Solar Panel Simulation

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SWBAT use a simulation to model the sun's intensity to produce more or less power.

Big Idea

A learning simulation is an experience designed to rigorously help students develop competence in the content.

Solar Power Foldable

15 minutes

Solar Power Foldable

I ask student to prepare the Solar Power Foldable by folding, cutting, and glueing the foldable into their Science Journal (Notebook). Keeping the foldable in the Science Journal ensures that it is in a safe spot where students can easily access the information.

A Basic Solar Power Primer (a free, online interactive simulation) is one strategy to front load information before students access the Solar Power Simulator. This primer information is found as a link on the Solar Power Simulation homepage (website). Students focus on standards RST.6-8.4 to determine meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain specific words. In this situation, students learn the terms: solar panels, charger controllers, batteries, and inverters. On the foldable, I ask students to communicate (SP#8) three (3) facts or draw pictures to identify and describe these terms. Additional information can be gained by clicking on any of the images that identify the terms.

Students also focus on RST.6-8.9 as they compare/contrast the information gained from simulations with that gained from reading text on the same topic. After students go through the simulation, they should be able to compare/contrast the information gained from the primer verses the simulator. During this unit, students read text (textbook, nonfiction text, article) about the Sun's energy and compare that with the text online about Solar Panels. I encourage students to keep the essential question (EQ) in mind as they complete the simulation "How does the Earth, Sun, and Moon affect my life?"

Solar Power Simulation

20 minutes

Solar Power Simulation

Simulation based learning is just like the real thing. It's active learning. It's a technique to replace or amplify real experiences with guided ones. It replicates aspects of the real world in an interactive way. A simulation brings variety to the learning experience and is engaging for all students. A simulation is a (SP#2) model. This modeling is a method of solving problems with a system under study (solar power).

Students engage in this simulation to learn what it's like to run a solar power electric energy system. Students could increase/decrease the sunshine to change the output of the solar panels. Some simulator options include: to turn various appliances on/off to see the affect on battery charging and power consumption. The Solar Power Simulator is used with the Solar Power Simulation questions. The questions help to guide student work as they think through the process. As students work through the simulation, they will (SP#1) ask questions and (SP#4) analyze and interpret data to see if switching to more or less sunlight will affect the system. Students cut and glue the questions into their Science Journal. Keeping the questions and the foldable in the Science Journal makes it easy to assess and grade student work. It is also easy for students to access and find the information for future use.


5 minutes


I learned that . . .  because. . .

I have learned that you need to take students back to the question so they can think about the process. I ask students to reflect on either question:

1. What does the Solar Panel do?

2. How does the Earth, Sun, and Moon affect my life? (essential question)

Take 2 minutes for students to process one of these questions and write a conclusion in their journal about this learning experience. I give students a sentence starter to add rigor to their writing and help with the process, for example:  I learned that . . .because. . .   Take 2 minutes to share answers with the class so students can hear other student thoughts.

Some student responses include:

I learned that solar panels can work even without sunlight because the batteries store energy for when it's not sunny.

I learned that a solar power simulator is powerful because it can power many appliances at once and can save and give out energy.

I learned that a solar panel is very vital for electricity because it generates electricity from sunlight!