What do children learn about green technology in “the solar toy workshop”? An exploratory study
2013-8-30, Boissonnade, Romain, Foudon, Nadège, Kohler, Alaric, Iannaccone, Antonio
Children are regularly involved in museums, exhibitions and workshops about green technology. Our research takes place in Switzerland, in a DIY activity organised by experts in photovoltaic development. The explicit aim of the activity is for children to design, build and adapt a solar toy of their own mind within 2-3 hours, for instance a boat or a little merry-go-round. Many tools and materials are available, and adults just help children to use these objects to make their desired toy. During three different sessions of this DIY activity, we interviewed 25 children aged 8 to 13 y.o.. A pre-test/post-test exploratory study, based on interviews about the sun, the solar energy and the solar cell, allow us to interpret children conceptions before and after the activity. Results indicate minor changes in solar energy and solar cell conceptions after the activity: for instance, some children have become able to focus on physical devices of the green technology such as electrical wires, or can sometimes remove or integrate the role of the sun in their explanations. Some of these naïve conceptions about the physical domain can be explained by previous research on electricity or movement. Finally, our results highlight some specific difficulties in the children understanding, directly related to the solar technology. We conclude on new questions about the way children think about solar energy and how to investigate this new domain.