Homeschooled students build solar lights for developing nations during coronavirus isolation

Sabooh Whitelaw (C) and her kids Sophie and Sascha build solar-lights during their home-schooling classes during isolation. Source: Supplied

A Melbourne mum has added a new element to the home schooling curriculum - taking part in a student program building solar-powered lights.

Melbourne mother Sabooh Whitelaw has put a unique spin on home schooling her children during the outbreak of coronavirus.

Ms Whitelaw has given her son Sacha and daughter Sophie a break from the textbooks, instead, they are building solar-powered lights which will be donated to school children in Vanuatu.

It is part of a program run by Origin Energy and SolarBuddy to educate children about energy poverty and the challenges faced by families in developing countries.

Now her children are being home-schooled she says its good opportunity for them to learn about their own privilege and to help out those less fortunate as well as some technical skills to boot.

Nine-year-old Sascha Whitelaw builds a solar-light as part of a program run by the Origin Foundation

“I jumped at the opportunity to talk to my kids about the importance of energy poverty and being able to give back to other people and appreciate how lucky we are where we live,” Ms Whitelaw said.

“Even though the kids are a little bit younger than what we would aim at so I thought it was a great hands-on activity while you're trying to break up the homeschooling.”

“If my kids gained a bit of a better understanding of the world outside and how little time it takes to make someone else life better I would be very happy."

While the program has a strong social justice aspect, it also teaches students about science, engineering and renewable energy.

Origin Energy volunteering manager Ruth Lee said the program challenges students problem solving abilities as well as developing important STEM skills.

“The students will be doing things like connecting a small circuit which activates a light. They will be fitting a waterproof switch, putting some o-rings in place, screwing everything together and then putting the little bumper that goes around the light,” she said.

While building the solar-powered lights was a fun way to break up the struggles of home schooling while stuck in isolation, the finished products could have a long-lasting impact.

SolarBuddy chief executive Simon Doble said the lights will be donated to communities that are still forced to use kerosene and gas lamps.

“Our work is enabling clearer and cleaner air within the homes which, because COVID is a respiratory issue that's going to drastically improve anybody's exposure to COVID, purely by the cleaner air that they're breathing,” he said.

“In a small way, we're doing our thing and the fact that we can bring Australians families in to provide this is a wonderful thing."

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

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