A fun activity for kids over the summer, as well as a handy tool when going camping or getting involved in other outdoor activities, building a solar cooker is a cheap and easy way to spark a child’s interest in renewable energy technology. (It’s also a great way to keep them occupied outside instead of wreaking havoc around the house while they’re out of school!) I made this style of cooker myself in my middle school Tech Ed class, and fondly remember that day- if mostly because we got to eat treats the whole day through! A simple solar cooker like this one can be used for warming up leftovers, melting chocolate for fondue, or best of all, making s’mores with just the right level of ooey-gooey deliciousness- and of course it sure helps keep the microwave clean!
You will need:
- Aluminum Foil
- Cardboard or poster paper
- Foods to warm up and enjoy!
First, design and plan what your solar cooker will look like. There’s no single correct way to make it; it functions by the aluminum foil reflecting and concentrating the sun’s rays on a focal point, so feel free to play around with angles- this is a great learning opportunity with mathematical and scientific applications that you can sneak in without the kids knowing that they’re learning outside of the classroom!
Next, assembly. Cut the cardboard out into panels or portions of your design, and cover one side of each piece with aluminum foil- the less wrinkled the better – and secure it with a little glue on the inside and a little tape on the edges. Make sure to have a flat bottom section in the middle, also covered in aluminum, on which you can place the food! Attach everything together with tape, only applying it to the non-aluminum outside to keep the reflective inside, well, reflective (or for larger designs and older, more craft-interested children, attach everything with methods such as staples, glue guns, or hinges).
Finally: Food! Place the cooker in a sunny spot and put your snack of choice inside, and let your meal warm while you play!
Some examples of solar cookers:
The Space Station:
The Big Shiny Bowl:
The Travel Unit:
Have kids experiment with different design ideas to spark creativity (and help them gain a practical understanding of angles and reflection)- or even compete for which child’s cooker is the most efficient!
By Danica Bergmann
Photo Cred (and more info on solar cookers): Nifty Homestead