What's Going On?

Soak up some rays

15 mins
Ages 9 – 11
Topics: Electricity

Have your class ever seen a toy move seemingly all on its own? Work out what’s going on and discuss the power of the sun!

Run the activity in 4 steps

1.

This video shows a solar-powered toy being assembled and then moving in the light  – and is also packed with science ideas! Check out our handy background information if you'd like to know more before you start.

Explain to your class that you're going to watch a short video. The aim isn't to find right answers, it's to explore ideas and find out what they know. 

2.

Before you press play, can the class guess what will happen in the video based on the image? Ask them to pay very close attention and play the video.

What did they see? What do they think is happening?

3.

Lead a discussion with your class based on the video:

  • Why did the toy start moving?
  • What are the different parts of the toy and what do they do?
  • What do the class think are the pros and cons of using the sun as an energy source?
  • What else uses the sun as a source of energy?

4.

Extend the discussion by asking the class to describe what they saw using only one word. How many words can they come up with?

Background science

Solar energy comes from the sun. It’s what we call a renewable energy source (i.e. it won’t run out, like coal or natural gas), which is more environmentally friendly than other power sources. Lots of people have installed large solar panels on their houses to capture the energy from the sun and convert it into electricity.  Solar panels on homes are much bigger versions of the ones on this toy – think about how much energy you need for a whole house compared to this toy!

As you watch the video you’ll see a solar toy being assembled; including a circuit being built that will enable the toy to move. Electricity will only flow through a complete circuit that has no gaps. You might notice the car doesn’t move even though the circuit appears to be complete, and that’s because there is a switch in the circuit. The switch creates a gap, which stops the flow of electrical current. This switch also changes the direction of the car.

Take it further

Encourage your class to have a go at drawing this circuit. You could think about other forms of renewable energy, like wind and water. Find out what your class know about circuits and insulators with this Electrifying metals Mystery Bag. Or, think about how others toys are powered and discover how to make a motor with this Super spinning wire activity.