Grade Range
3rd-5th
Group Size
4
Total Time
2 hours
Area of Science
Energy & Power
Materials Science
Key Concepts
photovoltaic cells, solar energy, thermal energy transfer
Credits
TeachEngineering logo

Overview

In this activity, students learn how engineers use solar energy to heat buildings by investigating the thermal storage properties of some common materials: sand, salt, water and shredded paper. Students then evaluate the usefulness of each material as a thermal storage material to be used as the thermal mass in a passive solar building.

Engineering Connection

Engineers design technologies that can turn sunlight into electricity to power households and businesses. For example, photovoltaic arrays and concentrating mirrors harness the Sun's energy and generate heat or electricity for general use. Engineers continually develop better ways to efficiently capture the Sun's plentiful energy capabilities.

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
  • 4-PS3-2. Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Planning and Carrying out Investigations. Make observations to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence for an explanation of a phenomenon or test a design solution.
PS3.A: Definitions of Energy. Energy can be moved from place to place by moving objects or through sound, light, or electric currents.

PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer. Energy is present whenever there are moving objects, sound, light, or heat. When objects collide, energy can be transferred from one object to another, thereby changing their motion. In such collisions, some energy is typically also transferred to the surrounding air; as a result, the air gets heated and sound is produced.

Light also transfers energy from place to place.

Energy can also be transferred from place to place by electric currents, which can then be used locally to produce motion, sound, heat, or light. The currents may have been produced to begin with by transforming the energy of motion into electrical energy.
Energy and Matter. Energy can be transferred in various ways and between objects.

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Grade Range
3rd-5th
Group Size
4
Total Time
2 hours
Area of Science
Energy & Power
Materials Science
Key Concepts
photovoltaic cells, solar energy, thermal energy transfer
Credits
TeachEngineering logo
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