Build a Solar Oven Snack Shack!

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It’s time to harness the power of the sun to make delicious treats!

Building a solar oven snack shack is a great way to talk to your child about reflectivity (foil), solar absorption (black paper), and creating a structure to hold the heat. When built, we can use our solar oven to bake treats with just sunshine.

Let’s get started on this exciting solar cooking adventure!

build a solar oven snack shack technology experiment

How to make the Build a Solar Oven Snack Shack technology and engineering experiment

Supplies you will need

For this experiment, you will need the following:

  • Cardboard box (shoebox size or larger)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Plastic wrap
  • Black construction paperOpens in a new tab.
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Small paper plate
  • Ingredients for your chosen snack (ideas provided later in the post)
Supplies needed for the Solar Oven Snack Shack technology experiment

Before you start

Your delicious snacks may be warm to the touch when you grab them from the solar oven, so please watch your child.

Also, since we are using scissors for this experiment, keep a close eye on your kiddo to make sure they are staying safe.

One more precaution: since we are leaving food outside in our oven to cook, be sure to keep watch over it to ensure no animals try to have their own snack.

Instructions

Here is how to do this experiment with your toddler:

Step 1: Building the solar oven

This first step is about building the body of our solar oven.

Take your cardboard box or shoe box and remove any stickers or labels that may get in the way.

Measure a border of about 2 inches around the perimeter of the top of the box to make an opening for the sunlight to get in. Cut out that rectangle you measured to make the opening.

Measuring two inches around the top of the box
Cutting out the measured lines

Get your preschooler involved: If your child enjoys measuring, allow them to use the ruler to measure out 2 inches.

Step 2: Reflective lining

Line the body of the box with aluminum foil

Next up, we are going to set up the inside of the snack shack to cook our snacks.

Line the inside of the box with aluminum foil and secure it in place with tape or a glue stick. Try to keep the foil as smooth as possible to have the best reflectivity.

Cover the bottom of the snack shack with black construction paper. That paper will help absorb the heat and also help with the efficiency of the oven.

Tape black construction paper to the base of the box

Get your preschooler involved: Kids enjoy glue sticks! If you have that handy, use that instead of tape to let your child do some work in this step.

Step 3: Creating the oven’s “window”

Tape a piece of plastic wrap over the hole made to allow sun in

Now we’re going to cover up the window on the top of the box that we cut open in Step 1 with plastic wrap.

The plastic wrap on the top helps to hold any captured heat and keep it contained inside the snack shack.

Cut a piece of plastic wrap that is a little bigger than the opening we cut in Step 1. Tape the plastic wrap along the inside of the opening and create an airtight seal.

Step 4: Snack time preparations

Here’s the fun part: picking out our snacks! Here are a few ideas for you:

  • Solar S’mores: Graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate bars
  • Fruit Kabobs: Skewers with chunks of various fruits like melons, berries, and grapes
  • Sun-baked Tortilla Chips: Tortilla triangles with a sprinkle of salt
  • Solar Energy Trail Mix: A mix of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and mini pretzels
  • Solar Oven Pizza: Pita or tortilla, pizza sauce, cheese, toppings

Get your preschooler involved: Let your child pick out what kind of snack they want (as long as you have the ingredients in the pantry!). It gives them a sense of ownership over the experiment AND allows them to enjoy their treat even more at the end!

Step 5: Time to cook!

Placing marshmallows into the solar oven

It may help with the cooking time if you place your solar oven out in the sunshine for about 20 minutes to preheat.

Place your snack on a small paper plate and place it inside the box (cut down the paper plate so more black construction paper is exposed). The oven should be in direct sunlight.

Marshmallows inside of solar oven with direct sunlight

Here are the times needed for the snacks above (approximately):

  • Solar S’mores: 20 minutes
  • Fruit Kabobs: 30-40 minutes
  • Sun-baked Tortilla Chips: 20-30 minutes
  • Solar Energy Trail Mix: 2-3 hours
  • Solar Oven Pizza: 20 minutes

Step 6: Enjoying the solar oven snack

Once your snack is done cooking, carefully remove it from the solar oven and let it cool.

Enjoy the treat that you two cooked up together!

The technology and engineering behind the Build a Solar Oven Snack Shack experiment

This experiment teaches:

  • The Power of Renewable Energy
  • Scientific Inquiry and Experimentation
  • Environmental Awareness

How it works

In this experiment, a cardboard box is transformed into a solar oven. The box is lined with reflective material like aluminum foil to capture sunlight. The bottom is covered with black construction paper to absorb heat. A clear plastic wrap acts as a window, trapping the heat inside.

When placed in direct sunlight, the reflective lining absorbs the sun’s rays, converting them into heat. This heat is trapped within the oven, allowing snacks placed inside to gradually cook or dry out.

The Power of Renewable Energy

This experiment is an engaging way to teach our kids about renewable energy and how the sun’s rays can be harnessed to create heat.

It’s a great introduction to show that energy can come from natural sources, like the sun, and that we can use it in a sustainable and eco-friendly way.

A few other sources of renewable energy that we can talk about with our kids:

Scientific Inquiry and Experimentation

The solar oven snack experiment encourages kids to explore the scientific process of inquiry and experimentation.

They can make predictions about what will happen to their snack when it’s exposed to the sun’s heat, observe how the food changes when inside the oven, and try to figure out what’s going on based on that information.

These skills are so great at building critical thinking in kids!

Environmental Awareness

This solar oven snack experiment can also promote environmental awareness and a sense of responsibility towards the planet. Kids can learn about the importance of conserving energy and reducing their carbon footprint.

By witnessing the power of the sun and understanding how it can be used as a clean and sustainable energy source, they may develop a deeper appreciation for the environment.

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