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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wellington students head outdoors to learn power-full lesson on solar energy in daily life

In this simple model house, Wellington students saw how solar energy can power a tiny LED light, ceiling fan and hot-water tank.


 

By Tammy Lane
Fayette County Public Schools
 

Ethan Kidd has set up a microscope in one corner of his bedroom, where he dissects frogs and investigates other phenomena that capture the imaginations of 9-year-old boys.
 

“My grandparents live on a farm, and I’ve been living with animals all my life,” he said. “I’ve grown up with a passion for science.”
 

So when Chris Muesing of Bluegrass PRIDE visited Wellington Elementary in Lexington, Ethan’s ears perked up as the environmental educator talked about solar power, battery connections, thermal imaging and such.
 

Ethan and his classmates checked out a Toyota hybrid parked behind their school and learned that generators recharge the battery as the wheels spin. Muesing explained how a computer in the car controls whether it runs on the gasoline engine, which is more efficient on the highway, or off the electric motor, which is better for in-town driving.
 

He also brought along several smaller examples, including a solar-powered toy car and solar ovens made from pizza boxes and aluminum foil – complete with s’mores treats inside.
 

Chris Muesing of Bluegrass PRIDE talked about using foam to insulate houses and about how the Toyota hybrid runs on both gasoline and electricity.

The fourth- and fifth-graders got a close-up look at a couple of house models with alternative building materials. One featured a tiny LED light, miniature ceiling fan and hot-water tank powered by matchbox-size solar thermal and solar electric panels on the roof.
 

Muesing also talked about how foam insulation works, such as with a beverage cooler, and showed the classes how it could improve a home’s energy efficiency.
 

“This technology is new and exciting, and kids latch onto it so quickly,” he said.
 

The outdoor lesson served as an introduction to Nami Stager’s unit on heat transfer, renewable energies and tools that better sustain the planet. She suggested that providing real-life examples is crucial to students’ understanding the concepts as well as their roles.
 

“Ten, 12 years from now, these kids will be living in a different world,” said Stager, the STEM lab instructor at Wellington. “They’ll need jobs where they can use engineering and science.”
 

Ethan already gets it. He noted how using solar power and other Earth-friendly resources is better for the environment and said it’s up to today’s students to make a difference.
 

“We’re the next generation,” he said. “We can’t change the past, but we can change the future.”
 

(Photos from FCPS)

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