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STEM ready

Solar Energy

Driving or Multi-dimensional Question:

Several factors help keep the temperature stable in a greenhouse. Plants thrive in environments with a steady temperature and a controlled environment. What design/type of greenhouse will keep a stable temperature throughout winter to provide the best environment for plants? Students are given three different cartoon pictures referencing solar energy in different ways. Students will have to explain what the cartoons are trying to say and give evidence using knowledge from their activities in this PBL.

Unit Summary:

Students will investigate how solar energy is produced, the effectiveness of solar energy and how it is used (or will be used in the future) in Tennessee. They will complete activities regarding energy transfer, renewable resources and new technologies—all while utilizing the engineering design concept. At the completion of the PBL lesson, students will present their greenhouse design and results to agricultural students at the local high school. They will create an “ad” of their choice (flyer, pamphlet, TV, internet, streaming) on how solar energy can be used locally.

Hook Event:

Culminating Event:


Science Standards:

6.PS3: Energy
4. Conduct an investigation to demonstrate the way that heat (thermal energy) moves among objects through radiation, conduction or convection.

6.ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
1. Differentiate between renewable and nonrenewable resources by asking questions about their availability and sustainability.
2. Investigate and compare existing and developing technologies that utilize renewable and alternative energy resources

Math Standards:

ELA and Other Standards:

6.ETS1: Engineering Design
2. Design and test different solutions that impact energy transfer.

Daily Activities

For more information on this lesson please see the Lesson Resources below

 ActivityDescriptionResources and Materials
Activity One

Convection Tubes

Convection Tube:
If you do not have a convection tube, activity can be completed with ice cubes, blue food coloring and warm water

Activity TwoSolar Collector Activity

• Gallon size plastic baggies
• Thermometers
• Black construction paper
• Corrugated cardboard (2)
• Timer
• Solar Collector Activity Sheet

Activity Three

Solar Cell:
How does the amount of light and/or wavelength (color) of light affect a solar cell?

• Solar cells
• Small motor
• Colored transparent film
• Solar Cell Activity Sheet

Activity Four

Greenhouse Design:
Which greenhouse keeps a steadier temperature during the winter?
(Whitney Moore, Midway High School agriculture teacher)

• Corrugated cardboard
• Clear plastic, 50cm x 450 cm
• Black spray paint
• White spray paint
• Thermometers
• Plastic wrap
• String
• Tin cans
• Rubber bands
• Insulation material of student’s choice

Technology Integration:

Business PartnerContribution to Learning ExperienceContact Information
Midway High School Agriculture DepartmentMrs. Moore and current agriculture students recently applied for and received a grant to fund the construction of a new greenhouse. They will mentor our students on important aspects of a greenhouse.

Whitney Moore
[email protected]

Oak Ridge National Lab/Department of EnergyInvestigate research occurring locally through the department of energy.
Tennessee TechExplore how engineering and energy resources can be partnered with farms in Tennessee.

Robert Craven

Capstone Presentation:

This is a two part presentation on their PBL.

1. Students will create an “elevator speech” (2-3 minutes) on how thermal/solar energy is produced and how it can be utilized locally. They will then present the greenhouse they created and explain the design challenges they faced, along with their results of their greenhouse project. These will be presented to students in the high school agriculture program.

2. Students will then create an advertisement of their choice—to be distributed locally—about the importance of solar energy in their community. Examples of this may be a flyer, brochure, TV or internet advertisement.

Lesson Resources