Here is an easy science project for kids. It is a very simple solar cooker. The project can be used by school or scouts and makes a great science fair project. It can be used to teach the concepts of solar, weather, sustainable living, or cooking. Be sure to check out my series of posts for recipes for the Easy Pie Pan Solar Oven Project.
I was recently challenged with creating a solar cooking project for young children. The project needed to be easy enough for young kids to do by themselves; it needed to be cheap enough that every child in the class room could make their own individual cooker; the recipe had to be kid friendly and easy for them to prepare by themselves; and finally the food had to cook fast so that it didn’t take the whole day or lose the children’s interest. The easy solar cooking project that I created meets all of these criteria.In order to make a successful solar oven, three things are required. The first thing required is a pot or container for the food. The preferred solar cooking pot is dark and definitely not shiny, because dark absorbs heat while shiny reflects heat. Think of how a car window shade reflects the heat. So although it is not the preferred container for serious solar cookers, an aluminum pie pan is just perfect for our purposes. The pie pans are relatively inexpensive and people often have used ones at home, stored in the cupboard. As an added bonus, the pie pan will not break if dropped.
The second thing required to make a solar cooker is a heat trap. There must be something to trap the energy from the sun or it will just scatter. To be sure, on a hot day, there will be plenty of heat, but unless you trap and hold the heat, the pie pan solar cooker will not get hot enough to cook. In commercial ovens, the heat trap will be created by a large box with a glass or plexiglass lid. In some smaller cookers, the heat trap is created by large overturned glass bowls. And in some cookers, the heat trap is created by using turkey cooking bags. We will be using the turkey cooking bags. They are inexpensive, lightweight, easy to use, and food safe.
The third thing required to make a solar cooker is a reflector, something to reflect the sunlight into the heat trap. Big reflectors can be seen on all of the commercially manufactured solar ovens. They are always made from a shiny material and positioned so the the sun rays will bounce off of the reflector into the heat trap. We will be recycling large empty cereal boxes covered with aluminum foil to make our reflectors.
Easy Science Project for Kids
Supply List for 1 Solar Cooker
- Large empty cereal box or similar box
- Aluminum foil to cover the box
- 2 empty (16 oz) water bottles filled with tap water
- 1 aluminum pie pan
- 1 medium size turkey bag with twisty tie
To make the reflector, (1)cover the empty box with aluminum foil, shiny side out, and
(2) tape to secure the foil, much like wrapping a gift. Make this as wrinkle free as possible. Be sure to leave the open end of the box uncovered by the foil.
(3) You can leave the ends standing out to create a larger reflector. Stand the box up.
(4) Fill the empty water bottles with tap water and gently slide them into the open side of the reflector to help hold up the box.
Fill the pie plate with food. Place the pie plate into the turkey cooking bag and tie shut with the twisty tie.
(5) To cook, place the reflector in a sunny spot. Up next to a sunny wall or block fence that gets a lot of sunlight is an excellent place. Place the pie plate up next to the reflector. And wait!
Note: because of the low temperatures achieved by this little cooker, you will need a warm day and food that “cooks” quickly. If yo use a smaller pot pie size pan, use a small turkey cooking bag. (If you are working with very small children who might not be able to cover the box, find a light colored wall that gets lots of sunshine. On a hot day, the wall should reflect enough light to heat these little ovens and cook these recipes. If not try fastening the foil to the wall and creating one really large reflector. You, of course, will want to make a trial run to determine if your wall will work before proceeding with the project.)
Click here for “6 Easy Recipes for Kids” that were developed for use with the Easy Science project for kids.
For more projects, see 6 Homemade Solar Oven Projects for Kids
For more information on solar cooking, see Solar Cooking Tips and Techniques.
Thanks for solar cooking with Sunshine On My Shoulder.