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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Solar Power in Local and Global Communities

Central America and Mexico, Costa Rica
Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
Environment, Health, Language Arts & Literature, Science, Social Studies & Geography

Students will investigate renewable energy, with a focus on using solar energy to produce electricity. After learning about how solar energy is produced, students will consider its environmental and economic benefits. Students will be introduced to Peace Corps Volunteer Katie DeWitt, who worked with her community in Costa Rica to implement a solar energy project. Using examples from Katie’s slide show, Sustained by the Sun, students will describe approaches that made the project successful. They will then compare the Costa Rican project to a solar energy initiative in their own community or state.

 More about renewable energy


More about Costa Rica


  • Students will describe the differences between renewable and nonrenewable energy sources, and provide examples of each
  • Students will describe how solar energy can be converted into electricity
  • Students will analyze the economic and environmental benefits of solar energy
  • Students will compare and contrast a solar energy initiative in their own community with one in another part of the world 



1. Begin by brainstorming everyday tasks that require energy (e.g., cooking, driving, heating water, lighting our homes, powering our computers, etc). Then discuss:

  • What are some examples of resources that can provide energy for these activities?
  • Which of these sources are renewable and which are nonrenewable?
  • What are some pros and cons of using renewable versus nonrenewable resources?




2. Focus on solar energy as a form of a renewable energy source. View the video from the U.S. Department of Energy - Energy 101: Solar Photovoltaics and describe how solar energy can be converted into electricity.

3. Discuss the environmental and economic benefits of using solar energy to produce electricity. How do you think these benefits would help your community? Why might these benefits be important in developing countries? (e.g., opportunity to use low-cost resources; opportunity to generate income by selling back to the power grid, etc.)

4. Introduce Katie DeWitt as a Peace Corps Volunteer who worked with her community in Costa Rica to begin a solar energy project. If students are not familiar with the Peace Corps, view the video A Legacy of Service to learn more about what Peace Corps Volunteers do.

5. View the slide show Sustained by the Sun, describing Katie's work with her Costa Rican community. After viewing the slide show, discuss the factors that made the project successful.

6. Have students create a list of tips for starting a solar energy project based on what they saw in the slide show. Examples might include:

  • Organize community members who are interested in environmental sustainability
  • Research companies that have successfully started solar projects near your community
  • Host an event for people in the community to learn about the project

7. Find an example of a solar project in your community or state. Analyze the project and discuss:

  • What are some similarities and differences between this project and the one in Costa Rica?
  • Looking back at the list of tips you created for starting a solar energy project, is there evidence that the project in your area used any of these practices?
  • Is there anything you would add to your list of tips for starting a solar energy project, based on what you learned from the project in your area?  

Frameworks & Standards

 Enduring Understandings
  • Renewable energy sources can provide both environmental and economic benefits.
  • Locally and globally, solar power can help communities sustainably meet energy needs.
  • Human activities have important effects on environmental sustainability.
Essential Questions
  • How do our energy choices affect our communities and our world?
  • Why opt for renewable energy sources?
  • What makes a community-based renewable energy project successful?

National Science Education Standards

  • Content Standard E: Science and Technology
    • Abilities of technological design
  • Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
    • Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges
    • Natural resources

National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies

  • Thematic Strand VIII: Science, Technology, and Society
    • Communicate information about the impact of science or technology on a society

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts

  • Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects
    • Key ideas and details: Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text  


  •  Science: Try building your own solar water heater using this lesson plan .


  • Service Learning: Explore ways that you can support your community in conserving energy at school or at home.


  • Social Studies: Research the history renewable energy use in the U.S. What renewable energies do you think should be more widely used? Why do you think so? 
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