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A Solar Panel Modeling Project for Chemistry

The Science Teacher—January/February 2024

The Solar Panel Modeling Project challenged 10th-grade chemistry students to apply knowledge of Atomic Models to explain electricity generation in a solar panel, deepening their scientific literacy about climate solutions. Here, I describe the project’s implementation and outcomes, including the solar panel model template, the 9-day learning sequence, and the evolution of student thinking captured in the summarizing whole-class model. Throughout the unit, students alternated between investigating new chemistry concepts and iteratively refining models, exercising their NGSS sense-making skills. Content learning focused primarily on Atomic Models and the Octet Rule, but also included brief introductions to Lattice Stability and the Photoelectric Effect. The real-world context of the project showed students the practical utility of the otherwise esoteric skill of mapping electron locations and movements between elements. By the project’s end, students could verbalize how the specific structure of Silicon, Boron, and Phosphorus in a solar panel results in electron movement and electricity. These students now face the upcoming decades of climate solutions debates armed with deeper scientific literacy about the readiness of this technology for widespread implementation.

Chemistry Instructional Materials Interdisciplinary Labs NGSS Physical Science Teaching Strategies High School

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