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published by the National Energy Education Development Project
Available Languages: English, Spanish
This inquiry-based curriculum unit for Grades 4-5 introduces the interactions that allow solar energy to be converted into electricity, chemical energy, and heat. It is the second of a 2-part set of materials for teaching about energy in elementary grades. Seven investigations take learners beyond a basic understanding of the sun as an energy source to explorations of how light energy is transformed for uses other than warming. Kids will explore how a photovoltaic cell works, measure heat intensity with a radiometer, and build a small "solar house" with a collector and a PV cell. Resource includes lesson plans, warm-up questions, lab procedures, 10-page student background booklet, and classroom presentation materials for teaching an eight-day unit.

The teacher guide and student guide are separate downloads.

The NEED Project is a national initiative to bring innovative curriculum materials in energy education to teachers and learners from the primary grades through college.
Editor's Note: These materials were designated by the publisher for Grades K-4, but the readability score is Grade 4 and many of the concepts require a cognitive level above that of the typical primary learner. The blueprint and materials for building the solar house can be purchased from the publisher for $350 or obtained from science supply houses for ~ $200 for one classroom.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Work and Energy
Education Practices
- Active Learning
= Inquiry Learning
- Instructional Material Design
= Project
- Pedagogy
= Multidisciplinary
Electricity & Magnetism
- Electromagnetic Radiation
= Electromagnetic Spectrum
Other Sciences
- Environmental Science
- Elementary School
- Instructional Material
= Curriculum
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Student Guide
= Unit of Instruction
- Assessment Material
- Audio/Visual
= Image/Image Set
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- Laboratory
- Assessment
- New teachers
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On August 18, 2020, our automated link checker listed this item as potentially having a problem. Please be aware that this issue may still exist.
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Free access
© 2010 National Energy Education Development Project
chemical energy, clean energy, energy forms, energy lessons, energy sources, engineering design, green energy, light energy, photovoltaic cell, renewable energy, solar collector, solar oven, thermal energy
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created April 18, 2013 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 10, 2020 by Lyle Barbato

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

1. The Nature of Science

1B. Scientific Inquiry
  • K-2: 1B/P2. Tools such as thermometers, magnifiers, rulers, or balances often give more information about things than can be obtained by just observing things unaided.
  • 3-5: 1B/E2b. One reason for following directions carefully and for keeping records of one's work is to provide information on what might have caused differences in investigations.

3. The Nature of Technology

3A. Technology and Science
  • 3-5: 3A/E3. Measuring instruments can be used to gather accurate information for making scientific comparisons of objects and events and for designing and constructing things that will work properly.
3B. Design and Systems
  • 3-5: 3B/E1. There is no perfect design. Designs that are best in one respect (safety or ease of use, for example) may be inferior in other ways (cost or appearance). Usually some features must be sacrificed to get others.

4. The Physical Setting

4E. Energy Transformations
  • K-2: 4E/P1. The sun warms the land, air, and water.
  • 3-5: 4E/E2b. When warmer things are put with cooler ones, heat is transferred from the warmer ones to the cooler ones.
  • 3-5: 4E/E2c. A warmer object can warm a cooler one by contact or at a distance.
4F. Motion
  • 3-5: 4F/E3. Light travels and tends to maintain its direction of motion until it interacts with an object or material. Light can be absorbed, redirected, bounced back, or allowed to pass through.

8. The Designed World

8C. Energy Sources and Use
  • 3-5: 8C/E1. Moving air and water can be used to run machines.
  • 3-5: 8C/E2. Sunlight is used to run many devices.
  • 3-5: 8C/E4. Some people try to reduce the amount of fuels they use in order to conserve resources, reduce pollution, or save money.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 3-5: 11B/E4. Models are very useful for communicating ideas about objects, events, and processes. When using a model to communicate about something, it is important to keep in mind how it is different from the thing being modeled.

12. Habits of Mind

12A. Values and Attitudes
  • 3-5: 12A/E1. Keep clear and accurate records of investigations and observations.
  • 3-5: 12A/E2. Offer reasons for claims and consider reasons suggested by others.
12B. Computation and Estimation
  • K-2: 12B/P1. Use whole numbers in ordering, counting, identifying, measuring, and describing objects and events.
12C. Manipulation and Observation
  • K-2: 12C/P4. Measure the length in whole units of objects using rulers and tape measures.
  • 3-5: 12C/E3. Keep written or electronic records of information so that the records are understandable weeks or months later.
12D. Communication Skills
  • K-2: 12D/P3. Interpret pictures, drawings, and videos of real-world objects and events.
  • 3-5: 12D/E3. Use numerical data in describing and comparing objects and events.
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Record Link
AIP Format
(National Energy Education Development Project, Manassas, 2010), WWW Document, (http://web.archive.org/web/20160509003339/http://www.need.org/files/curriculum/guides/EnergyfromtheSunTeacherGuide.pdf).
NEED Project: Energy From The Sun (National Energy Education Development Project, Manassas, 2010), <http://web.archive.org/web/20160509003339/http://www.need.org/files/curriculum/guides/EnergyfromtheSunTeacherGuide.pdf>.
APA Format
NEED Project: Energy From The Sun. (2010). Retrieved June 19, 2024, from National Energy Education Development Project: http://web.archive.org/web/20160509003339/http://www.need.org/files/curriculum/guides/EnergyfromtheSunTeacherGuide.pdf
Chicago Format
National Energy Education Development Project. NEED Project: Energy From The Sun. Manassas: National Energy Education Development Project, 2010. http://web.archive.org/web/20160509003339/http://www.need.org/files/curriculum/guides/EnergyfromtheSunTeacherGuide.pdf (accessed 19 June 2024).
MLA Format
NEED Project: Energy From The Sun. Manassas: National Energy Education Development Project, 2010. 19 June 2024 <http://web.archive.org/web/20160509003339/http://www.need.org/files/curriculum/guides/EnergyfromtheSunTeacherGuide.pdf>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {NEED Project: Energy From The Sun}, Publisher = {National Energy Education Development Project}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {19 June 2024}, Year = {2010} }
Refer Export Format

%T NEED Project: Energy From The Sun %D 2010 %I National Energy Education Development Project %C Manassas %U http://web.archive.org/web/20160509003339/http://www.need.org/files/curriculum/guides/EnergyfromtheSunTeacherGuide.pdf %O application/pdf

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %D 2010 %T NEED Project: Energy From The Sun %I National Energy Education Development Project %V 2024 %N 19 June 2024 %9 application/pdf %U http://web.archive.org/web/20160509003339/http://www.need.org/files/curriculum/guides/EnergyfromtheSunTeacherGuide.pdf

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NEED Project: Energy From The Sun:

Accompanies NEED Project: The Sun and Its Energy

A simpler curriculum unit for Grades 1-3 that explores the sun as a source of light energy, conversion of light energy to heat, and an engineering project to a solar oven.

relation by Caroline Hall

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