Solar Ovens Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan (adapted from Recycle Works)

Morgan Pestorius

solar oven.jpg
Photo from Flickr

Title or Topic of the Lesson: Solar Ovens

Grade Level: 3-5

Lesson Essential Question(s): How do our choices affect the environment?


Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and their uses affect the environment. 4-ESS3-1

Apply scientific ideas to design, test, and refine a device that converts energy from one form to another. 4-PS3-4

Learning Objectives and Assessments:

Objectives Assessments
Students will be able to learn about energy resources used in the United States. The teacher will facilitate a class discussion and listen to student responses.
Students will be able to build a solar oven. The teacher will observe the students as they work with their classmates to build solar ovens.


  • Pizza boxes (used will work)
  • Black construction paper
  • Aluminum foil
  • Clear plastic (heavy plastic laminate works best)
  • Glue
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Markers
  • Rulers
  • Wooden dowel or straw

Pre-lesson assignments and/or prior knowledge: Before conducting this lesson, ask students to bring in old pizza boxes. You will need 1 box for each group of 4 students, so if you have 20 students, you will need 5 boxes. The students should have some background knowledge about the difference between renewable and non-renewable energy sources. Try to plan this lesson on a sunny day for best results.

Lesson Beginning: Begin the lesson by asking students what they use to cook their food at home and where they think that energy comes from. Discuss different types of energy and categorize into groups of renewable and non-renewable energy.

Instructional Plan:

  • If the students have not yet brought up solar energy in their discussion, ask the students about the sun and what they use it for.
  • Ask the students if they think that the sun can cook food.
  • Introduce the idea of a solar oven and tell the students about the people who use solar ovens:
    • People who live in areas with poor amounts of fuel and/or high costs of fuel.
    • Campers who do not want to use dangerous, messy fuels in the wilderness.
  • Model how to build a solar oven using the materials:
    • Draw a one-inch border on all four sides of the top of the pizza box. Cut along three sides leaving the line along the back of the box uncut.
      Diagram from Recycle Works

      Form a flap by gently folding back along the uncut line to form a crease.

    • Cut a piece of aluminum foil to fit on the inside of the flap. Smooth out any wrinkles and glue into place.
    • Measure a piece of plastic to fit over the opening you created by forming the flap in your pizza box. The plastic should be cut larger than the opening so that it can be taped to the underside of the box top. Be sure the plastic becomes a tightly sealed window so that the air cannot escape from the oven interior.
      Diagram from Recycle Works
      • Cut another piece of aluminum foil to line the bottom of the pizza box and carefully glue into place. Cover the aluminum foil with a piece of black construction paper and tape into place.

        Diagram from Recycle Works
      • Close the pizza box top (window), and prop open the flap of the box with a wooden dowel, straw, or other device and face towards the sun. Adjust until the aluminum reflects the maximum sunlight through the window into the oven interior.

        Diagram from Recycle Works
  • Divide students into groups of 4 and allow them to make their own solar ovens in their groups.
  • After the students have completed their solar ovens, ask them about their experiences. If they were to make another solar oven, is there anything they would change? Could they adapt this plan to include more recycled materials? Questions to guide this discussion can be found in the questions section below.

Differentiation: Create the groups before completing the lesson. Make sure that the groups are made up of students with varying learning styles. This is an opportunity for students to work with classmates that they do not usually get to work with.


  1. What are the benefits of cooking our food with the sun?
  2. What were some difficulties cooking with the sun?
  3. How else can we capture and use the sun’s energy?
  4. What is another renewable energy?
  5. What are other ways we can save energy?

Classroom Management: Remind your students that they must listen to the directions carefully so that they can build their own solar ovens. Remind the students to use inside voices when working in their groups and to act responsibly when cooking outside. I recommend using a one strike policy with your students: if they are misbehaving, they will get one warning before they are removed from the activity.

Transitions: Most of this lesson can take place in your classroom. When it is time to bring the ovens outside, make sure that the students transport them carefully.

Closure: This solar pizza box should be able to reach a temperature of 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Experiment with your class to cook different recipes with garden produce. Allow 30 minutes for the oven to preheat before adding the food. The food will take about twice as long as conventional methods; do not worry about overcooking the food, it will not burn.

This is just one of the many ways to build a solar oven!



Have you used a solar oven in your classroom? Comment below!


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