Parental Note: This experiment is geared towards ages 7 and up. The project may require support from an adult to gather materials or if you wish to use a hot glue gun rather than poster tack.

Overview
We use electricity every day to do things like turn on lights or heat food. Electricity can come from many different sources such as burning coal, turning a turbine from the movement of wind or water, or absorbing energy from the sun. In this experiment, we are going to focus on solar energy.

Simply put, solar energy is energy from the sun. Solar energy is considered a renewable resource because it can be naturally replaced and can be used over and over again. We can capture energy from the sun’s rays through solar panels (like the ones on rooftops). Solar panels are made up of smaller units called solar cells. A solar cell is a device made of a special material that captures the sun’s light or heat and turns sunlight into moving electrons. These electrons flow along conductors in the solar cell. The flow of electrons is called a current. A current can be used right away as a power source, or it can be stored in a battery for later use.

In this experiment, we are going to create a solar mason jar night light. A small solar panel on top of the jar will collect and store energy from the sun all day, and a light inside of the jar will glow at night. You can have your own nightlight without having to flip on a light switch!

Materials

• 1 small outdoor solar lights with round top (Dollar Store)
• 1 regular mouth glass mason jar with lid (2 3⁄8” inner diameter)
• 1 package of glass or acrylic gems from the Dollar Store or craft store (any color)
• 1 package of poster tack (Dollar Store) OR hot glue from a hot glue gun (with parental supervision)

Step 1

Remove the round center piece of the lid and place the outer rim of the lid off to the side for later use.

Mason Jar Lid

Step 2

Fill the jar about 1/3 with acrylic gems.

Step 3

Remove the solar light and panel from the stem.

Solar light

Step 4

Wrap the rim of the light with poster tack or use some hot glue from a hot glue gun (requires adult supervision).

Step 5

Stick the light in the jar.

Mason jar with solar light

Step 6

Wrap the rim of the light with poster tack or use some hot glue from a hot glue gun (requires adult supervision).

Charging the Light

Solar lights work best if they are placed in direct sunlight for 4 to 12 hours to get a full charge. If you charge the battery for 8 hours, your light should last an average of 15 hours. If using your light indoors, set it close enough to a window so the sun can shine directly on the panel and charge the battery during the day.

Other Steps

If you want to add more color to your night light, you can paint the lid your favorite color, add some stickers to the outside of the jar, or use different colored gems to fill your jar.

Conclusion

Solar energy is a renewable resource that humans can access and use from most locations on the surface of the Earth. Solar cells and solar panels are used to capture the sun’s light or heat and convert it into electricity. Every-day small electronics, such as lights, cell phones, and radios, can be powered by small individual solar panels. Homeowners and business owners can use several larger solar panels to power entire homes and buildings or subscribe to a local solar farm that requires no solar panel installation.

Extensions/Study Questions

  • What is a renewable resource?
  • Name a renewable resource other than the sun that can be used to generate electricity.
  • How does a solar panel work?
  • Name another device in the home that you could power using a small solar panel.

Want to learn more about Community Solar?

Our solar specialists can provide a free consultation.

Get Started