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Authors

Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education, University of Wisconsin Stevens Point K-12 Energy Education Program

Grades

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

Subjects

Science, Social Studies, Physics, Earth and Space Sciences, Economics, Civics, Mathematics, Engineering

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plan
  • Experiment
  • Worksheet
  • Video, 3 minutes, 1 second, CC
  • Article
  • Video, 3 minutes, 8 seconds, CC, Subtitles
  • Video, 23 minutes, 53 seconds, CC, Subtitles
  • Video, 5 minutes, 32 seconds, CC, Subtitles
  • Presentation Slides

Regional Focus

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

Format

Google Docs, Google Slides, PDF

Solar Tilt Investigation 6-12

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Synopsis
  • In this inquiry-based lesson, students will perform experiments to determine if the angle at which the sun shines on a solar panel affects the amount of energy it produces.
  • Students will also learn about careers in solar energy and how solar energy can reduce carbon emissions.
Teaching Tips

Positives

  • This lesson is formatted using the Five E's, which maximize students' connections and engagement.
  • The introduction to how solar cells work is a great activity that gets students moving and is great for kinesthetic learners!

Additional Prerequisites

  • There are many tools needed for this lesson that may not be readily available in every classroom. Make sure you can get access to these tools prior to using this lesson.
  • Students should be familiar with angle measurement, including using a compass.
  • Some students, including English Language learners, may need the terms variable, dependent variable, independent variable, hypothesis, null hypothesis, alternative hypothesis, voltage, horizontal, vertical, renewable, nonrenewable, electrons, radiation, commercial, residential, equitable, efficiency, retrofit, and others defined prior to beginning the lesson.
  • Students should know how to graph positive and negative integers.

Differentiation

  • Students can look into putting solar panels in their own school or can investigate their school's preexisting solar panels.
  • Students can find a local solar installer or solar design engineer and interview them, or can research a career using the solar career map.
  • Strategic pairing can be used if some students struggle with using a compass to measure an angle or with graphing points, or this can be done as a class.
  • The extra articles about solar accessibility on slide 29 can be given to groups of students to read and report back on in a jigsaw activity.
  • Students can discuss how inequality and discrimination are connected to energy. They can then list the things other cities and organizations are doing to address this.
  • After watching the Project Drawdown video on slide 37, students can discuss which sector they would like to learn more about, why certain sectors may get a disproportionate amount of attention, and what they (as individuals) can do to make a difference.
Scientist Notes
The tilt of the Earth in relation to the Sun is an important factor in our climate system. Similarly, the angle of a solar panel in relation to the Sun is an important factor in generating electricity. This in-class experiment allows to students explore how a changing angle changes solar energy production. This resource is recommended for teaching.
Standards
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
      • MS-ESS3-5 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
      • 5-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.
      • HS-ESS3-1 Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity.
      • HS-ESS3-2 Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios.
      • HS-ESS3-4 Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • MS-ETS1-3 Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
      • 3-5-ETS1-1 Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
      • 3-5-ETS1-3 Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
    • PS3: Energy
      • MS-PS3-2 Develop a model to describe that when the arrangement of objects interacting at a distance changes, different amounts of potential energy are stored in the system.
      • HS-PS3-1 Create a computational model to calculate the change in the energy of one component in a system when the change in energy of the other component(s) and energy flows in and out of the system are known.
      • 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).
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Writing (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and refocusing the inquiry when appropriate.
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Geography
      • D2.Geo.4.9-12 Analyze relationships and interactions within and between human and physical systems to explain reciprocal influences that occur among them.
  • Common Core Math Standards (CCSS.MATH)
    • Geometry (K-8)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.G.A.1 Use a pair of perpendicular number lines, called axes, to define a coordinate system, with the intersection of the lines (the origin) arranged to coincide with the 0 on each line and a given point in the plane located by using an ordered pair of numbers, called its coordinates. Understand that the first number indicates how far to travel from the origin in the direction of one axis, and the second number indicates how far to travel in the direction of the second axis, with the convention that the names of the two axes and the coordinates correspond (e.g., x-axis and x-coordinate, y-axis and y-coordinate).
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.G.A.2 Represent real world and mathematical problems by graphing points in the first quadrant of the coordinate plane, and interpret coordinate values of points in the context of the situation.
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.7.G.B.5 Use facts about supplementary, complementary, vertical, and adjacent angles in a multi-step problem to write and solve simple equations for an unknown angle in a figure.
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