Electricity Week 3. Solar Panel


Did you know that in just one hour the sunlight shining down on the earth could meet the world’s energy demand for an entire year? People have used the sun as a free and easily accessible heat source for thousands of years. For example, ancient Greeks built their homes to get the most sunlight during the cold winter months. In the modern world, solar energy is used for heating water for domestic use, space heating buildings, and generating electrical energy.

Photovoltaic devices, such as solar panels, are able to directly convert solar energy into electricity without consuming any fossil fuels. This operation is based on the photovoltaic effect; an observed occurrence of an electric current being produced when light energy strikes the surface of a certain semiconductor. A semiconductor is a substance with electrical properties, classified between a good conductor and a good insulator.

Photoelectric Process
(image source: https://bcachemistry.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/an-introduction-to-solar-panels-and-solar-energy/)

A semiconductor is a tricky matter to explain to grade-schoolers. However, no one said we have to teach it in scientific terms. If we think outside of the box, we may come up with a child-friendly story about athletic electrons on a circuit track. Let’s imagine a track where instead of a start line, there is a deep trench. The electron athletes all stand on one side of the trench, but to make it even more difficult, they are stuck in glue. The electron athletes become weak from trying to escape the glue and are soon unable to move at all. If only they had enough power to rip their shoes out of that glue and then jump over the trench, they would be free to run a lap. Upon return to the trench, they would see an empty, sticky spot left by another run-away electron athlete. Luckily for them a lightning bolt from the sky occasionally strikes one of the electron athletes, giving them enough power to take off, jump over the trench, and run a lap. When electrons run, we are talking about an electric current. This is how the energy from lightning bolts (or photons) is transformed into an electric current.

A good thing for parents or teachers to do before making up a metaphor of your own would be to first explore the adult-level explanation of the phenomena. Consider checking out these great resources:

Unlike homemade batteries and electromechanical generators, the solar cells are quite difficult to make at home with your child.

However, if you have enough patience and don’t mind a trip to the hardware store, you might want to make your own photovoltaic cell from scratch. Check out this post on scitoys.com.


‘Solar Cockroach 2.0’ is another great DIY project kids would love working on. The list of supplies, tools, and instructions are available at instructables.com.

If you don’t like the idea of soldering or messing with hot glue, go ahead and check out these educational solar panel kits you can easily buy online.

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Whichever DIY solar panel project you choose, it is always a great idea to supplement the exploration experience with interactive virtual models. Check out the solar panel lab in our app ‘How to Make Electricity‘. There you can discover the effects weather conditions, bird droppings, and other circumstances have on the efficiency of the solar panel.


Download the ‘How to Make Electricity‘ app from the App Store.
Download free lite version of the ‘How to Make Electricity’ app.

Electricity Week 2. Generator


Nearly all of the electric power on Earth is generated at power stations by electromechanical generators.

An electric generator* is a machine that converts mechanical energy to electricity.
*Note: a generator itself does not produce electric power.

The primary components of all generators are magnets and wire coils. Every generator works on the basis of electromagnetic phenomena associated with the relationships between electricity and magnetism. An electric current produces a magnetic field, and vice versa.

1820 – Danish scientist Hans Christian Ørsted (pronounced “ersted”) discovered that electric currents create magnetic fields.
1824 – British scientist William Sturgeon invented the electromagnet.

An observation of these cause-and-effect relationships helps us to understand how electromechanical generators work. The best way to introduce children to the idea of electromagnetic phenomena is to do a series of experiments. The goal is to recreate the path of discovery scientists took while exploring electromagnetism in the first half of the 19th century.

Let’s try making our own electromagnet!


Materials needed:

– large iron nail
– thin coated (insulated) copper wire
– dry cell battery
– electrical tape
– paper clips (or other magnetic items)
– wire strippers
Image source: www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwVuLK0Q-po

Image source: www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwVuLK0Q-po


1) Wrap the wire around the nail, leaving at least 10 inches of wire at the end. (Note: don’t overlap the wire when you wrap it)
2) Once the nail is wrapped, cut the wire, leaving about 8 to 10 inches on that end too.
3) Peel the insulation off both ends of the copper wire.
4) Attach one end of the wire to the positive terminal, and the other end to the negative terminal of the battery. Tape both ends to the battery terminals to keep them in place.
5) Test your electromagnet on paper clips or other magnetic items.

Discussion points:

1) The electric current running through the wire generates a magnetic field. We can observe this by the effect it has on the paper clips.
2) However, the magnetic field created by the electromagnet is temporary. It exists only as long as there is electricity running through the wire. Try disconnecting one end of the wire from the battery to see how the electromagnet loses its magnetism.

Beginning in 1830, US scientist Joseph Henry systematically improved and popularized the electromagnet.

You too can make your electromagnet more efficient by:

1) Increasing the number of wire turns
2) Using a battery that can provide a higher current
3) Choosing a bigger nail

Warning! Be careful, too much current can be dangerous because of the heat generated.


After the invention of electromagnet, English scientist Michael Faraday theorized that if it was possible to make a non-magnetic object (the iron nail in our case) magnetized by adding electricity, then it should also be possible to generate electricity using magnets.

Let’s discover this possibility for ourselves by making our own simple generator similar to the one invented by Faraday back in 1831.

Materials needed:

– coated copper (or other magnetic wire) 40-60 feet, or 15 m long
– strong bar magnet
– hollow tube (paper towel cardboard cylinder)
– voltmeter or multimeter
– tape
– wire strippers
Image credit: sciencewithkids.com

Image credit: sciencewithkids.com


1) Leaving approximately 6″ of wire slack, start wrapping the wire around the tube. Keep wrapping until about 6″ of wire remains.
2) Secure its ends using tape.
3) Peel the insulation off both ends of the wire, and attach them to a multimeter or voltmeter.
4) Set the voltmeter (or multimeter) to test for DC voltage, and make sure it’s set for the lower voltage unit.
5) Place the magnet inside the tube and move it quickly back and forth. If it helps, tape the magnet to a rod.
6) As you move the magnet, observe the voltmeter voltage readings.
7) Set the voltmeter to test for DC current and repeat the observation while moving the magnet quickly back and forth inside the tube.

Discussion points:

1) The magnet affects electrons inside the wire. Its magnetic field makes them move by pushing and pulling them. If the magnet inside the tube does not move, neither do the electrons inside the coil.
2) When you move the magnet back and forth or spin it, the magnetic field near the wire also changes. The changing magnetic field produces an electric current by making electrons in the wire move. This phenomenon is called Faraday’s law of electromagnetic induction. The majority of electric generators operate on the basis of Faraday’s law.

We can build a more efficient generator by:

1) Choosing a stronger rare-earth magnet
2) Choosing a slightly thicker gauge magnet wire
3) Finding a way to move the magnet quicker*

*If we had a powerful mechanical force moving the magnet, then that would generate more electricity. For example, we could attach the magnet to a group of gears and rotate it at a higher speed.

To generate electricity for big cities, powerful jets of steam are used to rotate shafts of gigantic generators comprised of complex arrangements of magnets and coiled wires. Where do they get the steam? The steam comes from thermal power stations. Burning various types of fuel, such as coal or gas, is used to boil a vast amount of water. At hydro power stations the force of falling water rotates generator shafts.


Crayon Box How to Make Electricity Science View

Labs 2 and 3, of the How to Make Electricity app, allow kids to build simple interactive prototypes of hydroelectric and thermal power plants. Children are offered three types of coils to choose from. The goal is to figure out the most efficient way to rotate the magnet. The magnetic field and the effect it has on electrons are visible in the science view mode. Implementing visual aids does a tremendous job helping further a child’s understanding of the nature of electromagnetic phenomena explained by Faraday’s law.

Crayon Box How to Make Electricity - Generator


Download the ‘How to Make Electricity‘ app from the App Store.
Download free lite version of the ‘How to Make Electricity’ app.

Teaching Your Child to Read an Analog Clock: What’s Good to Know

Every child has their own “relationship” with time and clocks. A boy who’s doing great throughout elementary school can make simple but funny mistakes trying to tell time on an analog clock. And there are the surprised parents of the five-year-old who gracefully orients herself in time without any education. The specialists, of course, can explain the reasons for each case. However it would be good for us to understand the key principles so we could successfully teach the kids to tell time on the clock.

As a curious modern parent you won’t have any hard time finding various methods and techniques of teaching preschoolers how to read a clock. Educational app developers can offer you a wide choice of solutions, and that is where the fun comes in! Exploring and finding out the most useful product for your child. We believe that in order to make the right decision, let’s educate ourselves in getting a solid understanding on when and how you should teach your child about telling time.

The Basic Teaching Sequence

It happens from time to time, an attempt to explain something fairly simple leads to an overwhelming disappointment in your teaching skills. Not every parent is lucky to know of the order in “feeding” the information about clocks and time to their child. That is why we are here. Below you can find a rather general but helpful teaching plan proved to be useful to majority of educators and parents:

1. Explanation of seasons, times of the day and the cyclic nature of their alternation; explanation of “yesterday”, “today”, and “tomorrow” categories.
2. Introduction to clock, clock face, clock hands, their movement and difference in their speed. Associative understanding of second, minute and hour duration.
3. Hour hand study. Telling an hour, telling half an hour.
4. Minute hand study: minute marks on clock face, telling the precise time.
5. Time idioms (quarter to, half past, etc.)

It is your decision to choose the proper teaching approach but it is important to pay attention to the sequence of relaying the information. We highly suggest to always make sure that the knowledge from the passed stage is firmly acquired before moving on to the next step. Keep in mind that your child is unique and the amount of time spent learning will vary with other children. Keep note of how much time your child spent mastering a certain part.
Before you do start teaching your child to read a clock, help the child to be able to count up to 12. You will find that the skill of counting by five is extremely useful. Try to orient your child’s attention to the fact that if they skip count by five there will always be either 0 or 5 and the last position. In such case it will be quite easy to count up to 60.

Be aware that an attempt to simultaneously teach your kind to understand or count the numbers and tell the time on analog clock will eventually lead to a complete failure; be patient and take a break when needed. (Remember that a child’s attention span is only as much as their age.)

When is it time to learn time?

There is a widely spread belief that age between year 5 and 6 is the right period for taking actions, and stalling for time is not a good idea. A late start of learning may result in a more difficult process.

If you study the experience – both positive and negative – of other parents, you might conclude that the idea of teaching kids about time as early as possible is not that bad.  This is referring to the perception or the idea of time, and not about the actual ability to tell time on a clock.

All you might need is just a slight correction of your speaking habits and a bit of decoration. First, put a big analog clock with clear and readable digits on the wall of the room(s) where our child spends most of their time. Second, when you speak, try to mention time more often than you usually do. Augment words like ‘soon’ or ‘later’ with clarifying mention of the exact time or duration (“granny will come very soon, in 10 minutes”, “daddy will get back very late, around 11 p.m.”). Pay attention to the way you demonstrate to your child the relation between the time you mention and the clock hand positions.

Consider developing a habit of thinking out loud about your days plan where your child can hear you, (“I will be done with laundry in an hour, at 10, then I will be cleaning up for half an hour, and at 11:30 we will have guests…”). It is okay if your child cannot fully understand what you are talking about because the important point here is that you are giving them a chance to think of time and the ability to figure it out with their own abilities as well.

Motivation Matters

Finding motivation can be difficult but it is not impossible. We support the mention of importance of the parents attention; we suggest our parents to carefully observe their child’s behavior and to be ready to change the environment if necessary. For example, if majority of the clocks you own are digital, your child may not show any interest in telling the time.

It is crucial to catch the moment when your kid expresses an interest. For instance, when the child points to the clock or asks about it, bring the clock down so they can touch and study it. If your child asks to get a wrist watch as a present or while you are out shopping, take that opportunity to educate your child about time.

The Use of Mobile Apps

Here at CRAYON BOX, we have gathered the experiences of teachers and parents around the world to help us in making this app. “Charlie Jumped out of the Clock”is a beautifully illustrated story with integrated educational content. The original written story tells about Charlie the cogwheel who got tired of turning itself inside the old clock and one day decides to jump out to watch grumpy grandpa go about his strictly scheduled daily chores.

Parents can use the map to quickly jump to the part their child needs improvement on. The key definitions related to clock and time are explained with professional narration and augmented with high-quality animations. As an alternative to the DIY cardboard clocks you might be advised to make, we have created and added a special “practice” mode where your child can play freely with the old grandpa’s clock.

We believe that “Charlie Jumped out of the Clock” is a great educational story book and will be the perfect addition to your collection of teaching materials.

Happy learning!

Download the ‘Charlie Jumped out of the Clock’ app.

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Get the free light version here.

Always Feel Like Having Not Enough Time Spent with Your Children?

Do you get to spend enough time with your children? According to the statistics, it doesn’t seem like many parents do. Recently, American Time Use Survey announced that 23% of mothers, and 46% of fathers realize that they don’t spend enough time with their children. That is sad.

The best way to solve this problem must be to spend more time with your children, but it’s always easier said than done.

Then, what is the best way to spend time with your children?How about spending quality story time with them?One of the great things about storytelling is that it naturally leads to other conversations. As you know, we see them grow and develop, we hear of their recent activities, we learn what they are thinking by telling hem stroies. Actually, this post is about storytelling. We’ll suggest some great ways to encourage and enjoy storytelling. Through storytelling, you and your children become closer. Here are some wonderful tips.

1. Include Stickers or Stamps

We can use stickers & stamps to create a fun scene. Help them make up a story involving all the characters pictured in the scene. Sometimes, it’s good to challenge them to tell a different story using the same scene.

2. Using Story Cards

There are sets of cards that are made specially for storytelling. Each packet of cards generally have a certain theme, with characters that appear on different cards doing different things. You can help them line up the cards to make up their own stories. Take turns with your kids by lining up the cards and making up a bunch of your own stories.

3. Make a Book

Another great activity is making your own books.  Just fold up and staple some plain paper together. We can encourage them to be creative and tell imaginative stories. If it ever gets too difficult, we can tell a story from real life. When telling real life stories, we can listen to what they saw, what they heard, and what they are experiencing now-a-days. Sometimes, children really enjoy reading their own books even months after they’ve made them.

4. Combining Storytelling and Art

Children are more likely to tell stories aloud as they paint. Amazing drawing skills don’t matter here. First and foremost, we want to help your children develop and hold on to her enjoyment of art. That will encourage them to tell their story.

These are all some fun & interesting ways to encourage storytelling. What they all have in common, is that they all include a variety of tools or additional materials to engage children. It can be quite challenge to make them tell their stories with only paper books. Take some time to try one or all of these creative methods of storytelling… It is mush easier than you think.