Applied Science - Built Environment (2)

  • Experimenting with solar energy.
  • Investigating how solar energy produces power.


  • coal
  • energy
  • power
  • solar

Students create heat from light.


Solar energy is an environmentally good source of energy because it is non-polluting. However, it isn't always practical everywhere around the world. Weather conditions sometimes prevent full use of solar energy. Solar energy, however, is very powerful.

Concentrating light causes sunlight to create energy, making some items work. For example, a solar calculator or solar heater. In this activity, students will learn how to capture these light rays to make heat energy. Most children learn sooner or later that a magnifying lens will make paper burn. Students will learn how light is concentrated and then discover they can create a fire if not careful.


  1. This lab is designed to teach children safety and the power of solar energy.
  2. On a sunny day, go outside and give each student a hand lens, 3 dry leaves and a piece of aluminum foil. (You can always use a piece of paper instead of leaves, but leaves are safer). Put the leaves on the aluminum foil over a cement or asphalt area. These areas help concentrate the heat, but are also much safer when burning any items. Students should see if one, two, or three loupes makes the leaf easier to burn. Time how long it takes. (If a watch is available and your students can tell time).
  3. The 3 lens together will produce the most concentrated energy, so it will burn the fastest. Students have to be sure to focus the light before it will burn.
  4. Students are sometimes confused between heat energy and light energy. After they finish burning the leaves, have students rub their hands and then put them on the fickle foam. If the hand is warm enough, the fickle foam will turn colors (blue is warmest, reddish is coolest). This is because of heat energy. Shining light on the fickle foam will produce no change unless the light is derived from solar light which will also create heat. Heat energy and light energy are not always the same. However light, if concentrated, can create heat energy. Remember light can come from more sources than the Sun. Energy is a complicated subject.

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