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NASA Solar Science and Energy Workshop at the University of California Berkeley

A guest blog written by Caryn Turrel,  NEED Program Associate

In mid-July, 31 teachers attended a 2-day workshop focusing on solar science and energy.  Teachers were given ideas, lesson plans, and in partnership with NEED, each teacher received a Science of Energy or grade-level solar energy kit for his or her classroom.  I was privileged to be able to represent NEED and present lessons in energy transformations and solar energy to the teachers.  Josh Rubin, teacher from Palo Alto, California, and NEED facilitator, joined me and described what he does at his school, giving the teachers some ideas for grant proposals.

The workshop began with an overview.  There was a lot to be covered!  Ruth Paglierani, Coordinator of Public Programs at the Center for Science education, Space Sciences Laboratory, UC Berkeley, laid out the goals for the two days.

From there, Dr. Bryan Mendez, Center for Science Education at UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory, took teachers through some basic lessons in magnetism and magnetic fields. Josh and I took teachers through the six stations of Science of Energy, where they learned about energy transformations.

Teachers also learned about the electromagnetic spectrum and what actually causes the seasons from Kyle Fricke, Coordinator of Public Programs at the Center for Science Education at UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory.  Many student – and even adult! – misconceptions about the reason for the seasons exist, and Kyle showed the teachers, using simple materials, how to eliminate those misconceptions.  His demonstration was derived from The Real Reasons for Seasons:  Sun-Earth Connections and each teacher in attendance received a copy of this resource.

The second day involved learning about photovoltaics, circuits, and how they work, and included a short discussion of new research areas.  You can learn about cutting-edge solar energy research by visiting the website of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (

Finally, teachers broke into grade-level sessions which led teachers through activities to learn more about the sun and its energy.  Elementary teachers went through Eye on the Sky activities with Ruth Paglierani, and middle and high school teachers went through Living with a Star with Kyle Fricke.

If you're a California teacher, and this workshop sounds like something you would really enjoy, navigate to and read about the last two years' workshops.  This is also the place to watch for information for future opportunities and find links to most of the resources.

It was an exciting two days full of information, ideas, resources, and opportunities to make new friends.  I look forward to continuing to work with the Solar Sciences Laboratory and the Center for Science Education team.