Secure Futures visited the third graders of Collegiate School in Richmond to explore the connection between weather and their on-site solar generation.
At Collegiate School, an independent college prep school for grades K-12 located in Richmond, Virginia, students learned more about their on-site solar arrays through a personal presentation from Secure Futures.
The third graders arms grew heavy as they waved their hands in the air, waiting to ask the burning questions that have been on their minds since solar panels were installed on campus in 2018.
What did these students want to know?
- How many solar panels does our school need to use 100% clean energy? (7500 panels)
- Do the solar panels produce electricity when it is snowing, raining, or dark out? ( They produce some when it’s raining, less when it’s snowing, and nearly nothing when it’s dark outside)
- What kind of roof is best for solar panels? (A roof that’s in good enough shape to last for the next 35-40 years, the expected life of modern solar panels, without needing major repairs)
- Is solar electricity always more expensive than normal electricity (our favorite question – because our solar arrays are designed to ALWAYS be less expensive)
What Subjects Does Solar Power Connect to?
We love answering these questions, because not only does it help students gain knowledge about solar, but other STEM disciplines as well.
In just one 30 minute presentation we covered:
- Geometry: Angle of tilt for solar panels
- Astronomy: Optimal times and seasons for solar
- Geography: Areas of the world most suitable for solar
- Algebra: Calculate the amount of panels it takes to reach 100% renewable energy
Teachers Learn Too
These presentations weren’t just for the kids. Teachers also sat in, and had the opportunity to ask questions and reflect on how to add solar energy to their classroom lessons on STEM subjects.
We showed Collegiate’s Centennial Hall energy monitoring graphs (below) to the 3rd graders at Collegiate. Can you tell which day was sunny and which was cloudy? They could.
After learning about how solar panels operate in certain weather conditions, the students were able to analyze the weather conditions for these days.
One teacher mentioned how her class starts off each day by going over the weather. After seeing our presentation, she now wants to analyze the previous day’s solar energy monitoring data for its correlation to the weather. This is a great example of how solar energy lessons complement STEM and SOL curricula.
Kim Smythe, Collegiate’s Lower School science teacher, mentioned how the class is designing weather-resilient building models, which reflects weather patterns in a part of the world they chose to study. We shared an image (below) that shows climate and geographical factors which allowed for the best production for solar power. We’re sharing it with her, so that the students can consider incorporating solar into their building designs:
“I am truly excited to see how my students will incorporate a clean energy source such as solar panels or wind turbines into the design and building of their houses. As they build a prototype house and roof that withstands weather related disasters, they are encouraged to add a clean energy source to their roofs” said Smythe.
One student even drew us a picture (left) on how he plans to do that – his town will have buildings with solar panels, wind turbines, a dam, AND a lightning rod to power each of his 100 buildings!
We are excited to continue to help teachers incorporate their on-site solar panels into their classrooms. Solar energy materials for use in classrooms cover a wide range of disciplines, from geometry to geography to engineering.
To see ways teachers can incorporate lessons about solar power into their classroom lessons, check out the NEED Project’s FREE solar energy curriculum, which provides lesson plans which tie to Virginia Standards of Learning for grades k-12.