A ‘Dam’ Good Day Out!

Fifty eight primary students from ten schools across Central Otago and the Queenstown Lakes District gathered together in Clyde for a day to learn about energy and visit the Clyde Dam…

The students started the day with a mini-energy audit. They had to answer these questions:

Did an alarm wake you up this morning?
Did you shower/ bathe this morning?
Did you take food from a fridge?
Heat anything in a microwave for breakfast?
Did you make toast this morning?
Did you bike or walk to school?

This got them thinking about some of the ways they use energy now, what forms that energy takes and where it comes from.

One of the sources of energy students identified is the sun.

“Students building their solar oven”.

We used the sun on the day to cook S’mores in the solar ovens the students built. The ovens were made in boxes lined with reflective foil and newspaper and had a glass lid (instructions available here).

The S’mores were assembled, and we headed outside with the ovens. Students lined their ovens up with the sun, having long discussions about how to capture the maximum amount of energy from the sun. The best part of the activity was eating the S’mores .

“Students building a solar oven”.

After lunch we were visiting Clyde Dam so we had a series of bus stop activities that looked at different forms of energy generation in Aotearoa.

Because about 80% of our energy comes from water sources and because we were visiting a hydro dam quite a few of the bus stops were about dams.

As well as learning about energy students recorded all of the things they still wanted to find out about dams and electricity.


They had some great questions like – “What happens to the fish, how much concrete does did it take to build the dam, where does the electricity generated at the dam go and how do they know where to send it?”


“Students checking out their SMORES”.

The S’mores and the dam visit were the highlights for the students. S’mores were also a hit with the teachers and they could see lots of opportunity to use the solar oven activity back at school.

There was also a lot of discussion about exploring the social history of the Clyde Dam back at school as the building of the dam was so controversial and impacted significantly on the local community, as well as the local environment.

“Right in the middle of the Dam”.

– Original case study written by Robyn Zink (Regional Coordinator for Otago) for the Energy! Theme Area