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  • In this activity, students will learn about using the Sun’s energy to meet our needs. They will be introduced to concepts around solar energy needed for solar cooking (heat) – dark colours for absorbing sunlight, greenhouse effect, light colours for reflecting sunlight and insulation. Using this science knowledge, they will then construct and use a solar oven.

    Rights: The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato

    A solar oven

    After making solar ovens, students could explain how a solar cooker worked using the concepts of insulation, reflection and absorption.

    By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

    • explain how solar energy can be used for cooking.
    • explain the principles of solar cooking (dark coloured objects absorb sunlight, double glazing traps and helps retain heat (a greenhouse effect), light coloured objects and shiny surfaces reflect sunlight, insulation slows heat energy transfer)
    • construct a solar oven
    • use the Sun to obtain maximum heating (setting the reflector to reflect sunlight into the oven and positioning the oven to face the Sun throughout the cooking time).

    Nature of science

    Science is strongly linked with technology. Technologists need to understand science ideas and concepts to be able to use them to make things that are useful for people. Solar ovens are useful in hot countries where there is little or no electricity supply.

    Download the Word file (see below) for:

    • introduction/background notes
    • instructions on what you need and what to do
    • student instructions for making a solar oven
    • extension ideas.

    Related content

    Teachers should read the articles Using solar energy and Reflection of light for a more complete understanding.

    Discover how other teachers used this activity

    Students reflect on learning science summarises the views of young students about their learning related to solar energy, including partaking in this activity. Self-assessment through individual interviews provided opportunities for them to reflect on what they had learned and to sum up what was valuable and memorable.

    Read about students how created a performance of the science learning they had gained by partaking in this activity.

    More activity ideas

    It is ideal for students to first complete the activities in Using heat energy to gain a good understanding of the principles involved to successfully complete this activity.

    Students can further explore the transformation to heat energy through these hands-on activities Using heat energy and Exploring solar power. Additional teacher resources include Alternative conceptions about energy and this unit plan. The activity Māui and the Sun uses the Māori legend to introduce the concept of harnessing the Sun as solar energy.

    Useful links

    Find out more about solar ovens, this article has information on different types, uses and more useful links.

    This has concise information about solar cooking, solar cooker design types and links to recipes and cooking tips.

      Published 9 August 2010 Referencing Hub articles
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