Science and the Sun

We are all lucky to live in a state known as the Sunshine State.  There are so many science activities that can be done to teach more about our powerful star.  Shadows, sundials, UV light, and spectroscopes are a few activities that can teach about the sun.  Science activities like these can spark interest and lead to a lot of self-discovery in children.

In third grade, we make simple solar ovens out of pizza boxes every year.  We use our ovens to cook a delicious s’more treat.  Solar ovens can be made out of many different materials that you often already have at home.  Below you will find directions for a simple oven that will heat up to around 200 degrees F.

  1. Cut a flap on the top of your pizza box* to create an airtight window for the sun to shine in. The flap should be 1-2 inches smaller than the box lid.  Fold the flap so it stands when the box is closed. *I have also used Pringle cans and cereal boxes; smaller boxes heat up quicker and retain heat better.
  2. Cover the flap hole with a clear plastic. Ziploc bags and clear sheet protectors work well. Tape the clear plastic on the inside of the box.  Make sure you tape all the edges down so the heat does not escape from your oven.
  3. Line the inside of your flap and box with tin foil. The tin foil will reflect the sun’s rays and heat into the oven. If you are using a larger box, you will want to add some insulation in the box.  Crumpled up newspaper is a great insulator.  Stuff the newspaper around the edges of your oven to help retain the heat.
  4. Your oven is now complete. You can cook s’mores, nachos with cheese, or even buttered toast. Place the food on a plate and put it in your oven.  Seal the oven tightly.  The flap will need to be propped open with a ruler or stick.  Angle the oven so the flap is facing the sun.  We leave our s’mores in the sun for about 2 hours.  Remember, your solar oven will cook slower than your normal oven.  If you want to speed up your cook time you can “preheat” your oven by setting it out in the sun for an hour before you begin cooking.
  5. Carefully, remove your plate from the oven as it will be hot, and enjoy your treat.

Solar ovens can range from simple to complex.  If you enjoyed cooking in your oven, I would encourage you to research and build a larger oven.  These larger ovens can cook complete meals.  There are also annual solar oven competitions. Last year, two Holy Trinity teams placed at the Solar Energy Cook-Off competition.  From solar cooking to solar power, the sun is an amazing free resource for us all to use.

by Mrs. Schultz
HTEA Third Grade Teacher

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