Dida sent us home from Texas with a book about renewable energy. It included a mini-kit to build a solar car. That was our big morning project. First, we spent a few minutes reading about how to catch the sun’s power— turn light into electricity. We focused on learning one new and impressive word: photovoltaic.
Then we got out all the pieces for our car: cardboard body and spoiler, front and rear axles, four plastic wheels, wheel gear, motor, and solar cell.
Then Sonya made sure we had all the pieces by matching them to the pictures in the book.
Then she put the wheels on the axles and I assembled the rest of the car while she supported me with vroom vroom noises.
“It’s going to go all by itself?” Sonya asked. “Photovoltaic?” she added, tossing out the fancy new term she’d just learned.
We went outside to test-drive it. I had to futz with the gears a little bit, but the car eventually started to move forward. Unfortunately, sidewalk friction was stronger than the power we could harness from the sun. However, Sonya and I were both impressed by the loud buzzing sound our car’s tiny motor was making.
As we paused to take off our sandals before going inside, I decided to seize a quick teaching moment. Sonya is growing some grass in the sunny entryway.
“Remember how we talked about chlorophyll and that’s why plants are green? So they can use the sun?”
“That means photovoltaic, Mommy?”
Sonya is good at absorbing and synthesizing information like a sharp blade of grass soaks up the sun. Made me realize that we should start learning more about science and engineering.