The Solar Schools program is an Australian curriculum-aligned, bold, and innovative education platform engaging students in STEM-focused learning, using real data from their school’s solar installation and grid consumption.
“The exclusive partnership with Solar Schools means that ZEN Energy can continue to deliver quality solar and battery installations to our school communities while enabling South Australian students to truly engage in their school’s sustainability journey, learning with real-time data. It’s like one big, exciting science experiment!”
Professor Ross Garnaut AC, Director, ZEN Energy.
ZEN Energy is the exclusive partner for Solar Schools in South Australia bringing an Australian curriculum-aligned innovative education program to schools using real-time solar and electricity usage data. The educational platform makes it easy to bring energy to life in the classroom, providing the tools and resources teachers need to turn energy concepts into real, actionable insights for students. Educating students on climate change, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and carbon reduction strategies.
How it works
Smart energy meters enable us to access data on your school’s solar energy system which creates the platform for education-based learning. ZEN Energy, in conjunction with partners Watt Watchers, can offer subsidised smart energy meters to schools through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) grant funding. Once your school has both solar and a smart energy device you are ready to access inspiring energy education to empower your students.
Meaningful data will show energy usage and production as well as CO2 produced and saved in an easy to read portal. This can be displayed on any screen at your school. By displaying this information, your school can raise awareness and act by reducing energy wastage, decreasing electricity costs, and creating long term energy-saving habits.
Real-time data ensures reporting is always current and accurate. Simple graphs report on daily, weekly, monthly, and lifetime data. This long-term view allows insights into the effects of weather, indicates peak energy consumption habits, and displays your CO2 footprint.
Planet Watch brings energy to life and makes real-time energy data fun and interactive. Each school is represented by a planet in the Solar Schools solar system and students (and educators) can search and compare their school’s performance with other schools in the program. We can even build a school community where families with solar can be part of the school planet, as long as they have a smart meter installed.
Australian Curriculum Program
Subscribe your school to the Solar Schools program and get access to a comprehensive set of educational resources, supported by the student knowledge bank for self-directed learning. You will have access to lesson plans and student activities to engage and inspire your classroom. These resources are enhanced by the data from the energy meters installed at your school. The live data collected helps students put theory into practice, empowering them to create solutions for real change.
Find our teachers toolkit here
Example of content
In this unit, students will investigate what plants and animals need to survive and how the environment they live in allows them to meet these needs. Students will learn how sunlight produces energy and how we use it. They will observe what changes occur in the sky, the landscapes and how they affect people and animals. Using digital and design technologies, they will explore the properties of materials and their use to develop products to meet sustainable community needs. Mathematical concepts explored, include number and place, number patterns, units of measurement, location and transformation, chance and data.
- Explore living things and their needs for survival
- Explore how living things meet their needs in different environments and through seasonal changes
- Explore how light is produced, reflected and sensed
- Investigate how light is used by living things to meet their needs
- Investigate the cause of night and day
- Investigate animals that are nocturnal and how they survive
- Create a report on the needs of a chosen living thing, how it gets what it needs to survive and what happens if it cannot meet its requirements.
In this unit, students explore how living things need and use water. Students examine how to manage water in the environment, and how detrimental too much or too little can be. In particular, they focus on how to save water at the school and in the community. In the context of water studies, students have opportunities to utilise digital and design technologies to research and create artefacts of their learning. They also address mathematical concepts including shapes, volume, mass, maps, time and data.
- Discuss and list Earth’s different resources including water
- Using various art mediums or digital technologies to create a poster about why water is precious to all life on Earth
- Identify water in its different states (solid, liquid and gas)
- Make a model of the Water cycle
- Investigate how having too much or too little water in an environment can cause problems
- Students conduct a field walk to investigate water usage within the school and record water sources and issues on a map.
- Students use digital technologies to investigate the water losses from a leaking tap
In this unit, students explore how the Earth’s rotation causes day and night. Students investigate the Sun as a source of heat and light for the Earth. Students explore how we harness the Sun’s energy and how it is used and measured. They complete investigations about the different ways heat is produced, and observe how heat can move through liquids and solid objects through conduction. Students communicate their understanding, using formal and informal representations such as written reports, diagrams and graphs. Students plan, make predictions, analyse and evaluate their investigation and determine the variables in a fair test.
- Earth’s rotation causes day and night
- The Sun as a sustainable source of heat and light for the Earth
- Sustainable Energy
- Heat production
- Conducting and absorbing heat
- Making a Difference: Solar cook
In this unit, students investigate how light from different sources can form shadows and can be absorbed, reflected and refracted. Students develop an understanding of testing in simple light experiments. Students use their knowledge of light and energy to create a greenhouse.
- Exploring light energy
- Exploring light sources
- Investigating light shadows
- Experimenting with shadows
- Investigating light reflection, refraction and absorption
- Exploring the absorption of solar energy
- Analysing solar schools data
- Making a difference: building a greenhouse (Extension)
In this unit, students explore unbalanced forces and their effect on motion, as well as renewable and non-renewable sources of energy. They will construct a device that uses renewable energy and use their understanding of the forces acting to lift the maximum weight.
- Exploring renewable and non-renewable energy sources
- Exploring the implications of energy sources
- Making a water wheel or windmill and identify the forces acting
- Designing, constructing and testing a windmill or water wheel that can lift the most significant possible weight.
In these units, students conduct a research investigation on energy consumption and efficiency in the school context. The study follows scientific methods and skills with mathematical analysis methods using digital technologies to evaluate inputs and outputs in an integrated STEM approach. Students determine the energy efficiency rating of the school then seek ways to improve this rating using research methods, including data collection from online data as well as surveys.
- Research Question – Identifying possible impacts and effects
- Background Observations – A preliminary look at data
- Research prediction – A cause-effect statement
- Research design – Fair test
- Collecting and collating data – Outcomes
- Collecting and collating data – Impacts
- Analysing Background Data -Trends
- Energy consumption factors – Light use
- Energy savings – Revisiting prediction – Mathematics or survey options
- Conclusions – Results, Confidence, Studies and Actions
- Communication – Presentation to the target audience
In this unit, students explore various forms of energy as potential or kinetic energy. Students classify energy according to its type and identify different energy transfers and transformations. Students use their knowledge of solar energy to design and build a solar energy car.
- Classify examples of energy types
Identify energy transfers and transformations
- Investigate energy transformations in solar cells
- Design, construct and test a solar car
In this unit, students explore methods of energy transfer as heat. They will conduct a range of investigations to develop their understanding of heat energy transfer. They will use this knowledge to design and construct a solar hot water system to perform to given criteria.
- Demonstrating energy transfer as heat
- Explore methods of heat transfer by conduction, convection and radiation
- Explain heating using particle models
- Design and construct a solar hot water system