Keeping it Cool With Solar Unit Plan

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Intended Grade Level(s):
Learning Goal(s):
  1. Students will make observations to determine the effect of sunlight on Earth’s surface.

  2. Students will plan and conduct investigations to determine whether structures made with various materials will keep objects cool when placed in a beam of light.

  3. Students will analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem in order to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.

  4. Students will analyze data obtained from testing different materials to determine which materials have the properties that are best suited for keeping an object cool.

  5. Students will test if solar panels and solar energy can help cool down their structure.

Relevant NGSS PE:
Other Subjects Covered:
Estimated Activity Length:
4 hours
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Keeping It Cool With Solar unit asks the question: “How might we design a structure that will keep us cool on a hot day?” As an anchoring phenomenon, students will be shown a time-lapse video of an ice cube melting, and a second phenomenon of a solar panel parking structure being built. Students will plan, design, and build a structure that cools the ground. After exploring what materials will create the coolest structure and measuring temperature, students will be allowed to redesign, rebuild, and retest their structure. Students will be given a solar panel and fan motor to see if they can use these new materials to lower the temperature in their structure. Content areas include learning what materials block light, how blocking sunlight will decrease surface temperature on a hot day, and comparing and testing designs to create an optimal solution. *This unit is best done during a sunny and warm weather.

Science Kit Material(s) Used:
1.5-Volt 500mA Solar Module
Other Material(s) Used:
Small DC motor and fan, building materials (paper, cardboard, straws, packing peanuts)