Arica, 27 June 2018. How can I use the sun to provide me with healthy, delicious and attractive food? That was the question posed to a group of 31 sixth grade students from Colegio Hispano in Arica. Over two months, they developed the Gourmet Sun project which involved creating a prototype fruit dehydrator for healthy eating.
A balanced diet is the hallmark of Colegio Hispano. This led to the idea of making fruit dehydrators that use the sun’s heat to dry apples, oranges or bananas. Since the beginning of May, they have created six different-sized prototypes which have already produced fruit: students dry apples, kiwis, oranges, bananas and strawberries.
The Gourmet Sun project, led by teachers Nathalia Álvarez, Natalia Ríos and Juana Fica, is one of the novelties of the Solar Projects Fair held on June 27 at the University of Tarapacá, as part of the seminar "Arica and Parinacota : Our future is the Sun".
"They began to investigate possible designs in technology classes this year. After the idea and designs were developed, they began to build the prototypes. They are now ready; there are six different prototypes from six groups of students," says Natalia Ríos, a language teacher at Colegio Hispano.
Boys and girls aged between 11 and 13 built the prototypes guided by the teachers and with the help of parents for tasks such as cutting wood. There are now 29 students participating in the project as two changed schools. "This prototype is theirs; they did the research and work. We only gave them the tools," says Nathalia Álvarez, a teacher of biology and natural sciences at Colegio Hispano.
"We have fruit that is ready to be packaged and that was dehydrated with the prototypes. This will be displayed and tasted at the Solar Projects Fair and we have proposed to the Pedagogical Technical Unit (UTP) that we make it for the establishment as a healthy snack," says Ríos.
The students spend about 12 hours a week on this project, divided between natural sciences, language and technology classes. "We review the fruit, check that the sun's rays are sufficient," adds Ríos. As part of the process, students wear an overall, mask, cover their hair and disinfect their hands. Each student has a role such as leader, timekeeper or secretary. There are about six different roles.
"The idea arose when we did a training course at Colegio Pablo Neruda and we thought that children now eat a lot of junk food. Most of them come from the valley where there is plenty of fruit and orchards. This is how the idea of how to link it to solar energy came up," explains Colegio Hispano’s biology and natural sciences teacher.
“The impact has been enormous,” adds Álvarez. “Previously they thought that their learning would not be of any use to them in the future. But now, with this new system, they apply knowledge in their daily lives because it can also be reproduced in their homes. They can imagine doing it at home as a business."
They have high expectations of participating in the fair. "We believe that our children have learned a lot about the subject. They have learned about the transformation of energy, types of energy and how it changes. We are also able to encourage healthy eating, they have taken this in more," says Álvarez.
Documenting the process
The students have documented the stages of research, design and preparation of the fruit with a semi-professional camera and a microphone since starting work on the fruit dehydrator project. "They explain the process and the idea is to learn about it from the students’ point of view in their own words. The plan is to make it into a documentary to show the community, "says Colegio Hispano’s language teacher.
The cameras will also record the display at the Solar Projects Fair in which about 10 of the 29 students will participate. One group will show the dehydration process at a stand while another will present the work in a forum, where they will have to answer questions from attendees. This is the first time the students will present the results of their research.
The Solar Projects Fair, run by students and teachers belonging to the Solar Schools Network, is part of Ayllu Solar, an initiative that seeks to increase knowledge and reflection in schools about solar potential in Arica and Parinacota Region.
The event is organised by Ayllu Solar, with the support of BHP Billiton Billiton Foundation and Fundación Chile as strategic partners, together with Arica’s department of municipal education (DAEM) and the universities of Chile, Tarapacá and Antofagasta.
Ayllu Solar is an initiative of the Solar Energy Research Center (SERC) and Fundación Chile, supported by BHP Billiton Foundation. It aims for urban and rural communities in Arica and Parinacota Region to achieve sustainable development through the use of solar energy. One of the lines of work is in schools. Ayllu Solar convened educational establishments in the region to develop projects related to solar energy through the Project Based Learning (PBL) methodology.
This methodology seeks to promote students' active learning, team work and solving real problems through the development of key skills for the 21st century, such as creativity, innovation, critical thinking and communication. All students' projects are focused on taking advantage of Arica and Parinacota Region’s solar potential.
Alejandra Garcés, director of BHP Billiton Foundation’s Chile Country Program, highlights the impact of the Ayllu Solar initiative in the region’s schools. "The balance is positive: there are currently 19 schools participating in the project. The solar seal of recognition was given to nine educational establishments and the Ayllu Solar Network was constituted, in addition to the launching of the collaborative platform Redayllusolar.cl".
Garcés adds that the schools initiative is meeting the Ayllu Solar project’s final objective to increase knowledge, use and reflection in schools about solar potential in Arica and Parinacota Region.
This is the third version of the Ayllu Solar schools project. In total, 19 schools and 106 teachers have been trained in PBL methodology and 881 pupils have developed solar projects under this system since 2017.