Updated: Feb 17, 2021
Harness the sun’s energy to cook a s’more & explore renewable energy
- Physical Science:
Conservation of Energy & Energy Transfer
- Earth Science:
Human Impacts on Earth’s Systems
- Engineering Design
Tools & Materials
Cardboard pizza box
White school glue
Black construction paper
Wooden skewer (or pencil to prop the lid up)
Graham crackers, chocolate, and a marshmallow to build your s’more
A sunny day
To Do & Notice
1. Question: Do you think that it is possible to use the sun’s energy (rather than electricity) to cook?
2. Make a Claim:
Can you cook s'mores in a cardboard pizza box solar oven?
3. Testing Ideas:
Build a pizza box solar oven and try to cook a s’more. (Management Tip: Always have adult supervision during this experiment to help with cutting and to oversee the cooking.)
On the lid of your box, use a ruler and sharpie to draw a square in the middle of the lid with a one inch frame along the outer edge. See image for detail.
With the help of an adult, carefully cut along 3 sides of your square with a utility knife. Do not cut the side that runs along the hinge of the box. See image for detail.
Fold this flap back slightly.
Wrap the inside of the flap with aluminum foil. Fold the edges of the aluminum foil over the flap to hold it in place. Use glue to secure the edges of the foil to the cardboard flap. Keep the foil as smooth as possible. See image for detail.
Create a plastic wrapped window in the opening of the lid of the box. Cover the opening with plastic wrap using packing tape to secure the edges. Attach one sheet of plastic wrap to the top of the opening and one sheet of plastic wrap to the bottom of the opening. (Note: make sure there are no holes in the plastic wrap and that all of its edges are completely attached to the lid.)
Cover the inside of the base of your box with aluminum foil. Use glue (or packing tape) to attach the foil.
Cover the bottom of the box with black construction paper. Use glue to add sheets of black construction paper on top of the foil lining at the bottom of the box.
Close the lid on the box and prop open the flap with a wooden skewer.
Take your solar oven outside on a sunny day. Set the solar oven in a spot with a lot of direct sunlight. Adjust the flap to capture and direct as much sun energy as possible into the box.
Use your thermometer to gather data on the temperature of your solar oven. (CAUTION: Never leave the solar oven unattended. Solar oven can get very hot! On a hot, sunny day the temperature can reach 200℉ in your oven.)
Build your s’more with graham cracker, chocolate, and a marshmallow.
Place your constructed s’more onto a small sheet of foil (that will act as the baking tray) inside of the box on top of the black construction paper to cook. (Note: it can take roughly 30 minutes for the s’more to melt, depending on the weather, so having patience is key)
Observe your s’more throughout the cooking process.
When cooked to your liking….remove from solar over and enjoy!
4. Analyze & Interpret Data:
What is the purpose of the aluminum foil?
How does the heat stay inside of the box?
Why do you think the plastic wrap needs to be sealed tightly?
How does the black construction paper help cook the s’more?
How warm did your solar oven become?
How long does it take for the s’more to cook?
Could you increase the cooking rate by making some changes to your solar oven?
How could you make your solar oven more efficient?
Could you change the size, shape, or materials?
How does your solar oven compare to a conventional oven?
How did the weather influence your cooking?
5. Communicate Findings:
Share your results with SWEP by sending us photos or videos of your experiment. Post your photos on social media and tag us @sweptahoe on Instagram and/or to @swep4 on Facebook. Be sure to hashtag and follow #SWEPsnippets. If you cannot post directly yourself, send your photos or video to SWEP (Jenna@4swep.org).
What’s Going On
How the Oven Works:
Solar Energy is the energy emitted by the sun in the form of heat, light, and radiation. In this activity we harnessed solar energy to melt our s’more.
Tin Foil - the aluminum foil reflects the rays from the sun directly into the box.
Plastic Wrap - the clear plastic layer allows heat from the sun to enter the box and traps it so it cannot escape. However, some small amount of radiation may escape through this film as heat.
Black Construction Paper - the color black absorbs the heat once it enters the box and radiates heat in order to cook the food
Cardboard Box - this is the retainer for the heat. Convection occurs when heat sometimes escapes through the cracks in the box.
The greenhouse effect is a warming of Earth's surface and the air above it. It is caused by gases in the air that trap energy from the Sun. These heat-trapping gases are called greenhouse gases. The most common greenhouse gases are water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane.
- How-To Video for creating the solar oven box:
- For a more complex solar oven try these:
Sun Printing - create colorful works of art using the sun at your paintbrush
Tell the time by reading the sun with your own Sundial
Thanks to our partners at Town of Truckee and Truckee Donner Public Utility District for supporting sustainability-based science experiments.