July 16, 2008
Without the sun, life could not exist on earth. The energy contained in the rays of the sun, called solar energy, provides heat, as well as light for us to see what we are doing and where we are going. Plants rely on the sun to grow. Energy that originated from the sun is still stored in the remains of plants and animals that died millions of years ago; from these remains we derive the natural gas, oil and coal that we use today to cook our food, warm our houses, run our cars and make our electricity.
Solar energy is renewable - there is enough for everyone and it will last for billions of years. There are many ways that we can use the sun's energy to reduce our reliance on oil and gas.
For more than 100 years, people have used solar collectors to capture sunlight and turn it into heat to warm their houses and water. Solar cells, like those used in calculators, turn light into electricity. Big solar cells can generate enough electricity to run a household. Cars equipped with solar cells operate on solar energy rather than on gasoline. The energy from the sun causes the wind and drives the water cycle, and windmills and dams capture this energy and turn it into electricity.
There are free and simple ways for us to use the sun's energy in our own homes. Hang your laundry out to dry instead of using a dryer. In winter, open the blinds in your windows to collect the sun's heat; in summer, close them to keep the house cool. Think twice before you turn on the lights on a sunny summer day.
New solar technologies are being developed to help us take full advantage of, or more efficiently use, our biggest source of energy - the sun!
Build a Solar Oven
Ever hear the saying, "It's hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk"? Well, the sun is hot enough to cook some types of food.
Get a pizza box. Place a piece of notebook paper in the center of the lid and trace around it. Cut along the two long edges and one short edge of the traced area, so that you have a lid on the top of the box. Fold back the lid until you create a crease on the attached edge. Line the inside of the box and the lid with aluminum foil, taping it to the outside of the box to keep it in place.
Tape some plastic wrap tightly to make a "window" in the opening that you cut. You will open your oven the same way that you would open the pizza box.
On a sunny day, take your solar oven outside and put in ready- to-bake cookie squares or s'mores (put a marshmallow and a piece of chocolate bar between two graham crackers). Prop the lid open using a stick so that the sun's rays can reflect off the bottom of the lid, and enter the box through the window. Check your treat after about 15 minutes to see if it is ready to eat. Be sure to use potholders to remove the food - a solar cooker can reach temperatures of 325 degrees!
Go on a nature hike and collect interesting items that you find: differently-shaped of leaves and branches, nuts, pine cones, stones, etc. Using several sheets of dark-colored construction paper, find a sunny spot and lay your items flat in a pattern on the paper. Leave the paper in the sunlight all day. The sun will lighten the paper where it wasn't covered, making a one-of-a-kind solar picture.
In Hot Water
In solar heaters, heat energy from the sun is absorbed in large water drums, which are painted to retain the heat. Try this experiment to figure out which color is best for absorbing and retaining the warmth of the sun's rays. Take four soup cans and wrap each with a different color of construction paper: red, blue, black and yellow. Fill each can with equal amounts of water, using a thermometer to make sure the temperature is the same in each. Place the cans in the sun, and record the temperature in each can every fifteen minutes for two hours. How hot did the water get? What was the temperature range between the cans? Which can heated up fastest?
Check out Conservationist for Kids for more information and activities!
Upcoming DEC Events
Long Island - Lake Ronkonkoma County Park - Town of Brookhaven Beach
Lakeside Freshwater Clinic
Wednesday, July 30 at 6:30 PM until dark
*Pre-registration. Take a break from the blistering summer sun and try some cool, evening fishing. Geared to families, basic instruction focuses on fish identification, techniques, regulations and stewardship practices. Open fishing to follow. Loaner rods and free bait are available at every event! Age: All. Cost: Free. Event Limit: 80. participants. Directions: Take 495 to exit 58. Go straight through the light. Make a right at the next light onto Lakeshore Road/Pond Avenue. The beach will be on your left in about 2 miles. For more information, please visit I Fish NY. To pre-register, please call Malynda Nichol at 631-444-0283.
Birds of the Grasslands
Saturday, July 19 at 10:00 AM
Bluebirds, bobolinks, meadow larks, and savannah sparrows are a few of the birds we hope to spot as we walk the edges of our fields at Stony Kill. Bring binoculars, if you have them.
Family Fun with the Wind and the Sun
Saturday, July 26 at 10:00 AM
Cook food in a solar oven, make a wind-craft and discover the power of alternative energy sources for yourself. Adults and children 5 and older.
Thursday, July 17 at 2:00 PM
Come get wet and explore! We'll search for small stream wildlife, catch them, learn about them and release them back into their home. Wear footgear that can get wet - no flip-flops or bare feet please.
Saturday, July 19 at 10:00 AM
With a pair of binoculars and a bird book, anyone can get started on this interesting and fun hobby. Learn the basics of bird watching using your own binoculars, or borrow a pair of ours.
Tuesday, July 22 at 7:00 PM
In summer, there's no such thing as an eager beaver. There are no seasonal floods that require dam-repair, the kits are being weaned, and there's plenty of succulent new growth to enjoy. Join us on an outdoor foray to monitor summer "activity" of beaver and other pond inhabitants.
Tuesday, July 29 at 7:00 PM
Summer is the time for colorful flowers! On this walk we'll identify some common wildflowers and discuss their natural history, as well as their ancient myths and folklore.
Long Pond Paddle
Saturday, July 19 from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM
Long Pond is a 117 acre pond in the 3,254 acre Long Pond State Forest in the town of Smithville. The land also includes a Bird Conservation Area with habitats for Henslow's sparrows, grasshoppers, savannah sparrows, eastern meadowlarks and bobolinks. Join us for a leisurely paddle to explore the calm waters and shoreline. Registration is required. $5.00 non-refundable fee per paddler using our equipment. Meet in the Rogers Center main parking lot.
Herons and Kingfishers
Saturday, July 26 at 10:00 AM
Herons and kingfishers are masters of fish spearing in our area. The heron stands and waits, while the kingfisher perches and dives. Both kingfishers and great blue and green herons are readily seen at Rogers Center. Learn about their adaptations and strategies for survival, and join us for a walk to see some in action.
Advance registration is required. Call 716-683-5959.
Buck Full Moon Walk
Friday, July 18 at 8:00 PM
Bucks begin to grow new antlers at this time, so come out and join us as we search for bucks in velvet under the moon light.
Saturday, July 19 at 10:30 AM
Join us on a summer search for snakes, salamanders, frogs and turtles.
Solar Power Play
Saturday, July 26 at 11:00 AM
Join us as we explore the power of the sun by making solar prints, baking cookies in a solar oven and putting solar power to the test.
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