Building solar ovens is a really engaging project for students. (And living in Phoenix, there are only a few months were you CAN’T build one!) I did this activity with students when we learned about forms of energy and heat transfer. You can choose to have students work on it at home, or bring in their materials and build it in class. Keep reading for more tips!
Here are some tips for the project:
- This may seem obvious, but wait for the right time of year to do this with students. It needs to be warm outside!
- Have students put their solar ovens outside right at the beginning of class and allow them to sit for a while (at least 30 minutes). Its best to have something else for them to work on while they wait for their ovens to heat up.
- Don’t break your budget supplying all the materials for students. I told students I would supply the food items (more on this in a second) and they needed to supply their box, tin foil, or whatever materials they wanted to build with. Most of these things can be found at home for free or from the dollar store.
- I have students work in pairs and pick their partner. You can choose group sizes that you think are appropriate for your class size.
- You will need to supply thermometers to measure the temperature change inside their oven. IR thermometers are convenient if you have them (but expensive). Glass alcohol thermometers will work just fine, but make sure you have multiple since they take a while to measure.
- I provided a small prize for the group that had the largest increase in temperature inside their oven. When you make it a competition, students really get into it! Prizes could be a homework pass, vinyl stickers, candy, or some needed school supplies.
- What type of food should you supply? Hot dogs are an inexpensive option, but many students won’t want to eat them and they might get thrown in the trash. I’ve seen teachers bring in tortillas and cheese for quesadillas, or graham crackers with chocolate and marshmallows for smores.
If you are interested in an editable brainstorming page and grading rubric, click here.
I hope your students have a blast building and testing their solar ovens!