After watching a Cyberchase video, answering discussion questions and completing an activity, students will learn how to collect energy from the sun, convert it to electricity, and store it for use at night or on cloudy days.
Note: Please see the "For Teachers" tab for downloable handouts.
Big Idea: You can collect energy from the sun, convert it to electricity, and store it for use at night or on cloudy days.
Children will be able to describe the sun as a source of electrical power.
Children will discover that you can use the heat produced by the sun to cook food by building an oven out of a pizza box.
Children will consider aspects of the pizza box oven’s construction, and speculate as to how they work.
Cyberchase Video: "Going Solar"
Grades: 3rd - 5th grade
"Pizza Box Oven Directions" (download from the "For Teachers" tab)
Black construction paper
Safety scissors, appropriate for children
Box cutter (adults only)
Stick or ruler
Oven mitt or towel
S’more ingredients – graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate
Feel free to use a healthy alternative if you prefer, such as apple slices, cheese and crackers.
Plan to do this activity on a sunny day.
Print enough copies of the handout "Pizza Box Oven Directions" for each group.
Cue up the provided video "Going Solar."
Before Watching the Video:
Ask students to name items in their household that are powered by electricity. Where does that electricity come from?
Call attention to the sun as one source of energy. Ask students if the sun can be used to power everyday household items. It can. Direct students to the Cyberchase clip to find out how.
Watch the Video:
Who’s the skateboard champion of Cyberspace? A contest will decide if it’s Slider or Hacker. But the power plant at the skate park has been mysteriously sabotaged. Now the CyberSquad must come up with an alternate source of electrcity. In this clip, the kids discover the power of solar power – using solar panels and batteries to store electricity for later use.
After Watching the Video:
Have the students tell you what they observed in the video. How do the kids in the clip collect energy from the sun? How do they store it?
Tell the class that it’s possible to use the sun’s energy in other ways. Today, they’ll learn about thermal energy produced by the sun. Note the similarity between "thermal" and "thermometer," and ask students to speculate about its meaning, verifying that the connection is "heat."
Explain that, instead of using light from the sun, solar thermal energy uses the heat of the sun to cook, heat water, heat the rooms of a building, or even boil water to produce electrical power.
Tell the class that today, you’ll be exploring and building your own simple ovens, using the sun’s heat to create energy to cook food.
Tips for Cooking with the Pizza Box Oven:
Follow the directions on the next page for making the Pizza Box Oven, observing the following safety precautions: (1) Only adults should use the box cutter. (2) Use care when removing hot food from the oven, and use an oven mitt if needed.
To increase student involvement, you may wish to have students work in small groups, each group creating its own pizza box oven. Doing step #1 prior to class will make this go more smoothly.
Once students have completed the cooking project, summarize what they learned by asking the following:
Describe what happened in the pizza box oven in your own words. What made the food cook?
How did the angle of the flap affect what was happening in the pizza box?
Does the color of the construction paper make a difference in the effectiveness of the oven? Will white paper work as well as black? Why?
How does weather impact the effectiveness of the oven?
What other variables would affect the effectiveness of the oven?
Ask students to come up with ways to test the explanations they offered above.
Explore solar panels with simple tools such as solar powered calculators, toys, or lights.
Attempt to use the calculators, toys, or lights at the beginning of the day without charging them in the sun.
Leave the items in sunlight for the rest of the school day, and attempt to use them again at the end of the day.
If using gadgets with multiple solar panels, cover some of the panels with masking tape and compare the power of those with the covered panels to those with all solar panels uncovered.
Assign directly to your students using the code or link above, without having them log in. Simply tell your students to go to
www.pbsstudents.org and enter the Assignment Code, or click on the Assignment URL to share the assignment as a link.