Recently, renewable energy has skyrocketed to the center of conversations about the environment. Since sustainability and renewables are key for the future, teaching kids now is the right path to take. Bringing them in on these conversations shows them how important renewables are and how they can get involved, no matter their age.
Here’s what you should cover when you teach kids about renewable energy:
Explain What Renewable Energy Is
The first step in teaching your kids about renewable energy is to simply cover the definition. To do so, you might want to take a step back and cover sustainability, too.
Sustainability means that something has the ability to exist for an indefinite amount of time at a constant rate. Something like gardening is sustainable because it keeps a cycle of consistent environmentally focused efforts going. To be fully sustainable, though, gardeners must go about their landscapes in Eco-friendly ways — with organic products, smart designs and fewer chemicals.
You can then translate this example to energy sustainability. Energy is necessary for creating power and electricity. It’s what countless communities run on throughout the world. Non-renewable energy, though, does not mimic the gardening example.
There are no precautions for the environment or focus on sustainability. These energy sources — which are fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas — will eventually run out.
Instead, renewable energy is sustainable because it will prosper forever. It’s a key factor in fighting climate change, which is now more necessary than ever. The most common renewables include solar, wind, hydro and tidal, geothermal and biomass.
With this background information, you can then dive into explaining each kind of renewable energy.
Focus on the Types of Renewables
One of the best ways to engage and teach kids about renewable energy is to dive into each one. If you’re unfamiliar with any of them, no need to worry — it can be a learning experience for everyone. These are the main types of renewables:
Solar energy is one of the most popular renewables out there. It tends to be the face of the movement, alongside wind.
With solar, kids will love to learn about how the sun’s energy becomes electricity. Photovoltaic (PV) panels absorb the light and heat and convert it all into power. Even on cloudy days, solar panels can use stored energy to keep operating.
Wind energy is another common renewable. Wind farms are where wind spins the giant blades on the turbines as it passes through. They have similar mechanics as pinwheels that you can buy at local stores.
With wind power, onshore and offshore turbines are ramping up across the United States.
There’s a recurring theme of using the elements as power. Here, it continues with hydro. These powerplants situate themselves next to rivers or dams and use the water currents to create electricity. Workers must be careful, though, to not disturb the natural waterways and ecosystems that exist there.
Tidal, too, is a similar concept. It uses ocean currents to create energy but is still not as popular as hydropower.
Geothermal power uses heat from a few miles deep in the Earth. Through piping, the heat comes up as steam which the powerplant can then convert into electricity.
With this source of energy, workers must be careful of releasing greenhouse gasses from the Earth. These gasses are a primary contributor to climate change and what renewables seek to diminish.
Biomass power comes from plant and animal byproduct. When workers burn this byproduct, it releases heat which then can become electricity. Biomass is particularly big in the agriculture industry due to its sources — crops, manure and waste.
Use Resources for Engagement
While going over the basics of renewable energy with your kids, you can also use resources to engage them. Kids tend to love activities and hands-on experiences. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to provide them with just that.
First, the internet is full of information and activities. For instance, NASA’s Climate Kids section covers everything they need to know about the environment — energy included. It does a great job of breaking down the bigger, more serious questions in a digestible way.
Similarly, earth science tutors help students of any age with concepts about renewable energy and sustainability. Once you engage and teach kids about renewable energy, they can then pursue further information.
The Department of Energy (DOE) also has informative worksheets that will compliment any lesson nicely. You can print out, for example, the renewable energy lessons for grades five through eight that have various activities. The site lists out materials you’ll need for the activities — and then you can get to the fun, hands-on experiences.
The DOE also has separate projects you can follow, like creating your very own solar oven using a pizza box. This activity is for kids of all ages and will be fun for the whole family. Thinking outside the box with ideas like this one is a sure way to engage your kids. Then, you can watch their interest in renewable energy flourish.
Lead by Example
One of the best practices you can take when you teach kids about renewable energy is to lead by example.
Sustainability requires a collective effort. Once you take on initiatives like limiting your energy consumption or switching to solar, you encourage the next generation to continue that journey.