Last week a bright and curious group of kids from the Garden of Dreams Foundation visited the museum. They were joined by some special guest stars from the New York Liberty women’s basketball team and together, we explored solar energy in celebration of the WNBA’s Green Week!
We began our energy investigation by discussing what makes a building “green”, taking a look at the museum’s solar panels, and observing our solar power Green Threads exhibit. In just a few minutes, our energy experts were able to identify the pros and cons of solar energy. We don’t pollute as much by burning fossil fuels, but how do we produce energy on a cloudy day? The kids observed from our solar exhibit that there is much less electricity output on a cloudy day, when there’s heavy smog, and at night.
So they can become future solar energy experts and solve these conundrums, we wanted to give these kids a grasp on electrical circuitry, how electrons move from one place to another. We created our first circuit by joining hands in a circle and having two people in the circle each touch a finger to an electrode on the energy ball. The ball blinks and buzzes when the circuit is complete. The kids discovered how they could create a “switch” by unlinking hands anywhere in the circle and breaking the circuit. They especially enjoyed quick paced high fives that made for a silly sound pattern as the energy ball sputtered and buzzed.
Our energy students then worked to build their own circuits with a battery as their power source. They knew the materials they would need- a socket, a light bulb, and wires. After fiddling with different wire combinations- Wa La! The light bulbs lit up one by one. For a bigger challenge, the teams tried to make their circuits larger by adding conductive materials. They tested brass buttons, felt, paper clips and beads to see which materials stopped electrons in their tracks and which allowed electrons to flow through.
After the kids had great circuit success, we moved outside with some portable solar panels to see if we could have the same success with a renewable power source. At first, the sun was blocked by some ominous rain clouds. It had been a cloudy afternoon and we were worried the kids would leave with a skeptical view of solar energy. Our Liberty ladies encourages all the kids to wave their hands and try to blow the clouds away. At last, the sun peaked out from a clouds and our mini machines, propelors in this case, started spinning. With a little patience and help from our very tall guest stars, they harnessed the sun!
These solar circuitry kits are a great investment that you can use again and again. We’d love to hear about any energy experiments you do in your classroom!