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The Weight of Light: Reasoning and Imagining with Present and Possible Energy Systems


The Weight of Light (WoL) project includes learning opportunities for middle and high school youth to imagine possible futures for their communities while increasing interest in and awareness of energy challenges and the role STEM plays in transforming local and national energy systems. Specifically, the project builds on the strengths of The Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts (HIDA), Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College (MLFTC), and beyond to engage youth in creating multimodal solar energy futures narratives as a means of identifying with STEM and increasing agency for engaging STEM practices for social purposes. WoL will develop events and programs for youth to learn about socio-technical aspects of solar engineering and apply this knowledge to envisioning future possibilities for themselves and their community. Participants will create original stories, music, visual art, and essays – supported by educators, artists, learning scientists, and solar energy experts with experience fostering youth creative voice and agency. Using design-based research, the project will document and analyze participation in terms of socio-cultural frameworks that characterize forms of consequential learning. In designing and testing WoL activities, the WoL team will explore how youth exercise agency while identifying with and contributing to STEM endeavors.

This project is generously funded by a HIDA/MLFTC Seed Grant.

For additional information on the project or how to get involved, contact:

The Team

Tobias, E. S., Bartlett, K., Jordan, M. E., & Zuiker, S. J. (2023). Addressing climate change and sustainable energy futures through creative music engagement. In Youth Created Media on the Climate Crisis (pp. 146-165). Routledge. 

Examples of WoL Student Projects

Listen to examples of student WoL projects.

Resources for Partnering Programs

Initiatives That Inspired the WoL Project

The Weight of Light: A Collection of Solar Futures

The Weight of Light is the initiative and book that inspired our current research project oriented around young people creating solar energy futures.

Land Art Generator

“The Land Art Generator has become one of the world’s most followed sustainable design events and is inspiring people everywhere about the promise of a net-zero carbon future. Showing how innovation through interdisciplinary collaboration, culture, and the expanding role of technology in art can help to shape the aesthetic impact of renewable energy on our constructed and natural environments.”

Activities For Starting the Project

These activities can serve as starting points for sparking students’ curiosity and learning about aspects of climate change and energy transitions to scaffold engagement leading up to the core part of the project.

Design Brief

The core of the WoL project is structured with a Design Brief that invites students to work through the complexities of climate change and energy transitions by imagining possible solar futures through music.

Access the Project Design Brief and related information

Prompts to Support Inquiry and Reflection

Access prompts to support students’ inquiry and reflection throughout the project.

Inspirations and Resources


Complex Movement’s Beware of The Dandelions

DJ Cavem and Eco Hip Hop

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

The Book of Ice & Antarctica Projects – DJ Spooky (Paul D Miller)

Heart of a Forest – DJ Spooky (Paul D Miller)

Climate Conscious Collabs

10 Musicians Taking on Climate Change – EcoWatch

An Alternate Canon of Afrofuturist Classics – Red Bull Music Academy

10 Far-Out Afrofuturistic Music Videos You Need to See – okayafrica

Sustainable Music – Jeff Todd Titon’s Blog

Additional Curated Sustainability and Music Resources


Solarpunk: A reference guide

Octopia: A Solarpunk Zine

Additional Curated Solarpunk Resources

Additional Examples of Arts Addressing Issues of Sustainability


A Blade of Grass

Artists and Climate Change


Green Art Lab Alliance

Resources for Music Creation

Web-Based Music Creation Apps and Platforms

Resources for Solar Energy

The Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies (QESST) lab

Examples of Solar Projects