Hands-On Energy Education
“Having experts from the community come into the classroom to engage students in real life concerns is a valuable experience for our students.” – Diane Smith, 8th grade teacher at Summit Middle School
When the students find out they’ll be making wind-powered cars in class, their eyes light up. But before we can get to the fun stuff, they have to take a quick quiz to see how much they learned during two days of lessons on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Energy Explorers is HC3’s energy education program for 5th and 8th graders in Summit County. During our time in the classrooms, students get a hands-on understanding of energy efficiency by using a hand-powered generator to light different types of bulbs. They experiment with circuits powered by solar panels and engage in discussions about the pros and cons of renewable energy. Middle school teacher Diane Smith attests, “Having experts from the community come into the classroom to engage students in real life concerns is a valuable experience for our students.”
Quizzes collected, we break the students into groups and get to work assembling the cars. Once all is said and done, the class lines up near the race track we’ve outlined, and the box fans are powered up. As their classmates cheer, groups of students test their cars and are encouraged make tweaks if their initial design wasn’t as successful as they’d hoped. Eventually, the cars travel in a mostly straight direction towards the finish line, some faster than others. But the outcome of the races isn’t really as important as the fact that students see for themselves that these cars move with the power of wind alone. And if any of them missed the answer to question number six on the quiz, they know it by now: Yes, wind does have energy.