The transition to sustainable energy requires understanding and efforts from all kinds of citizens — including children. After all, it is children who will participate as the “adults of tomorrow” when they assume the role of caretakers of the Earth. To teach your children well is to include lessons about how to take responsibility for the living environment.
Increasingly, children’s involvement has proven it can lead to improved ecological decision making and more innovative climate crisis solutions. Just look at the recent global environmental activism spearheaded by Greta Thunberg— she and her cohort bring a different perspective on the local environment, unhindered by biases or experiences.
It is vital that these future decision-makers comprehend the many energy options beyond oil, coal, or fossil fuels. Fortunately, teaching kids about renewable energy can be a simple and fun addition to their everyday studies and will likely have a long-lasting effect on the way they view the world.
Here are some ideas where you can teach your children about renewable energy.
How to Get Children Interested in Renewable Energy
Start small and slowly build into the topics you want to cover. Ecowatch suggests that you start with “sustainability,” which means that something can continue to exist for an indefinite amount of time. Then lead them into how sustainability applies to energy. Children today know the basics of electricity because they need to charge their tablets or smartphones. Move to explaining that energy is where electricity comes from, with the foundational idea that children need to learn that contemporary fossil fuel energy sources are not sustainable.
Here’s a video that helps to explain how each of us can become conscious of the energy we consume.
Then have fun! Introduce the primary types of renewable energy into your discussion:
- Solar – The idea of turning the sun’s rays into electricity is sure to catch children’s interest. Teach them about how solar panels capture the heat and light (even on cloudy days) and convert all of that into usable energy. You can even describe how astronauts in space rely on solar energy on the International Space Station.
- Hydropower – Remind children of their own experiences interacting with a brook or river. Explain that the constant movement of the water from the current can be converted into usable energy.
- Wind – Show a child a picture of the enormous wind turbines. The wind turns the blades of the fan, much like a pinwheel, which then creates energy that we can use. It takes very few materials to emulate the energy action of wind.
- Geothermal – Offer a brief explanation about the earth’s core and how hot it is. Continue by explaining that, for geothermal energy, pipes go deep into the ground, run steam from this heat up into plants, and those plants generate into electricity.
Here’s a video about renewable energy sources, told in a kid-friendly way:
And for more ideas, check out Environment Massachusetts’ Kids for Renewables project, a 4-part web series designed for kids aged 6-10 years old to learn what renewable energy is, why it is important, and how we can do our part to help go 100% renewable.
Teach Your Children through a Renewable Energy Coloring Book
The Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) has released a free coloring book — “Humboldt County Renewable Energy Coloring Book” — to illustrate and share the possibilities of renewable energy for young people. The coloring book balances images of solar panels, hydropower, microgrids, wind energy, electric bikes and vehicles, and energy use reduction and efficiency with tidbits of information to pique kids’ curiosity about All Things Renewable.
RCEA’s community strategies manager, Nancy Stephenson, has made efforts to increase energy education in new ways over the past few years — and the coloring book came from that focus. With 9 drawings, the young person’s book introduces some of the possible types of renewable energy sources. The book’s focus is to bring attention to the different ways RCEA commits to environmental sustainability while showcasing renewable energy sources and encouraging energy efficiency.
The book is available on the RCEA website, through local schools, and via libraries throughout the area. RCEA Community Strategies Coordinator and artist Neesh Wells created this first-ever local renewable energy coloring book and described the decision-making behind the text to the local Times-Standard.
“A coloring book seemed like an engaging way to present information about some renewable resources in a way that would be easy for folks of all ages to understand.”
“Kids are naturally curious and energy is such a big part of our daily lives, so it is not surprising that kids would want to learn about (renewable energy). By encouraging kids to understand where our energy comes from and the ways we get energy to us, we help kids learn about our Earth and how we can work towards protecting it. With so many efforts on a local, state and national scale to address the climate crisis, it is imperative we open the discussion to everyone of all ages, especially those who will be most affected by it in the future.”
The coloring book connected new concepts about renewable energy to existing projects in the Humboldt County area.
- A microgrid page features a microgrid project currently underway at the Arcata-Eureka Airport.
- The hydropower project is based off the Cove Hydro hydropower site in Shasta County, where RCEA sources run-of-the-river hydropower.
- The e-bike page was designed so local people would recognize a trail they love and use frequently.
- The offshore wind turbine page arose from discussions circulating about Humboldt County as a prime location for offshore wind energy.
- For the energy efficiency page, the scenic view depicts Trinidad Beach, a favorite place to spend a sunny afternoon in Humboldt.
The RCEA is a local California government agency that works to develop and implement sustainable energy initiatives to reduce energy demand, increase energy efficiency, and advance the use of clean, efficient, and renewable resources.
Things Happen When Children Join the Renewable Energy Conversation
A group of researchers asked the question, What should the most persuasive and appropriate Renewable Energy Sources (RES) logo look like? And what happened when children become part of the sample groups?
The logo, which is depicted on this page, should:
- have a round shape
- present a sense of movement
- convey a clear positive message
- embed natural elements in the composition of the image with various hues of green, white, and yellow-orange colors
- include visually acute, religious, and cultural symbols
- carry connotations of personal and social responsibility
These research findings demonstrate that children already have a keen sense of their natural and cultural worlds. Introducing the concept of renewable energy as part of the way you teach your children can begin a fruitful path where they are part of the process of transitioning from a fossil fuel-based energy supply to a renewable energy supply. They’ll also become aware of how important it is to reduce our overall energy consumption.
By starting with ways that different technologies can potentially apply to their own neighborhoods, how renewable energy works, and how the effects of energy transitions are calculated, parents, teachers, and cultural workers can infuse a sense of wonder and hope to the next generation.