Exploring Solar Energy

Downloadable (1 PDF - 32 pages)

Ideal for grades 6-8, exploring Solar Energy is a comprehensive, interdisciplinary exploration that draws heavily on learning outcomes in Mathematics (angle calculations) in the context of alternative energy. The overall concept of this project-based lesson is to build a solar oven that will maximize temperature (i.e., maximize thermal energy transfer from the sun). This challenge necessitates working through a design thinking framework, from identifying needs to constructing a prototype based on a model, and iterating on their unique designs during testing and feedback phases.

This exploration is designed to take 4-5 class periods. Included in this 32 page PDF is a lesson guide to assist teachers in executing the exploration as well as a student workbook.

Some of the items within the lesson guide include a breakdown of each day's activities (including helpful notes, common misconceptions, and adaptations for differentiated lessons), a project rubric and an answer key for the solar assessment. 

Included in the student workbook is an exploring solar assessment, project instructions and worksheets to help direct students in this exploration.

By the end of this exploration, students will understand:

  • Energy is spontaneously transferred out of hotter regions or objects and into colder ones.
  • The more precisely a design task’s criteria and constraints can be defined, the more likely it is that the solution will be successful. Specification of constraints includes consideration of scientific principles and other relevant knowledge that is likely to limit possible solutions.
  • A solution needs to be tested then modified on the basis of the test results in order to improve it. There are systematic processes for evaluating solutions with respect to how well they meet the criteria and constraints of a problem.
Additional resources required for this activity:
  • Science notebook
  • Internet access
  • Miscellaneous construction materials