June is the signal for many people to pull out their BBQ grills and is often the beginning of the outdoor cooking season. Since we would like to teach our students to be responsible citizens, responsible in their use of natural resources, what better way than to include a unit on alternative energy sources including solar powered cooking. You and your students can conserve energy and eat your hotdogs too!
Lesson Plan for Solar Powered Cooking
Objective: Students will create a cooking mechanism powered by the sun.
Goal: Students will observe, reflect, record and understand the connection between the sun’s energy and reflection of that energy and the cooking of hotdogs.
Anticipatory Set: Did you ever hear the expression, “It’s hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk?” What does that mean? Do you think it could be hot enough to cook a hotdog? How could we enhance the heat of the sun to really cook food?
After ideas are solicited from students, explain that the sun is one alternative energy source and set up a simple demonstration of light source reflecting off foil to create heat. Have students test the effect of the angle of the light on the foil. This could be done in the classroom with a light bulb or in pairs outside with the sun. From this activity, the students will proceed to produce solar powered ovens as described below. Working in pairs would be best, but small groups would also be manageable depending on the amount of materials available. The directions should be clearly printed with illustrations so that all forms of learners will be able to complete the task.
Directions to create a solar powered oven:
Large box with cover, (a pizza delivery box works well), aluminum foil, box cutter or scissors, cello tape, clear plastic wrap, black construction paper, newspaper, ruler, clear plastic plate, hot mitt.
1. Take the box with a cover and cut three sides of a rectangle in the top leaving at least a one inch border all around so that a flap is formed. Bend this flap back and cover the underside with aluminum foil. Tape the edges or bring the aluminum foil around to the upper side of the flap and tape so that it will stay in place.
2. Open the box and tape a double layer of plastic wrap over the opening you created by cutting the flap. Make sure the plastic wrap extends beyond the opening and tape this down.
3. Line the bottom of the box with black construction paper. Since black absorbs heat, it will help your food to cook.
4. Tightly roll newspaper and place in the box around the edges of the box to help keep the heat in.
5. Now you are ready to cook! Place the plastic plate on the black surface with the hotdogs on the plate.
6. Position the box in the sun with lid propped open and angled to catch the sunlight. Hold the position in place with the ruler.
Hotdogs will take a while to cook and will need to be turned. Just open the box and move them with a fork. You may need to use a hot mitt to avoid being burned.
Students should observe how the position of their box impacts cooking as opposed to other students’ affect the timing of the cooking. They should be encouraged to record their observations in a journal. As this activity will take a while, students could brain storm about other uses for solar energy/heating. This will provide your students with a chance to apply what they have learned.
Alternatively they could research how people leverage solar energy or you could present to them other uses such as heating and sterilizing water.
The best time to perform this activity is on a sunny day between the hoursof 11:00 am and 3:00 pm. The oven will heat up to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit. If you prefer, toasted cheese or s’mores (graham cracker, marshmallow, and chocolate sandwiches) could also be made. For younger children, you could prepare the oven(s) yourself and have the students just do the cooking, observation, reflecting and recording.
Exploring alternative energy forms can be fun and tasty too. With a solar powered oven, the sky’s the limit!