In response to an invitation from a teacher at St. Mary’s School, John Gillingham gave 2 x 45 minute presentations on renewable energy to year 5 and year 6; each presentation being delivered to an audience of 60 children plus teachers.  The presentations were given to supplement lessons in renewable energy through practical demonstrations.

Below is my write up of the event.

I started the presentations by establishing their knowledge of electricity through a number of questions. They demonstrated a willingness and enthusiasm to respond; and their responses were ‘interesting’, even if I had to suppress a chuckle a few times.  I then used a cartoon picture of a man with a hose pipe watering the garden as a simple analogy for electricity flow. This proved to be a good ploy and elicited some very sensible and mature questions (including “Why doesn’t a police Taser gun kill you?).

I then asked how electricity ‘arrived’ at their houses and was particularly impressed by their answers; especially from the older group. This led on to a visualisation of the electricity supply process back to power stations and their use (mainly) of fossil fuels. This provided an opportunity to explore their understanding of fossil fuels.

As a teaching aid, I used a car battery to represent the National Grid. This was powering a projector, net book computer and sound system to simulate possible energy uses in the home, whilst the film ‘Home’ was being shown in the background (kept the less interested ones occupied). The battery was connected to the cycle generator and 2 x portable solar panels, which I introduced as mini ‘power stations’ connected to the ‘National Grid’ (the battery).

I produced a 60watt filament bulb and explained that the cycle generator could just about power this. This elicited many questions along the lines of “How many cycles would be needed to power ……”, which gave the opportunity for some spontaneous mental arithmetic; especially for ‘How many cycles would be needed to power all the houses in a street?”

‘Volunteers’ were selected by the teachers to provide the energy source to the cycle generator, after which I asked them tell the other children how hard it was to produce so little energy.

I think the message got through; especially when I asked them to consider if they had to reduce the electricity consumption in their house by 50%, what would they do without?

A very rewarding experience……..

John Gillingham

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