson plans, labs, projects, and other activities for grades K-12 on energy-related topics.
  • The Florida Solar Energy Center has produced curricula on solar. The center also provides educational tours so students can interact with researchers.
  • The US Energy Information Administration is a good general resource: it manages a website with information about energy sources.
  • The US Department of Energy (DOE) has a website devoted to the basics of renewable energy technologies, including how they work, what they're used for, and how they can improve our lives, homes, businesses, and industries. DOE also curates a YouTube channel with similar content.
  • Solar Oregon has compiled curriculum resources for students. It also provides support to Oregon teachers to implement comprehensive solar curriculum in key districts.

Activities and Resources for Students

Elementary School

  • Energy & Kids gives a great introduction to all forms of renewable energy for children, and links to teacher resources on energy curriculum and related classroom activity ideas such as field trips and science fair projects.
  • Some companies sell solar energy kits that you can use to demonstrate solar energy concepts.
  • The Florida Solar Energy Center gives a great example of an easily adoptable solar energy curriculum for elementary schools through college:
    • Solar 1, K-2:Kids explore the fundamental benefits of solar energy, interdependence in the ecosystem, and the basics of UV rays through arts and crafts, such as making posters that share information.
    • Solar 2, 3-5:Kids build upon their previous knowledge to explain what solar energy means for the sustainability of the earth through visual projects, constructing their own photovoltaic cells, and investigating forms of alternative energy in the world around them.
    • The National Wildlife Federation has an Eco-Schools Program using teams of students, administrators, educators, and community volunteers to combine effective "green" management of the school grounds and facilities with curriculum.

Middle School

  • Solar Energy International provides excellent hands-on labs, solar training, and renewable energy education for older kids. At the intermediate grade level, students will develop critical thinking skills and build upon foundational knowledge of math, science and technology to do hands-on projects, games, constructions, investigations and experiments with renewable energy.
  • Florida Solar Energy Center also provides solar energy curricula for middle schoolers:
    • Solar 3, 6-8: (middle school) Kids learn about common misconceptions about the sun, the science of Earth’s rotation, the electromagnetic spectrum, and the anatomy of a solar panel and how it is constructed. They do this through poster contests, hands-on science experiments, field trips, computer programs, and making their own energy cells.
    • NEED (National Energy Education Development Project) has compiled a guide for middle school solar education standards that schools everywhere can adopt.
    • Schools and students can form after-school clubs to help engage students on solar energy on an ongoing basis.
      • In 2005 Sierra Middle School in Bakersfield, CA created the Kids for Solar Energy Club for students in grades 6 to 8. The club explores ways to use solar power to reduce greenhouse gases and climate change. Students use solar energy to prepare foods such as bread, pizza, chicken, and cookies. They also learn how to convert solar radiation into electricity to power model cars, fans, and lights, and they explore electric energy consumption by monitoring the amount of electricity appliances consume and making recommendations on using power strips or unplugging unused appliances. The club has actively promoted solar energy and green projects via presentations at a number of local schools, Earth Day festivals, the Green Expo, and other events.
      • Illinois Solar Schools Program, sponsored by Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, teaches the value of renewable energy to K-12. Students see firsthand how sunlight is converted into electricity by watching online monitoring of real-time data on the daily amount of electricity generated. Since program launch in 2006, the foundation has awarded over $2 million in grants to over 220 Illinois schools for 1 kW PV systems. Each solar installation will generate 1,200 kWh of electricity and help avoid 1,350 lbs of CO2 emissions. 

High School

  • NEED has compiled a guide for high school solar education standards that schools everywhere can adopt.
  • Wisconsin Public Service hosts an annual Solar Olympics, a one-day event for high school students to learn about renewable energy and project management.
  • Make It Solar has a list of solar-related science fair projects students can undertake.
  • The Florida Solar Energy Center hosts the EnergyWhiz Olympics with opportunities for students to demonstrate their knowledge of science, technology, mathematics, and engineering.
    • Porterville Unified School District (CA) was named a recipient of a $1 million grant from the James Irvine Foundation. The grant’s purpose was to create a district-wide system of career-themed pathways. SunPower (a company that designs, manufactures, and delivers solar technologies) is collaborating with PUSD on the program to provide both classroom learning and real-work experience to prepare kids for careers in technology, engineering, and other fields. One of the pathways is in Environmental Science, which integrates rigorous technical courses and college-prep curricula. The emphasis is on work-based learning. Students learn from local professionals through hands-on projects and studying current events relevant to sustainability. This “linked learning approach” brings together strong academics, demanding technical education, and real-world experience. Students follow industry-themed “pathways,” multi-year comprehensive high school programs of integrated academic and career technical study organized around a theme, industry area, or industry sector.
    • Ohio Solar Schools Program has installed solar panels in visible places and developed intensive teacher training to allow the district to turn its schools into laboratories. Ohio Solar Schools Initiative began partnering with American Electric Power’s Learning from Light Initiative at Bluffsview Elementary in Worthington, OH in 1998. The system at Upper Arlington High School, OH in 2007 was their latest installation.

Teacher Training

Solar and Eco Fairs

  • Students can have fun while learning about solar technologies at solar and eco fairs. The group DC Solar United Neighborhoods has put together a list of great solar-specific kids activities.