Did you know you can make a simple solar oven using items from around the house? This oven will get hot enough to warm up a snack or treat – and it’s a fun way to learn about harnessing the sun’s energy! Maybe you can make a yummy s’more. Be sure to ask a grown up to help you.

To make this solar oven you will need:

  • A shallow box (a large pizza box would be perfect)
  • A piece of notebook paper
  • A pencil, pen or marker to write with
  • Scissors or a utility knife (with adult supervision)
  • Tape
  • Aluminum foil
  • Black construction paper
  • Clear plastic wrap
  • Newspaper
  • A ruler, stick or pencil
  • Thermometer (if desired)

Building Your Oven

  1. Put your piece of notebook paper on top of the lid of the box, and trace around the paper. Ask a grown up to help you carefully cut the two long edges and one of the short edges of your tracing to make a flap. Gently fold the flap back against the uncut edge to make an opening.
  2. Wrap the underside of the flap with aluminum foil. This will create a reflective surface to direct the heat of the sun into your box oven. Cover the inner side of the flap with aluminum foil and tape it on the outside of the box so that the foil stays securely in place. Try to keep the tape on the outside of the box and not covering the reflective surface on the inside of the flap.
  3. Open the box and cover the bottom with black construction paper. This will help absorb the heat of the sun.
  4. Tape plastic wrap over the opening in the lid of the box. Make sure the plastic wrap is stretched tight and taped securely on all sides. This will create a layer of air inside the box to keep the sun’s heat inside the oven.
  5. Roll up newspaper and put it around the inside edges of your box. This will serve as an additional layer of insulation to help keep the sun’s heat from escaping the box.

Test It Out

Now it’s time to give your solar powered oven a try. The oven will work best on a bright sunny day, the hotter the better.

If it is cold outside, your oven might not work well or it might take longer to heat up. Putting a towel or blanket underneath the box will help keep it from getting too cold.

Open the box and put your treat on the black paper. If you’d like to make a S’more, put some graham crackers on the black paper. Then put a small piece of chocolate and a marshmallow on top of each cracker. Close the lid.

Then open the flap and turn the box so that the aluminum foil is facing the sun. Use a ruler, stick or pencil to prop the flap at the right angle so that the sunlight goes directly into the box. Wait patiently for your oven to heat up in the sun.

Exploring the Science of Solar Energy

You can place a thermometer inside your solar oven to monitor how the temperature changes inside over time. On a hot, sunny day in full direct sunlight your oven could heat up to 150-200 degrees Fahrenheit in about half an hour. The weather will significantly affect the performance of your solar oven. How well does the oven cook on a warm day as compared to a really hot day? Test it out at different temperatures and record your results. What about a sunny day compared to a cloudy day?

Try adjusting different variables to improve the design of your solar oven. Can you make your oven more energy efficient by changing the angle of the reflector flap, adjusting the size or shape of the box, or using different materials for insulation?

We hope you enjoy making this pizza box oven! If you try it, be sure to let us know how it went. If you share a picture of your creation on social media, feel free to tag us at @homeschoolcompass or use the hashtag #homeschoolcompass. We’d love to see how it turns out!

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Aimee

Aimee grew up among the cornfields of rural Michigan, where she was captivated by Jesus as a teenager and married her high school sweetheart. Together they moved to New England where they homeschool their two children together. Aimee has a Master's degree in Biblical Languages from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She enjoys exploring new places, reading great stories, and enjoying the outdoors with her family.