Thursday, January 17, 2008

Alternative Energy

So on Monday, my middle son asks me what he should journal on. For the uninitiated, my home schooled sons journal two and three days a week (our schedules alternate from week to week). I don't generally check their spelling on these entries and I don't always read them. It's simply an exercise in writing for fun. Sometimes the subject matter is silly, sometimes I assign some kind of fiction, or an essay, or a type of poem.

This time in casting around for something of interest, I grabbed "Alternative Energy" out of thin air. "Pick some kind of alternative energy source, make something up, I don't care what, explain to me how it works and why. It can be silly or it can be real--if it's real be sure you understand enough about it to write about it. If it's not, if you can make me believe it will work, that will be great."

The two older boys had to choose three different kinds of energy. The youngest, who is still mastering the basics of sentence construction, only had to write one.

Sam, the youngest, wrote about leashing static electricity and drew a picture of a kid scuffing his feet on the carpet in front of a television set in order to power it. He actually referred to the carpet as the source of energy and had a piece of wire connected to it. Clever.

Joseph, the twelve year old, wrote about ink, bird seed, and ectoplasm (this would be my son who wants to be Stephen King when he grows up). Each very cute and surprisingly well supported with facts. He spent a surprising amount of time researching real alternative energy.

Daniel, who is fifteen, decided to take a more factual approach. He wrote about solar power, wind generators and underwater turbines (he actually thought he was making that last one up). He researched and drew blue prints. His journal entry was surprisingly strong and well organized. (A relief, as I've been worrying about how to teach a nonwriter how to put together a research paper).

Their interest in the subject surprised me, so I asked them if they'd like to study alternative energy for science for a couple of weeks and they greeted it with enthusiasm. If this enthusiasm maintains, I might let it go a little longer. I personally prefer hands on science.

Today I let them decide which form of alternative energy they wanted to learn more about. Daniel is in to solar power, as is Sam (explaining photons and PV was not easy as I barely understand it myself). Joseph is into biodiesel. I asked him if he knew how to spell it and he gave me a sympathetic look and assured me he was fine . . . As it turns out, he's seriously concerned about global warming.

So now I'm off to do my part--find easy experiments that don't require ordering a $150.00 worth of materials (I liked this site) and learn enough about all the subjects to discuss them intelligently with the three boys. I think they're ahead of me already.


Scotty said...

The pizza box solar oven

The Kidwind Project

more wind

Maybe something in there will help too?

Mary Paddock said...

Oooh! Scotty thank you. The boys are especially enthused about the pizza box solar oven. Of course, they think it means ordering pizza. I showed it to their dad this morning. "Neat," he said. "I'll stop by Pizza Hut and ask them if they'll give us an empty one." Moans errupted from all corners.

Personally I'm fascinated by the turbines.

Scotty said...

You're welcome, Mary (and kids) - I'm glad you could find something of interest in the links.