Learning Activities

Learn About Solar Farming.

How do I teach about solar panels?

To teach students what a circuit is and what electricity and current is, give students one piece of wire, a small lightbulb, and a battery. Have the students figure out how to light up the bulb with the given materials. Once students are successful, explain why the system works: they created a complete circuit by allowing electrons to move as a flowing current.

In the classroom, discuss the very basics of a solar panel. There is energy in light, which students can feel as heat and see as light. When it hits a solar panel, electrons break away from atoms and carry electricity through the circuit, just like the light bulb experiment. To see this in action, have the students take the solar powered gadgets to a brightly lit space where they function well. Then take them to a dark location where light isn’t hitting the panels, and show that without that energy, the electricity won’t flow and power the gadgets.

To see the connection between the amount of electricity generated and the weather and seasons, have a few students take the small solar panels and a multimeter outside at the same time the water chemistry is being tested. Have them measure the output of the panel. Instruct the students to document this data, along with the weather and the date. At the end of the year, the data can be analyzed to reveal the best and worst times for generating solar power.

How do I teach about drip irrigation?

Drip irrigation is a method of watering plants that delivers water directly to each plant with a low flow, instead of watering all adjacent land at a higher flow. The efficiency of drip irrigation can be proven with a simple experiment. Start with two small containers of dry soil. In one, have the students pour a quantity of water over the entire surface at once. In the other, have students slowly drip the same quantity of water in one location. Once all the water has sunk into the soil, slowly dig and measure how deeply the water absorbed for each container. The water likely sunk deeper in the soil when dripped, rather than when poured. This experiment demonstrates how drip irrigation uses less water to moisten the soil to a certain level that each plant needs.

How do I teach about aquaponics?

An aquaponics system works as a cycle. The fish are fed and add waste to the water in the form of ammonia (NH3). The microbes present in the water covert the ammonia first to nitrite (NO2), and then to nitrate (NO3). The nitrate is used by the plant, which then adds oxygen to the water for the fish to breathe. This cycle can be discussed in the classroom, along with what chemicals would be expected to be present in the water in what quantities. This pairs very well with the water chemistry testing below, as this explains the values that they will see from the water.

How do I teach about water chemistry testing?

The simplest way to teach water testing is to use paper test strips normally used for aquariums. These strips include the water chemistry information that is needed to maintain the system, such as nitrite and nitrate levels. In a classroom setting, discuss how the strips reveal qualitative and quantitative data. Ask a few students to test the water quality on a rotating basis, with multiple students running multiple tests so repeat-ability of results can be discussed. Data can then be shared among the class, possibly by maintaining one shared spreadsheet among the class that data can be entered into each week.

How do I teach about alternative energy?

Use the EPA calculator to visualize the amount of energy generated by the St. Philip's solar farm. You can also measure the environmental impact of that energy that was generated.

For global impact, search online for infographics that describe the impact of renewable energy on both a national and international level. Focus on graphs that use percentages and fractions, because those can be easier to comprehend than the massive scale of global energy use. The students can visualize these numbers using visual and physical tools, such as colored grids or physical counters.