What's Going On?

Soak up some rays

Activity overview

15 mins
Ages 9 – 11

Science topics:


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

1. 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.

  • Do they know what might happen based on the image?

2. After you've watched the video, lead a discussion with your class:

  • 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?

3. Ask the class to describe what they saw using only one word.

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.