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Making a Solar Oven

NEED, Department of Energy

This activity from the Department of Energy provides background information about solar ovens and instructions on building a simple model solar cooker.

Activity takes about one 45- to 60-minute period to build cooker; more time needed to use and experiment with it. Additional materials required.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Short Demonstration/Experiment supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 2 Cross Cutting Concepts, 1 Science and Engineering Practice
High School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 4 Cross Cutting Concepts, 2 Science and Engineering Practices

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • A great way of introducing solutions while exploring the science of the first Climate Literacy Principle: The Sun is the primary source of energy for Earth's climate system: http://cleanet.org/clean/literacy/index.html.
  • A discussion about renewable energies and the use of solar in different part of the world will be a logical follow-up to this activity.
  • Use an overhead projector to trace out the pattern provided.
  • Create reading guide for passage provided.
  • Have students carry out modifications to provided design and challenge them to optimize their cookers.

About the Science

  • Reading passage explains the basics of a solar cooker and goes into detail about how they can be used by people all over the world - including developing countries and the military.
  • This description of a solar oven stresses the concept of reflectivity and absorption. However the term albedo is not introduced.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • Provides instructions for building a simple solar cooker, but the teacher will have to provide context for the activity and use of the cooker.
  • Also investigate other solar oven designs: http://solarcooking.org/plans/
  • The more sophisticated and durable, the more likely the cookers will actually be used more than once.
  • Engaging to build a solar oven and very instructive to see how well they work.
  • Students of different learning types will be engaged in this activity.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • No picture is included of a final oven. It will be helpful to see a model version of the oven that is to be built.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Short Demonstration/Experiment supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

MS-ESS2.A1:All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and matter cycling within and among the planet’s systems. This energy is derived from the sun and Earth’s hot interior. The energy that flows and matter that cycles produce chemical and physical changes in Earth’s materials and living organisms.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 2

Energy and Matter

MS-C5.3:Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion).

MS-C5.4:The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system.

Science and Engineering Practices: 1

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

MS-P6.7:Undertake a design project, engaging in the design cycle, to construct and/or implement a solution that meets specific design criteria and constraints

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

HS-ETS1.A2:Humanity faces major global challenges today, such as the need for supplies of clean water and food or for energy sources that minimize pollution, which can be addressed through engineering. These global challenges also may have manifestations in local communities

Cross Cutting Concepts: 4

Cause and effect, Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Structure and Function

HS-C2.3:Systems can be designed to cause a desired effect.

HS-C4.1:Systems can be designed to do specific tasks.

HS-C5.3:Energy cannot be created or destroyed—only moves between one place and another place, between objects and/or fields, or between systems.

HS-C6.2:The functions and properties of natural and designed objects and systems can be inferred from their overall structure, the way their components are shaped and used, and the molecular substructures of its various materials.

Science and Engineering Practices: 2

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Engaging in Argument from Evidence

HS-P6.5:Design, evaluate, and/or refine a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.

HS-P7.1:Compare and evaluate competing arguments or design solutions in light of currently accepted explanations, new evidence, limitations (e.g., trade-offs), constraints, and ethical issues

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