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Wisconsin's K-12 Energy Education Program


4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Physics, Earth and Space Sciences, Engineering

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plans
  • Activity - Classroom
  • Activity - Outdoors

Regional Focus

Global, North America, United States, USA - Midwest, Wisconsin



Solar Relay Activity

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  • In this lesson plan, students learn how solar panels produce electricity by acting as electrons moving through a giant model of a solar cell and electrical circuit.
  • Students will expand their knowledge of Wisconsin's energy sources, develop a solar energy model, and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of using solar energy.
Teaching Tips


  • The activity allows students to visualize firsthand how solar cells work.
  • Students will love getting up and moving for this activity!

Additional Prerequisites

  • To set up the model solar panel and cell, teachers need plastic cones, rope, and printed labels/pictures from the last 11 pages of the PDF document. Teachers must set this up ahead of time according to the diagram on page 2.
  • The activity requires some open space, so teachers may need to move desks to accommodate this. Alternatively, teachers can set up the activity outside or in a gym or cafeteria.
  • Students should already be familiar with the uses of electricity, where electricity comes from, and renewable vs nonrenewable electricity sources.


  • This activity is an engaging resource for engineering and physical science classes learning about electrical circuits and cells.
  • Earth and space science classes can use this resource to learn about solar and renewable energy.
  • Teachers in younger grade levels should use simplified vocabulary and guide students more directly during the activity. Teachers can skip some of the more advanced introduction and discussion questions.
  • Students can write pro/con lists for solar panels and traditional forms of electricity production like coal and natural gas and compare the lists to determine which sources of electricity they think are better.
  • Students can write a summary of how solar cells produce electricity to synthesize and communicate what they have learned.
  • Challenge students to describe how energy is transferred from solar to electric, kinetic, or electromagnetic energy in objects with solar cells, such as calculators, outdoor lights, toys, etc.
  • Students can observe the community to determine where solar panels are currently utilized and identify additional locations that would be effective for solar panels.
  • Students can research organizations in their area that help with solar energy installation and access.
  • English language arts classes can connect with this lesson by tasking students with writing persuasive letters to their school, district, or city to encourage the installation of solar panels.
Scientist Notes
In this activity, participants will learn about electricity, renewable energy, and solar energy. Students will also learn how solar power works. The resource discusses the benefits of renewable energy and how it impacts the environment. The information is accurate, and this resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • 4-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and that their uses affect the environment.
      • HS-ESS3-2 Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios.
    • PS3: Energy
      • 4-PS3-2 Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.
      • HS-PS3-2 Develop and use models to illustrate that energy at the macroscopic scale can be accounted for as a combination of energy associated with the motions of particles (objects) and energy associated with the relative position of particles (objects).
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