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When kids’ eyes shine: A solar oven made from a pizza box

Society Sustainablity

How to help kids understand the difference between fossil fuels and solar energy? Between Renewable and Non-Renewable energy?

We already used a number of times the solar oven made from a pizza box experiment.

So friends: How do you usually cook a pizza? In an oven… That is heated by burning natural gas or using electricity. This electricity is produced by fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas or coal). A tiny bit of electricity is produced by solar energy. Unfortunately not so much. Therefore to cook our pizza, we are polluting the air and contributing to climate change.

Could we do it differently? Well yes… There a big source of heat right above our heads: the sun!

How do we use the solar energy? We put together a solar oven made from a pizza box! The students follow a fun procedure that starts from a drawing of our solar oven and a drawing of the Greenhouse effect.  We take some time to discuss, allowing the students to understand and to compare the solar oven with the Greenhouse effect at the planet’s level.

A solar oven with a pizza box

The students make the solar oven from the pizza box by themselves (with some help for the younger)

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Afterwards, the students take their solar over outdoors and it is time to put the ovens on! We place biscuits with chocolate inside the oven to make a yummy ‘chocolate burger’.

2016-03-30 10.54.32 copyWe also put some thermometers inside, in order to see the temperature it will reach. In order to be accurate, we put a thermometer next to the oven, facing down so that no greenhouse effect happens inside the thermometer. And we also put a thermometer inside a marshmallow!

When everything is ready all we need to do is wait. Although the sun is a huge source of energy, it has a very small density. That is the reason why petroleum took 100.000.000 years to accumulate sun’s energy and become the amazing fuel we know today!

While we wait, we discuss a number of interesting topics:

  • Where do fossil fuels come from, what is the impact of their use on our environment and on our health
  • What is the difference between using fossil fuel and using renewable energies
  • What we are doing presently: using the sun’s energy that is completely renewable… In order to heat up our oven and cook!
  • We also discuss the ‘how’: What is happening inside the oven and why does it become hot, whereas it is covered only by a very tiny plastic foil… (You want to know? Call us 😉 )

Finally, the students open the oven.

Their eyes shine ~ a second biscuit comes on top and their chocolate burger is served!

Before saying goodbye we ask the students a question: “You are in one of the sunniest countries on earth, you know now that a solar oven can be very efficient (this was only a pizza box!)… So why don’t you have solar ovens in your house ?” … They wonder and cannot find the answer.

Where did we all conclude?  That when the students will start building or renovating their own house, THEY will be more clever than US!!

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