Classroom Solutions > Stacey, Grades 6-8 > Not Your Momma’s Oven: Using Solar Ovens to Teach About Heat Transfer

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Not Your Momma’s Oven: Using Solar Ovens to Teach About Heat Transfer

Teaching students about the greenhouse effect is fun when paired with the construction of solar ovens. Using a pizza box, students made solar ovens to cook s’mores and study the transfer of heat. Check out the links and information that follows to get your students cooking with solar energy.

I love using solar ovens to teach students about radiant energy and the greenhouse effect. We actually build the solar ovens during math class and take the opportunity to review area, volume, surface area, and perimeter during the construction phase of the project. Because there is a lot of measuring required, it makes sense to integrate this activity with your math lesson.

Upon completion of the solar oven, students then take their supplies (s’mores stuff) outside to complete the science experiment. Students create hypotheses on numerous variables including; how hot the oven will get (they can reach temperatures of up to 275 degrees Fahrenheit), how long it will take for the chocolate to melt, how the angle of the flap affects the performance of the oven, etc.

We used Vernier temperature probes with our handheld LabQuest units to record the change in temperature in real time. Students could watch the change as it occurred using these devices. I highly recommend both of them. I love completing this lab this time of year. Students are often convinced that due to the fact that it is so chilly, the solar ovens couldn’t possibly be effective. It leaves a great impression on the students when they reflect back on the greenhouse effect.


Listed below are links to resources for solar oven construction:

Great for extending the study of solar energy. Available from the Scholastic Store:

Keep in mind that materials are not expensive and parents are often more than willing to donate the food items needed for this experiment. I have never had a problem finding a local pizza restaurant to donate the pizza boxes. Afterward we send the donor a letter of appreciation with a picture of the solar ovens that were made from their generous donation.

Have a wonderful week and have fun with this project.




  • #1 Shana Carlson

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 08:32 PM

    Oh, Stacey, it is so amazing to see you featured as a teacher advisor on Scholastic. I am so proud of you and your accomplishments in the teaching field. You are an inspiration to those of us just starting our teaching career and needing new ideas in the classroom and in our curriculum.

    I am so excited to implement this solar oven experiment in my 5th grade class. My students are going to be so excited and learn so much during this hands-on activity. You can use the scientific method to enhance, as well.

    Keep your blogs coming! I will be anxiously looking for more of your ideas and hopefully I will be able to share some of my results in my classroom, as well.

    I knew when I met you in 5th grade at the water fountain, that you were going to be someone who would touch lives, enjoy life and make a difference. I am blessed to call you a life long friend. You are an inspiration! Not only to old friends, but to new ones you touch through Scholastic.

    So proud of you,

    My dear, sweet Shana-

    Thank you so much for the kind words. I am very blessed to have this opportunity with Scholastic, at the same time understanding fully that all teachers have innovative ideas to share with our profession. Please send any and all ideas you have here so we can share even more great practices with educators in our field.

    YOU have touched the lives of so many, Shana. I am so grateful to be able to call you my friend (even if I did wear my boots without prior approval in 5th grade). I treasure you, just as I am positive your very lucky students do.

    All the best-

  • #2 kiasia

    Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 08:57 PM

    Your children work is so wonderful and it really informs me to think better and write better.

    Thanks so much for the comment. My students love this activity and I feel it really makes an impact when we discuss the difference between conduction, convection, and radiation and applying that knowledge to the greenhouse effect.


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