Sun Science Workshop Part Two

This is Part Two of our Sun Science Workshop we hosted in the park this past July.  I began writing this story last August and have had this half of the story in draft mode ever since.  I thought it was high time I get it posted.  I had tons of pictures and it was so hard to choose which pictures to share in this story, but here are just a few.   We had a great turn out of kids and parents at this workshop, and it was lots of hands on learning fun.

                    Sun Science Workshop

Sun Science Workshop Part One: Sunprint Fabric Squares
      Capture the power of the sun to make reverse photography on sunprint fabric 
Click on the link above to read about our fun adventure making sunprints.


Sun Science Workshop Part Two: Solar Power
    Learn about solar power, create solar ovens, and learn about sun safety.  Read below to 
    see part two of our adventure.  We learned to capture solar energy to power solar ovens 
    and more.

Solar Power

Activities we did to capture the power of the sun:

                  1.  Capture the energy of the sun in a small solar panel that converts 
                        the energy 
into power to operate a motor and turn a fan.  Each kid 
                        was able to hold a small 
solar panel that was wired to a motor.  The motor     
                        turned an axel.  The axel 
rotated and turned fan blades.  I did not get a 
                        close up shot of the kids as they held the 
solar panel.  But they practiced 
                        connecting the wires on the solar panel to the receptors on the motor.  

                        Then they held the solar panel in direct sunlight, then hid it from the 
against their clothing creating an on / off effect of turning on the
                        fan.  They were able to 
see that the sun was powering the motor with 
                        energy when they exposed the panel to direct 


                            You can see a video similar to our experiment here:

                  2.  Capture the energy of the sun in a gallon jar of water.  
                        The energy heats the water and tea bags to make sun tea.  
                        We brought sugar and the kids and parents could drink it 
                        plain or sweetened.  


                  3.  Captured the energy of the sun by using a reflective shield.  

                        Placed a pint jar filled with solid chocolate bars in the center of the reflective 
                        shield.   The 
energy of the sun reflected off the shield and into the jar, 
                        warming the 
chocolate and the air inside the jar, and we made melted 
                        chocolate or fondue.

                  4.  Captured the energy of the sun in homemade solar ovens.  
We captured the energy of the sun to make gooey smores, cheesy
                        nachos, and “limp” cookies.   


Making solar ovens: 
Materials needed for each child (individual, team, or family): empty pizza box or shoe box, foil, black construction paper, straw, plastic food wrap, paper plate, scissors, glue stick, glue, masking tape. Can use rolled up newspaper or bubble wrap to help insulate (we did not insulate ours at the workshop, but insulating will prevent heat loss through the cracks and lesson the loss due to wind).

Make a window flap in the top of the lid.  Measure and draw a line 1 to 2 inches in from the edge of the lid on all sides.   Cut 3 of the lines on the outer sides, but do not cut the line that is closest to the hinged lid.  After cutting, fold backwards on the uncut line.  This will become your hinge for the window flap.  

Line the inside of the pizza box and the window flap with aluminum foil.  Attach the foil to the box using a non toxic glue such as Elmer’s glue.  Press the foil down and make it lay flat and smooth. We used a small paint roller to press the foil down gently without tearing the foil.  


Place masking tape along the edges of the box. This is optional, but it helps reduce the loss of hot air and creates less friction when opening and closing the box.

Place a sheet of black construction paper in the bottom of the box. Be sure that it is directly centered with the window flap. You can attache the paper with glue or leave it unattached.


Cover the window with two or more layers of clear plastic wrap. Attache the edges of the plastic wrap to the edges of the window you cut earlier.  Stretch it as tight as you can and seal it to the edges with glue and / or tape.


Make a window brace.  Attach a straw to the window flap and place a small cut in the surface of the lid near the window.  Do not cut the plastic of the window.  Use the straw as a brace to keep the window flap open by placing the edge of the straw in the small cut.  You can also make a stopper by placing a wad of tape or a small piece of folded paper taped to the box lid.   


Place homemade solar oven in the sun with the lid closed.  This is optional.  Be sure the window flap is open and the oven is facing the sun to allow it to warm for a few minutes.  

Place food inside the the oven on the black paper. 


Position oven with the window flap “open”  to face the maximum sun exposure.  Be sure to brace open the window flap.  Also be sure you don’t look directly at the reflection of the sun in the shield.  It is harmful to the eyes just as looking up at the sun directly can be.

EAT, when the food has reached the desired temperature or melting point.  Be patient, the rewards are worth it!  Use hot pads when removing hot pans from the ovens if needed.  These little box ovens reach about 160 degrees, and some better made sun ovens can reach 500 degrees.  We did this experiment baking nachos at home a few weeks before bringing it to the workshop and my kids measured the temperature with a thermometer over the course of two to three hours.  I will post another story about our experiment soon.  So be cautious and safe when cooking in a sun oven.



We also attempted to bake cookie dough in a muffin tin, inside a plastic “baking” bag, and surrounded with a reflective funnel made from a window sun shield. (see how to do this on the video linked below).

It was a windy day, and the shield kept blowing down.  Our cookies never heated hot enough to become crispy and that is why I nicknamed them limp cookies.  It is possible to get crispy cookies if you can heat them long enough. These pizza box ovens heated at 160 degrees and were able to melt foods, but not bake foods unless left for a long time, approximately 4 hours or more to bake the cookies. We only tried to bake them for about 1 hour and it was very windy and we lost a lot of heat to the wind.  We needed a better insulated oven to maintain a constant temperature and higher heat.  The funnel oven would have compensated for that if the wind had not constantly blown down our reflective funnel.  A funnel oven is superior to teh pizza box oven and it can reach 350 degrees or more if set up right.    I have seen a video of a  “funnel” oven cook desert and a side dish for a Sunday / Father’s Day dinner.  This family started the dinner before leaving for church and left the food to cook for several hours.  They used two kinds of sun ovens, one a commercial box style, and one a cheap homemade funnel style. The dinner included brownies, bbq chicken, brownies, and a sweet potato side dish, and a fresh salad from their garden.  So it does work under the right circumstances.   

Check out the video to see how the solar funnel oven works.

                                        SUN SAFETY

We discussed Sun Safety and the necessity of protection from sun burn or over exposure.

                  1.  limit daily sun exposure
                  2.  wear sun glasses to protect eyes
                  3.  wear broad rimmed hats
                  4.  wear protective clothing
                  5.  wear sunscreen, and reapply sunscreen when playing in water
                  6.  be sure to wear hot pads on your hands if you are 
                        baking in a sun oven. Some solar ovens can get very hot.


Every family took home a free bottle of Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen.


Fellowship, Food, and Fun


We ate pizza, sandwiches, casseroles, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and yummy deserts.
We love to fellowship and enjoy eating together.


The kids love playing together on the playground.  The younger ones are quite content to use the playground for the sake of play.  The older ones often add in fun games to go along with the equipment, like king of the mountain, capture the flag, who can swing the highest and jump the farthest, and more.  I am so glad they have a fun and  safe place to play together and enjoy building friendships.



BIBLE Connection:

Genesis 1: 3-5

God said, “I command light to shine!” And light started shining. God looked at the light and saw that it was good. He separated light from darkness , and named the light “Day” and the darkness “Night.” Evening came and then morning, that was the first day.

Genesis 1: 14-19

God said, “I command lights to appear in the sky and to separate day from night and to show the time for seasons, special days, and years. I command them to shine on the earth.” And that’s what happened. God made two powerful lights, the brighter one to rule the day and the other to rule the night. He also made the stars. Then God put these lights in the sky to shine on the earth, to rule day and night, and to separate light from darkness. God looked at what he had done, and it was good. Evening came and then morning, that was the fourth day.

Luke 1: 78

God’s love and kindness will shine upon us like the sun that rises in the sky.

Feel free to have your kids look up these verses, and copy them, or memorize them.  Have them draw or paint a picture of what these verses mean to them.  Have them write down a prayer to the Lord in response to these verses.

Further The Learning

I’ll post a future unit study about the sun and post a link to the story here.  It is still in the works! (in draft mode…..oh to get caught up on everything!).

More About Our Workshops:

I am the Director of Take Action Tuesday, a volunteer program that encourages kids to learn in an hands on “active” way outdoors once a week.  To be “active” in this sense (hands on) means to be learning while playing, sitting, standing (if able), reaching, investigating, walking (if able), and moving.  Activities can be modified for those with physical limitations or special needs.  Kids of all learning levels, physical levels, and those with special needs are welcome to come and explore.  You can read several of our Take Action Tuesday stories here.  Not all of the stories are posted, and some that are posted are not listed in this list.  But this list will give you an introduction to some of our learning fun.

We spend so much time on our bottoms in our modern society (both kids and adults), learning with schoolwork, taking classes, using computers, cell phones, TV, video games and electronic gadgets, and riding on our bottoms as we travel from place to place, that we as a nation are becoming deprived in the area of physical activity. If you are not on an athletic team, or walking and biking to go places, or working on a farm, chances are you are not getting enough physical activity because most lifestyles today don’t support it.

Take Action Tuesday meets weekly in local parks to play and be active. Once a month, and some months up to four times,  Take Action Tuesday holds a Workshop series in local parks and encourages kids in learning about science, technology, engineering, mathematics, life skills, community helpers, and more. These events usually last from 2 to 3 hours.  We have had families join us from as far south as Greenville SC and as far north as Asheville NC.  Once we had a family drive their RV from the beach in SC where they were staying for the summer, drive all the way to our workshop (a four hour drive) and then drive all the way back to the beach afterwards.  How cool!  This really blessed me to know that folks are enjoying these programs and want them and are willing to drive an hour or more (four hours) to join us.  We are so excited to meet families from all over and from different walks of life.

I started this program two years ago as a way to encourage my own kids in keeping active while playing at the park, encouraging socialization and making lots of friends, and enjoying outdoor learning opportunities. We started inviting other families to come and it has grown and been an enjoyable activity for many families near and far.  Everyone is welcome to attend.

I currently receive no sponsorship.  If you would like to sponsor this program, please leave a comment below.   Donations are welcome.  Donations help pay for supplies and learning activities for the Take Action Tuesday programs such as science and art projects.  Thank you.

This post will be linked up with:

Science Sunday
No Time For Flash Cards
Sharing Time
Raising Homemakers
Domestically Divine
Health Habit

Please share.
This entry was posted in Build It & Learn It Workshops, Solar Science Workshop on by .

About Melinda Weiser

I am a sinner, saved by grace. I am on a journey and offer to share my story with the hope that it will bless you. My one desire is to bring glory to my creator. I am a wife and the mother of 6 children, plus two in heaven. I enjoy homeschooling, research, teaching, homesteading, natural gardening, grass based farming, cooking, fresh raw milk, herbs, children, midwifery, and music. I am a writer, biblical mentor, and also work part time in the healthy foods and vitamin business I have a BSW degree from Kansas State University, and trained professionally as a medical social worker, biblical counselor, tutor, and vocal performer. Thank you for stopping by to read about our homeschool and family life adventures. Be blessed!

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