Local school children explore community solar array...

A huge thank you to Mary from Solar Power Education for helping 60 local children in Ernesettle get to know their community-owned solar array! Read on to find out what they got up to in Mary’s report…

Over 2 days, 60 Year 4 children and staff from Ernesettle School visited Ernesettle Solar Farm. This was the opening activity for their new term’s topic of ‘Bright Sparks’. They spent the morning at the solar farm and the afternoon in the classroom developing their learning about renewable energy further.

There were two sessions to complete at the solar farm – (although the weather was not kind on the second day, so this class only completed the challenge). The first was the Solar Farm Challenge, led by Mary, Education Officer, accompanied by Jemma, from Plymouth Energy Community. Children had a challenge sheet to complete and asked many questions as they were led around the site.

Children found out about the journey of electricity from the sun to their homes and were stunned by the amount of homes powered, the number of panels and the engineering involved to fit these on this site which is not flat. They looked at the data from the panels displayed on the inverter boxes and spotted the cameras, fences and signs which are important to keep the site safe and secure. There was great surprise at the number of jobs which are linked to the solar farm; children thought about their own interests and skills that could be useful in the future.

There was plenty of discussion about whether this is a suitable site for a solar farm and the benefits it has brought to the community by using an area which could not be used for other buildings.

The second onsite session focused on the biodiversity on the site. Children had a ‘spotter’s guide’ and binoculars to use with pooters and magnifying glasses for identifying bugs. They spotted lots of plants, birds, insects and spiders on site and shocked a pair of pheasants who flew off quickly! Looking at the bug hotels in situ, they could see that the site actively welcomes wildlife and were pleased to discover that there will be some beehives introduced soon.

They said: “We like the bug hunting because we had fun. The most creatures we found were ants and spiders. My favourite part was finding different flowers and bugs. I have learnt that there is life under the solar panels – animals can go under them.”

The children learnt many things during their visit to the solar farm and in their feedback they mentioned : “It was good being able to see how much energy the solar panels are making. We liked touching the solar panels.”

During the afternoon, the children discussed the morning’s visit, and looked through a Powerpoint with further information about renewable energy, there was plenty of questions and discussion. Children showed their concern about the impact of fossil fuels and were able to discuss how global warming is affecting wildlife all over the world.

There were practical challenges to complete: lots of solar toys to test and review; solar electricity kits to investigate; looking at how to power bulbs, buzzers and motors using solar panels; an investigation into their own power consumption and the chance to use multi meters to find the best place to put a solar cell. They were keen to think of ways to reduce their own power consumption at home.

The children were enthusiastic about their learning throughout the day and said: “I think that solar panels are a better way for making power.”

The two class teachers’ feedback mentioned that:

“The children were constantly engaged and learnt how we can improve our use of electricity. It was a perfect day to launch our topic!”

“A huge success, the children have fully engaged and learnt so much about renewable energy and the importance of avoiding/reducing our fossil fuel consumption. It has changed my perception of solar farms. We look forward to seeing the bees!”

For further information on Solar Power Education, visit their website here. We hope to be able to continue this solar power education programme in Plymouth and extend it to other schools.

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