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Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans
Solar Energy: Become a Sun Chef!
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for Teachers is divided into four sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the Lesson.
Steps -- Conducting the Lesson.
Extensions -- Additional Activities.
Tips -- Managing Resources and Student Activities.


  • Aluminum foil.
  • 2-3 cardboard boxes per student.
  • Cardboard scraps.
  • Cooking bags.
  • 1 cooking thermometer per student.
  • Glue.
  • Insulating material.
  • Newspaper.
  • 1 oatmeal container per student.
  • Paper.
  • Pencils.
  • Plastic wrap.
  • Scissors.
  • Tape.
  • Wire cutters.
  • Wire hangers.
Computer Resources:
You will need at least one computer with Internet access to complete this lesson. While many configurations will work, we recommend:

-- Modem: 28.8 Kbps or faster.
-- Browser: Netscape Navigator 3.0 or above or Internet Explorer 3.0 or above.
-- Macintosh computer: System 7.0 or above and at least 16 MB of RAM.
-- IBM-compatible computer: 386 or higher processor with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 3.1. Or, a 486/66 or Pentium with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 95.

For more information, visit What You Need to Get Connected in wNetSchool's Internet Primer.

The following sites should be bookmarked:

  • What Is Solar Energy

    This site, from the U.S. Department of Energy, includes excellent reference material on renewable energy, student activities, and many links to other energy-related sites.

  • Roofus's Solar Home

    This site, sponsored by the Department of Energy, is an excellent resource for students of all grade levels. It explores many aspects of energy efficiency via a tour of Roofus's neighborhood. (Roofus is a canine tour guide.)

  • Energy Quest

    This California Education Commission Web site provides information on topics specific to all types of energy, including solar, nuclear, wind, fossil fuel, and alternative fuel. The Renewable Road section provides much information about renewable energy resources, such as solar energy.

  • The Sun's Joules

    This site is produced by The Learning Team. The Sun's Joules is a multimedia CD-ROM encyclopedia about renewable energy. This Web site provides a demo version of this CD-ROM. It includes detailed, advanced explanations about renewable energy topics. The site includes excellent activities, links, and a state-by-state energy-use breakdown.

  • Solar Cooking

    This site provides information regarding making solar cookers from household materials. It also provides links to solar recipes.

  • The "Minimum" Solar Box cooker

    Plans for making a solar oven can be found at this site.


    Time Allotment:
    This technology learning activity requires approximately 10 class periods.

  • Design Brief and Criteria:
    Begin a brief class discussion on solar energy. Include information about how solar energy provides light, heat, and energy to the Earth. A number of strategies can be used to introduce the concept of collecting solar energy and its uses. Then, distribute the Design Brief, in Organizers for Students.

  • Research:
    Break students into groups of four. Distribute the Research Log, in Organizers for Students. Have the students examine each site and investigate the relevant information.

  • Solutions:
    Have the students sketch at least three different designs for their solar cooker project. Important aspects of each design (e.g., shape, materials, size) should be annotated on the sketch. Remind students to refer to the information they gathered during their Internet research.

    After students have completed sketches of alternate designs, ask them to choose the design they think will work the best. Remind them that their choice should be the design that will best fit the criteria of the Design Brief, in Organizers for Students.

    Students should then complete a working drawing of the solar cooker that they will actually construct. Have the students include dimensions and other information necessary to build it. If possible, have students use a computer-drawing or computer-aided design (CAD) program (e.g., AutoCAD, published by Autodesk, Inc.) to complete the drawing. Free CAD shareware can be downloaded from (

  • Building:
    Upon completion of a working drawing, students should begin to construct their solar cookers, using the tools and materials listed in the Design Brief, in Organizers for Students.

  • Testing, Evaluation, & Redesign:
    Organize a "Cook-off" event outside on a day that weather permits. Have all of the students record the temperature and time data used for the cooking of their recipes. The food ideas provided in the Design Brief include hot dogs, s'mores, and cookies. Upon completion of the cooking, have the students taste-test the food that was prepared. Make sure that the hot dogs are fully heated before students eat them. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service:
    Although all hot dogs are fully cooked, you should reheat them and make sure they are steamy hot throughout. Studies have shown a high level of the harmful bacteria listeria on hot dogs. Thus, for added precaution, persons at risk may choose to avoid eating hot dogs or thoroughly reheat them before eating.
    For more information, visit the Food Safety and Inspection Service.

    After the cooking is complete, have each student complete an evaluation of the solar cooker's performance and the quality of the food prepared. They should include a complete recipe for their food product.


    Science: Study other renewable energy sources as part of an "Earth Day" project.

    Social Studies: Create a timeline of the history of the use of solar energy. Provide historical information regarding civilizations that worshipped the sun.

    Mathematics: Chart the temperature variations of the cooker due to different weather conditions.

    Visual Arts/Language Arts: Create a promotion for a theme restaurant that uses solar cookers. This could include radio and television ads, menu creation, logo design, and Web-page design.

    Human Ecology/Home Economics: Create a recipe book for food items that would cook in a solar cooker.


    One Computer in the Classroom
    If you have access to one computer in your classroom, you can organize your class in several ways. Divide your class into two groups. Instruct one of the groups to do paper research while the second group is working on the computer. Bring in books, encyclopedias, etc., from the library for the group doing paper research. Lead the group working at the computer through an Internet search or allow the students in the class to take turns. (Always have a set of bookmarks ready for the students before they start working on the computer, in order to show them examples of what to look for.) When the groups have finished working, have them switch places.

    If you have a big monitor or projection facilities, you can do Internet research together as a class. Make sure that every student in your class can see the screen, go to the relevant Web site(s), and review the information presented there. You can also select a search engine page and allow your students to suggest the search criteria. Again, bookmark and/or print the pages that you think are helpful for reference later.

    Several Computers in the Classroom
    Divide your class into small groups. Groups can do Internet research using pages you have bookmarked. Group members should take turns navigating the bookmarked sites.

    You can also set the class up so that each computer is dedicated to certain sites. Students will then move around the classroom, getting different information from each station.

    Using a Computer Lab
    A computer center or lab space, with a computer-to-student ratio of one to three, is ideal for doing Web-based projects. Generally, when doing Web-based research, it is helpful to put students in groups of three. This way, students can help each other if problems or questions arise. It is often beneficial to bookmark sites for students ahead of time.

    Submit a Comment: We invite your comments and suggestions based on how you used the lesson in your classroom.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students