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Solar Decathlon Curricular Activities

To learn more about the Solar Decathlon, visit the official site for background information and videos about the twenty teams’ houses. Some of the following activities relate to the online programs. Most are related to solar and other sources of energy (both renewable and non-renewable), energy use, conservation and efficiency. Unless otherwise noted, the links are for teacher use in guiding student activities. Many are standards-based.

Solar Decathlon - An Overview

Energy Detectives- 3 activities

This activity will introduce the concept of energy, teach students to identify sources of energy, and instructs students to keep a journal of their energy intake and output.  It also introduces the ideas of conserving and using energy.

NEED Energy Info Book Activities-Source of a wealth of worksheets on energy topics

The “Solar” worksheets for students establish relevant solar terminology through a simple, “fill-in-the blanks” or crossword puzzle set-up.  Terminology includes renewable, electricity, and solar cells.  The worksheet can be supplemented by a discussion of these terms and their relation to one another. Extensive teacher guides are available.

Opening Ceremony

Energy Kids – Energy Sources

This site for students takes a more in-depth look at the different sources of energy, both renewable and non-renewable.  This activity provides a good conversation starter regarding the United States’ energy use and what sectors of the country (factories, homes) use the most energy.

Energy Kids Resources for Teachers

This site offers lesson plans on a range of energy topics, plus teachers’ guides, a career corner with articles focusing on energy careers, and more.

US House Tours and Teams

Divide into teams that will go online to the Solar Decathlon site to look at the houses built by schools in the United States. From watching the videos, what can you tell about how each saves energy? What do they have in common and what makes each unique?

Watt Does It Cost To Use? Students learn how to measure energy usage and measure the cost in energy and money of certain devices.  Note:  This activity may take more than one class.

This activity explicates the concepts of energy usage and efficiency by having students measure the energy usage of appliances. Although the activity is lengthy, it can be done, in part, in one class period. Some of the energy measuring may be too complex for younger students, in which case it is recommended to use the alternate activity.

Energy Kids Games and Activities

Riddles, slang, puzzles, science fair experiments and other things to do engage students and continue to make energy vocabulary familiar and relevant to students.

International House Tours and Teams

Divide into teams that will go to the Solar Decathlon site to look at the houses from other countries. From watching the videos, what can you tell about how each saves energy? What do they have in common and what makes each unique? Do they seem very different from the houses built by U.S. teams?

Energy Source Web Quest (PDF)

This is a research assignment in which students will be assigned an energy source and then will create a Power Point presentation that enumerates that energy source’s advantages and disadvantages.

Solar Education Day

Guided Energy Audit of school and home, including suggestions for conserving energy.

An energy audit is a report that details the energy usage of a building, such as a school or house, and then suggests ways in which energy efficiency could be improved.  The purpose of this lesson is to develop student understanding of the economic and environmental impact of energy use and energy management. This activity gives students perspective on how much energy is being used all around them.

And the Winner Is . . .

Energy Efficiency Ambassadors.  Students measure energy efficiency by comparing different types of light bulbs, etc.  The second activity is similar, comparing water heaters.

Activity for grades 5 - 8
Activity for grades 9 - 12

Just as Solar Decathletes from US universities will act as ambassadors for the United States at the international Solar Decathlon in Madrid next year, this activity makes students “ambassadors” for energy efficiency as they compare two types of energy using products (light bulbs or water heaters).  Students learn the connection between energy efficiency and large scale environmental concerns like climate change and, afterwards, should be able to explain to friends and family why energy efficient product choices are important.

Additional Supplemental Activities:

Build a Pizza Box Solar Oven

Build a Solar Hot Dog Cooker

Sunny Side Up Solar Cars
Teachers would have to purchase the materials, but it is probably the most interesting solar related activity of those listed.  NOTE: There is a cost related to this project.

Building a Model Solar House
This can be done very affordably according to this outline.