Energy & Environment



Alternative forms of energy such as solar and wind are an important part of our environmental and economic future. Using one of the most contemporary issues such as alternate energy will get your students “thinking globally and acting locally”. Learn how students can use inquiry-based problem solving skills to see how to best use these resources. 


CARBON FOOTPRINT: Carbon Dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, is being released at ever increasing levels into our atmosphere as we burn more fossil fuel. Climate change occurs as the greenhouse effect increases the amount of solar radiation trapped in our atmosphere and oceans. If students investigate ways to save energy and calculate their own Carbon Footprint they can modify behavior that directly impacts their environment. “Think Globally Act Locally”. Behavior checklists include turning off lights when not in use, lowering thermostats, using public transportation or a bike and recycling.


SUNDIALS, SEASONS AND TIME: The concept of time is difficult to comprehend and can be very abstract to children. Using the sun and measuring shadows allows students an opportunity to directly measure time and create their own personal sundial. They will learn the path of the Sun across the sky and see how the Earth’s rotation and orbit affect the measurement of time. From this they can see how modern clocks have changed how we mark time.


SOLAR SITE PLAN: Architects and builders often don’t realize how much the sun and surroundings affect the performance of buildings. Often buildings overheat from too much sunlight in the summer and lose heat from exposure to the cold in the winter. Students can create a simple building plan and simulate how to take advantage of the sun through the seasons.


SOLAR HOT AIR: The concept of converting sunlight into heat requires students to learn concepts of the solar spectrum and what is visible and invisible radiation. Using sunlight students can collect solar energy in a box and monitor the air temperature change. They will learn how insulation, angle of incidence and absorber color affect the performance of a basic solar collector.



With the solar photovoltaic activity students will learn the principals of generation of electricity through the use of a silicon semiconductor (photovoltaic cell). Students will measure output of cells in series and parallel circuits to determine how many cells are required to replace a 1.5-volt energy cell (battery) and run a motor.



Using model wind turbines students can assemble and design a “windmill” and see what factors affect the amount of energy generated. By adjusting variables such as propeller angle or number of blades they can change the energy output measured on a multi-meter.  Results will be graphed and compared.



The movement of water has been tapped for centuries and it helped usher in the industrial age for New England. Now how can we better use this resource? Students will investigate how a water turbine generates electricity. Using a simple model teams will build, design and test the electrical output of their turbine. They will test variables of pressure, velocity and impeller design and measure the results on a multimeter.





This activity allows children to test a multitude of possibilities for creating a working battery. Using simple household chemicals for electrolytes and an array of metals for electrodes, students will discover what makes the best battery.



As one of the fundamental forces of nature magnetism offers many puzzles. Students can learn the properties of this force through simple experiments and unravel its secrets through a series of tests and observations. This fun activity engages students to find how magnetism affects everything around us.



Knowing about electricity is important to our everyday lives. Students will learn how it works, through experiments, assembling series and parallel circuits. They will learn how to measure Volts, Amperes and Ohms as they discover how electrons convey power to a vast array of everyday uses.



This lesson allows students to explore how electricity and magnetism are related. They will construct working electromagnets and determine: what makes a north and south polarity: what variables make a stronger magnet and how all of this relates to our Earth.