It’s simple to teach kids about things that matter if you find the subjects that naturally fascinate them, and solar power is an exciting topic for kids. They enjoy hearing about how our biggest and most powerful star makes more energy is a single second that human civilisations have needed since the beginning of time.
Energy is a subject that children are naturally drawn to. Just try asking a small child how he thinks his body creates the power to breath and walk and talk and run. That will get him thinking, and asking all manner of questions. It’s a good springboard too, onto the subject of how we use energy to power our houses and our lives. You could try talking about ‘clean’ energy and ‘dirty’ energy, or about the type of energy that is running out (fossil fuel, natural gas), and the type of energy that never runs out (solar, wind, wave power etc).
Words and pictures in a book are a good starting point, but try to make their learning experience dynamic and stimulating by using real and tangible examples. Here, I’ve put together a few ideas that will help to teach your children about solar power:
Solar powered toys
Obviously, one of the really great things about solar powered toys is that they need no batteries. This way, when your child’s favourite toy suddenly stops working they understand that they need to head outside or for the nearest windowsill to power it up. This is learning in action, plus you won’t need to worry about rushing out to get replacements! You’ll discover a diverse range of solar toys online from which to choose. Select Solar Gadgets sell excellent solar powered toys and gadgets for kids of all ages. From traditional, wooden aircraft and helicopters whose blades rotate in sunshine, to solar DIY kits for making motorised robots and mechanical gadgets. Nigel’s Eco Store sell a variety of superb educational toys including a beautiful solar powered butterfly, jumping grasshoppers, walking spiders, and a Go Solar Experiment Kit. Solarrific sell a super useful solar backpack which your older child can carry around and use to charge digital cameras, MP3 players, iPods and mobile phones when they’re out and about. It’s reviewed here at Treehugger: http://www.treehugger.com/solar-technology/how-turn-your-backpack-solar-charger.html
Solar under the stars
Why not take your family camping, or even set up camp in the garden, and demonstrate how using solar power can make it fun, but also practical. Children adore camping, but they also love convenience and home comforts – who doesn’t? Rope the kids into helping you create an enchanted clearing by placing solar lights around your tents or hanging solar lanterns from the trees, or vehicles. The Solar Centre sell both fairy, camping and garden lights.
Or, for the truly techie, a single portable solar panel is sufficient to provide enough power to charge your radio, iPad, lights, batteries, and phones with pollution-free electricity for at least a night, so the kids can watch their favourite movie under canvas.
A rainy day trip with sunny spells
You’ll probably find a section on renewable energy at your nearest city’s science museum. Often exhibitions are designed to be interactive and kid friendly. Plus it’s a fun day out for family members of all ages. The London Science Museum’s exhibition Fuelling the Future has won awards for its innovative and clever design, and includes 3D interactive models, mechanised displays and games.
Solar at school
How about starting a campaign to have solar installed on the roof of your child’s school? There are an increasing number of UK schools making the switch to solar. And what better way to educate your children about renewable energy, reduce the school’s energy bills, and help save the planet? Solar Schools is a UK not-for-profit organisation set up with the intention of putting clean energy into every classroom in the country. They helps pupils, parents and governors fundraise for solar by setting a fundraising target so that everyone can chip in to help make it happen. Amy Cameron, Solar Schools coordinator says: “I’m so excited to see the project rolling out across the UK. Each of the schools taking part has their own particular passion and plans but they all share a desire to cut carbon and build communities. I can’t wait to follow their progress this year!”
Tara Gould writes for www.southernsolar.co.uk and covers green energy, eco products, and ethical issues. She lives with her children in Lewes, East Sussex.