Written by Tracy Linney, Solar Power Education Officer. Tracy has taken over 2,500 children to visit solar farms in the South of England.
Are you a teacher thinking about a visit to your local solar farm?
At Solar Power Education, we can make this happen for you to ensure your pupils get a great experience, enhancing their learning and understanding.
What can you expect from Solar Power Education?
Our Educational Consultants will organise all the external elements for your visit. This includes sharing a Risk Assessment for you to review, a Method Statement (a requirement for visiting a solar farm -explaining how the visit will be run), we can organise a pre-visit meeting on site, provide resources for on-site learning activities, organise the logistics for your visit, and organise and fund your transport.
What do you need to plan?
1/ A date
2/ How the visit fits into your curriculum
3/ Appropriate adult: child ratios.
4/ First Aid
5/ Permission forms
6/ High-viz jackets
7/ Ensure children are appropriately dressed
8/ Provide stationary for your site visit
9/ Ensure hand sanitiser is available to suit updated COVID-19 protocols
How does the visit work?
On arrival your pupils will be given a health & safety talk. After that, there are generally two components to your visit to the solar farm - a tour of the site and learning activities connected to your curriculum focus.
What curriculum areas are covered on the visit?
The main curriculum area covered is Science, primarily Biology and Physics, however there are aspects of the Geography curriculum which are also included. We can provide a list of suggested activities and curriculum links.
How long will the activities last?
Our activities can last from 30 minutes to 1 ½ hours, dependent on the age of the children.
So a site visit could take a whole morning or afternoon session.
What will Key Stage 1 pupils learn?
KS1 pupils will learn what solar panels do and why this is important for our environment. They can learn about the natural life found on the site.
What will Key Stage 2 pupils learn?
KS2 pupils will learn all about the importance of renewable energy, how the solar panels work, what materials they are made from, positioning of the panels and how the electricity made ends up at people’s homes. They can also carry out a biodiversity study of the site, create food chains and webs. We also have small solar circuits and solar toys to show children how the electricity makes things work.
How will the visit support learning about circuits?
Solar panels use electrical circuits to allow the electricity to travel. Your pupils can explore small solar circuits and solar toys to explore how electricity makes things work.
How will the visit support learning about animals and plants and living things?
Children can learn to identify the wildlife on site and find out about different habitats for mini-beasts. They can also create bee houses or bug hotels for the solar farm. Solar farms have a wealth of wildlife and are managed to support biodiversity.
What will Key Stage 3 pupils learn?
KS3 pupils will learn about environmental issues relating to renewable energy, how the materials used cause chemical reactions to create electricity. They can also learn different sampling techniques, looking at the biodiversity of the site.
How will the visit support learning about ecosystems?
Study of the solar farm habitats and its dependants show how ecosystems survive.
What will Key Stage 4 and A level pupils learn?
KS4/ 5 pupils will learn about advanced electrical circuitry and how this works within the solar farm context. They can also classify organisms and look at the human impact on ecosystems.
What facilities are available at the site?
Solar Power Education will provide toilet facilities which include a hand wash basin, usually located near the site entrance. We can also provide hand wipes whilst on site. There are no classrooms or buildings at the sites for the children to access.
What are the transport arrangements?
Solar Power Education can organise and fund the transport for you. The coach(es) will drop the pupils off as close to the site as possible.
What else can Solar Power Education offer?
We love to come into school to deliver workshops. These can be done prior to or post a site visit and it really helps to consolidate learning and makes it a real life experience.
We really can tailor a visit to suit your needs.
Written by Lorna Lyle, Founder of Solar Power Education and mother of 3 girls aged 4, 3 and 16 months.
This week is National Insect Week run by the Royal Entomological Society. Entomology is the study of insects and they want us all to learn more about insects.
We LOVE insects at Solar Power Education and feel we never know enough about them. On every bug hunt or biodiversity study an enthusiastic child presents us with an insect wanting to know what they have found. Identifying insects can be no easy task so we are here to help!
We hope the ideas below will help you learn about insects, these ideas and resources can be used with the children you support to learn and have fun.
1. Do a Bug Hunt
This can be so simple. Gather your group or children. Find a container (if you would like to have a closer look at what you find) and go and explore.
You can look under rocks, on tree trunks, in the grass, in building nooks and crannies. Alternatively you can make it a bigger project with planning, predicting and investigating.
We have put together a Bug Hunt pdf which includes a tally chart of the most common bugs and links to video clips and further learning resources.
2. Build a Bug Hotel
This can be also be as simple as a pile of logs. It can also be as big as a Bug City involving more materials and a little DIY.
In whatever form your bug hotel has taken you will soon have guests visiting and you can drop into the bug hotel every week to see what insect guests you have staying. See our bug hotel resources here.
3. Take a Photograph of an Insect
Whilst you are exploring insects have a go at taking some photographs of them. If you take a fantastic photograph you an enter it into the National Insect Week's Photography Competition .
You can use the photo to help you identify exactly what you have found. Please share any photographs with us too!
4. Design and Make a Model Insect
Insects are phenomenal to look at.
Okay this one isn't easy but if you are looking for a longer, more challenging project for older children making a 3D insect from tights, newspaper, wire and papier mache is amazing! Or more simply with play doh/plasticine/clay/junk modelling. We have pinned the instructions to our Pinterest board as well as several other bug themed ideas.
5. Read a Story or Watch a Film
I watched Charlotte's Web on the weekend with my 3 and 4 year old. They have asked so many questions about spiders since then.
For EYFS, 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar,' 'Superworm' and, 'What the Ladybird Heard' by Julia Donaldson will help spark interest.
For older children, 'A Bugs Life', 'James and the Giant Peach', 'Insect Soup: Bug Poems', and, 'Alice in Wonderland' will all provide inspiration. Looking at non-fiction, information books on insects will help enthuse as well.
Finally thinking about KS2 and KS3....
Older children can put their research, drawings, models and photos together and create a Steve Backshall, 'Deadly 60' style video clip or presentation.
This blog was written for Community Energy Fortnight 2020, by Mary Yates, Solar Power Education Officer
As a teacher, working part-time in school and as an SPE Education officer, I feel privileged to strike a balance between the formality of a National Curriculum and the freedom of outdoor learning.
I provide school workshops and visits to solar and wind farms for Plymouth Energy Community and soon for Yealm Community Energy. Their objectives are to empower their community to create a fair, affordable, zero carbon energy system with people at its heart.
The ‘feel’ of joining up with an energy community is the excitement and enthusiasm of what we can deliver to local people. Finding ways to showcase the solar site in their midst, how we all have a vested interest in what goes on there and sharing the benefits. Particularly now, as we find new ways to be together, the importance of neighbourhood and our place in a locality seems more significant.
The power of a group.
It's a Farm? Where are the Animals?
Typically, we take children on the journey of power from the sun to their homes, following as it moves through the stages on a solar farm. The chance to get close to this invisible force, to hear it humming through the transformers, to look at the data on the inverters and to make sense of how nature is creating something so important to us.
The surprise of how a panel feels – smooth, not hot and no shock! The delight of meeting a site engineer and asking him about his job or looking at the gadgets he carries – a multi meter to show us how much power is in that cable or a thermal imaging camera to take the temperature of the panel (or us!). A sense that some of the power from the experience passes through to the children to carry forward perhaps?
Aspirations are so easy to build in this setting – explaining about the number of people involved in a community solar site at all stages. Children can see how their interests could lead to a job in the future in this industry. Hands fly up when I ask who likes nature, Maths, Science … then they see the link to the careers of the people we discuss.
The power of an aspiration.
Many solar farms focus on improving the biodiversity on their sites and we use this as an opportunity to give children hands on experiences of nature. In groups, the children are given a range of equipment, binoculars, magnifying glasses and spotter’s guides and freedom to explore an area of the site.
The amazement at the creatures they discover. The feeling of them on their hand.
The power of nature.
Harnessing the power?
Working at Solar Power Education provides me with a unique insight … a snapshot of a group, a moment captured and questions that cause me to stop and think. The power of those questions often surprises me.
Why don’t they make camouflage solar panels? Do they recycle all parts of the panels? Who says it should cost so much? Why isn’t the energy free when the sun shines and the wind blows for free? Can’t we change the national grid? Why don’t people realise there is so much nature under the panels?
What follows are their solutions, fresh, uncomplicated: We could design a battery in school and make a million pounds. We could ask people to share ideas. I could ask my Dad – he’s an electrician. Potatoes can store power. You could have holiday tours around your site.
The power of an open mind.
The key is to listen to these questions, to question ourselves, to think whether it is time to do things differently, to find different places and people to get new answers from. To challenge at all levels.
Perhaps that is the power we can harness – that of a child’s uncomplicated thoughts…
Follow Solar Power Education on Facebook, Instagram and our website.
Never has a question felt so difficult to answer! As a primary school teacher and Education Officer for SPE, I have no idea. The only thing I hold onto is that as we approach a ‘new normal’, we will do as we have always done. We will do everything we can for the children, families and communities that we work with.
I do know though that school and education will look very different in the coming weeks and months. Could now be the time to focus on what you feel is important?
Have you noticed how loud the birds seem? In the madness of everything what have you seen, heard, smelt, felt, noticed? Has it helped you to feel grounded? Now more than ever, children and adults need to feel connected, both to people and the world around them.
Each school is going to be unique and individual now. How you make it work in your school is going to be very personal.
Time to make it yours: how could a whole school topic help? How can outdoor space be used? How can children work together on something whilst maintaining some sort of distance? What resources can be used?
You may or may not be back in school. You may be with your class or with a different year group. However it looks in your school, you are the link between children and their lives during and post Coronavirus. That link needs to be nourished so that it can be as strong, supportive and nurturing as possible.
We watched School of Rock last weekend; not quite real life but the values are there. Now is the time to create whole group projects. It will bring you together and provide each child a job to make them feel valued.
What topic would they like to work on? Can you develop an outdoor area with planting, painting rocks, pond in a pot, insect and hedgehog hotels, a zero waste challenge, an alternative sports day or an event for September? Follow Solar Power Education on Facebook or go to our website for lots of ideas and resources.
Your Home Learning
This has been a huge learning curve for both schools and home and there isn’t the perfect answer or solution.
We are trying to support and provide for children who may or may not have access to devices and internet, adults who are trying to juggle working from home and home learning and those that enjoy different activities and levels of independence.
In our school, we have found that whole key stage or school topics are well received as children can work on activities together and contribute their own ideas which helps them feel a part of school life. ‘What a Wonderful World’ speaks volumes at the minute and links directly to many of the resources we have.
Would you Rather .... ?
In our current situation, these can be the opening that children need to explore how they are feeling when sometimes they don’t know themselves or don’t have the words to express themselves, especially when you ask them why.
Here’s a few to start you off:
What Could our Future Look Like?
Now is the time to realise the potential of this ‘new normal’; to give families experiences that are unique to this time. Help them to stop, notice, connect, experience and live. If we can do that, imagine what our future could look like.