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  • Writer's pictureAmy Wung Tsao

Catch Some ☀️! (Sun and Solar Energy STEM Resources)

Updated: Jan 21

A Note from Amy

I remember when this amazing new science show, Emily’s Wonder Lab, released in 2020. Me and my big kids binge watched the whole season in a couple of days. We still go back and rewatch episodes now.


I’m so sad that Netflix never made a second season. But I will be forever grateful that, where I had Bill Nye the Science Guy in a plain lab coat, my kids have Emily Calandrelli in pink overalls over her super pregnant belly, talking about polymers while wading through a pool of slime.

Emily Calendrelli wearing bright pink overalls over a black shirt, along with 4 elementary age children wearing swim caps and eye goggles, are all in a square tub covered in light pink slime. The kids are especially covered in slime, while Emily is waving tendrils of slime from both her hands.
Credit: Netflix


 

The Sun and Solar Energy


“The face of the sun is not without expression,

but it tells us precious little of what is in its heart.”


~ astronomer Armin Joseph Deutsch


Hand with curled fingers around the Sun, barely visible behind the fingers. A partially cloudy sky and mountain landscape are blurred in the background.
Credit: Daoudi Aissa via UnSplash

Happy August! Where I live, the sun doesn’t set until 8:30pm these days. (Back in June, sunset was past 9pm!) And while our home hasn’t been too hot, my heart goes out to those of you experiencing extreme heat this season. The Sun really is so powerful.


All of this to say, I’ve got the sun on my mind. So here’s my favorite STEM resources all about how the Sun gives us energy through heat🔥 and light 💡. And that solar energy is even powerful enough to cook food or melt crayons!


(Just a reminder - I am never paid to mention any of these resources; there are no affiliate links.)

 

Videos


How to make a solar oven with a pizza box! from The Space Gal, Emily Calandrelli

As I mentioned above, I adored Emily’s show, Emily’s Wonder Lab. Common Sense Media calls her “the science teacher we all wish we had as young kids.” If you do have Netflix, I highly recommend the 12 minute Emily’s Wonder Lab episode on solar ovens, all about the power of the sun!


If you don’t have Netflix, she also has a great YouTube channel! In this video, she makes cheesy nachos and smores in a solar oven made out of a pizza box and simple materials.



From SciShow Kids


I love it when a kid’s science video asks a question I never even thought to ask! Turns out, there are a lot of different ways that animals protect themselves from the power of the Sun. It also turns out that whales can get sunburned. Who knew??



from SciShow Kids


Animals get energy from their food, and plants get energy from the Sun. But then this video introduces a slug that actually can get energy from the Sun as well! Feel free to share this amazing fact at your next dinner party!


 

Books


Cover illustration of a planets posing on a red carpet, with the Sun taking outsize space in the center of the carpet. The Sun is waving with one hand, the other hand resting on his hips, and wearing sunglasses, a black bow tie, and a satisfied smile. The other planets are behind the red velvet rope, cheering, taking pictures, or staring in awe at the Sun.

By Nick Seluk


How cute is that cover? This book is about all the ways the Sun is a big deal to us here on Earth - creating day and night, changing the seasons, evaporating water and helping plants grow!









Cover illustration of the glowing yellow Sun against a starry black sky. The Sun is smiling and winking, with one arm raised and holding an orange foam finger that says #1 on it.

By Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Stevie Lewis


In this “autobiography”, the Sun reveals all sorts of amazing facts - like how how old he is, how hot he is compared to a pizza oven, and how long it takes for sunlight to reach Earth.








Cover illustration of two young girls with light brown skin, carrying bookbags and books, and walking through a sandy landscape below electrical power lines.

By Allan Drummond


This book is based on the largest solar plant in the world, the Noor Power Plant in Morocco’s Sahara Desert. Young Jasmine visits the plant on a field trip and considers how the plant has changed her community.





 

Activities


Orange, yellow, green and blue construction paper with simple paintings of flowers, trees, and a smiley face

Paint with sunscreen! from Kids Activities Blog


This art project shows the power of both sunlight and sunscreen! Paint on bright construction paper, then leave it out in the sun. After a few hours, the color will fade except where the sunscreen is. (You might keep one control paper out of the sun to compare against the paper that faded in the sun.) Older kids could experiment with different sunscreen brands or types.










Top half of the image shows a heart cookie cutter and a star cookie cutter lying on a sheet of foil, with broken crayon pieces inside each cookie cutter The bottom half shows the melted heart and star-shaped crayons that have resulted. Text in the center reads “sun melted recycled crayons.”

from No Time for Flashcards


Just imagine telling your kids that the Sun is so hot today, it could melt a crayon. If you happen to be in the middle of a heatwave, you could at least use the weather for a cool artsy science project, right?


Full disclosure - My crayons only partially melted after a few hours in 90°F heat. (The author of No Time for Flashcards did this in 100°F heat.) It probably would have worked though with a pizza box solar oven. (Scroll back up to the videos!)





 

I hope learning about the power of the Sun has inspired you and a kiddo in your life!


Until next time, have fun lighting sparks of curiosity!

Amy Wung Tsao

Headshot photo of a smiling East Asian woman with long black hair and bangs, wearing a black top.







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