Every year I repeat certain STEM Challenges! Which ones do we repeat? Why, the ones we love the best, of course! Fourth graders always try Roller Coasters, fifth graders always try Catapults, and third graders always try Building Boats. Those three challenges are amazing and definitely are kid favorites. In the month of April, we have three Earth related challenges we always repeat. Fifth graders build Water Pipelines and fourth graders build Earthquake Resistant Structures. My third graders build Solar Ovens!
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First, you need some boxes!
I knew we were going to need boxes to use as the ovens. So, I asked a local pizza restaurant if they could donate some. They happily agreed— until I told them how many I needed! Their faces were a little perplexed when I said I would need at least 36 boxes. (Six third grade classes with 6 groups in each class…) So, I ended up ordering the boxes from Amazon.
That little boxes I found were perfect. It was not so big the items would scoot around and they were easy to put together. The source I found was a pack of 100 boxes so these will last for a couple of years for me!
I used a box cutter knife to cut a flap into the top of each box and then we got busy.
Next, you experiment!
We love to experiment with materials and with this Solar Oven challenge we had the best time.
The idea with experimenting is that the kids try different heat-absorbent materials to find the one that creates the greatest temperature for the oven. That is what they will use for their final design.
Well, I needed thermometers for this! So, back to Amazon I went!
I found exactly what we needed and we use them for other projects, too! Win-Win!
These thermometers were placed in the boxes and we established a starting temperature. Then kids packed the boxes with one material at a time to test.
We took the boxes outside and tested them in full sunlight for 5 minutes.
We recorded the temperatures for each material and found the ones that created the highest temps! Now, can we cook something?
Time for S’mores!
We loaded our boxes with the materials that worked best. Each group decided this on their own by using their test results.
Then out the door we trooped again with our little ovens. This time we stayed outside in the sunlight watching those chocolate goodies until we could see them melting!
I found those flattened marshmallows at the supermarket. They are made just for making S’Mores!
Our little ovens worked surprisingly well. You just need a few items and a bright sunshiny day. Kids love this one so much. The experimenting is fun and they learn to read the temp on those thermometers. Some things we learned:
- As we came inside I had each team tell me what their thermometer reading was and then I checked it. This helped them learn to read the thermometers.
- We decided after the first test that we did not want to lay our ovens directly on the ground. We used large plastic trays to keep them from being in the dirt!
- We have an exit door that leads right out of our lab so think about that when you try this. You will need to be able to leave the room for every experiment and the final testing.
- I tried this with a strong lamp and it did work that way, but it took longer.
- Even if the chocolate and marshmallow do not melt very much, these are still delicious!
This resource is available at my Teachers Pay Teachers store- with all the recording sheets and hints and tips you will need!