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Solar Chef - Building Your Greenhouse Oven!

Become a Solar Chef and harness the power of the sun to cook delicious meals using your greenhouse oven! In this engaging activity, you'll learn to build a panel-type solar cooker using simple materials like cardboard, black paper, aluminium foil, and transparent mica or plastic wrap. Discover the science behind solar cookers, energy transformations during the cooking process, and their potential to positively impact the environment and communities in need. Get ready to cook up a sustainable storm and make a difference!

Develop these Key Competencies:

  • Critical Thinking - Analyze how solar cookers efficiently utilize solar radiation and reflectivity to concentrate heat for cooking.
  • Problem Solving

Materials needed

  • Cardboard box
  • Black paper or paint
  • Aluminum foil or wrap
  • Transparent mica or plastic wrap
  • Scissors or cutter
  • Sunglasses (for safe observation)
  • Optional: Additional equipment for more complex recipes (not mentioned here)

Other materials may be required depending on the model you choose to make.

Activity Description


  1. Safety First: Be cautious when handling scissors or a cutter, and always wear sunglasses when observing the solar oven in direct sunlight.
  2. Cut and Color: Cut a small window in the cardboard box and paint or line the outside with black paper or paint to enhance heat absorption.
  3. Line and Insulate: Line the inside of the box with aluminium foil or wrap to transfer and concentrate heat. You can place the transparent mica or plastic wrap in the window to observe your food's preparation process.
  4. Solar Chef Ready: Your greenhouse oven is ready on a sunny day!


Exploring the Science Behind

Panel-type solar cookers efficiently concentrate solar radiation onto a minor point, using reflective aluminium to direct energy. Food placed in black pots absorbs light, promoting practical cooking. The solar oven's efficiency can be enhanced by insulating it from wind, preventing heat loss through convection. Panel-type solar cookers are the first truly affordable for the world's needy. In 1994, a volunteer group of solar cookers and engineers associated with Solar Cookers International developed and produced the CooKit, based on a design by French scientist Roger Bernard. Sleek and deceptively simple in appearance, it's an affordable, effective and convenient solar cooker. With just a few hours of sunshine, CooKit makes tasty meals for five to six people at mild temperatures, cooking foods and locking in nutrients without burning or drying them out. Solar cookers also allow some essential processes, such as pasteurization and sterilization.

The solar cooker uses the reflective property of aluminium to concentrate in a small point the solar radiation that impacts a relatively large area. The energy that heats a large area on the ground typically is directed to a single point to increase the heat. On the contrary, the object to be heated must be of a colour that does not reflect light but absorbs it; for this reason, it is sought to use black pots.

Additionally, the efficiency of the solar oven can be increased if it is insulated from the wind since heat is naturally transferred to the air by convection. This is accomplished by wrapping the pot in clear, heat-resistant plastic.


Did you know… Solar cookers can significantly reduce firewood consumption, benefiting rural communities. The use of solar cookers or ovens reduces the consumption of firewood for cooking. Although solar cookers cannot replace other cooking methods entirely, they offer a sustainable alternative during daylight hours.



Explain how the solar oven works based on energy transformations during cooking.


Reflection Questions:

  1. How can solar cookers contribute to addressing environmental and energy challenges in our community?
  2. What are the potential benefits of using solar cookers in regions with limited access to cooking fuels?
  3. How can you promote using solar cookers to raise awareness and encourage sustainable cooking practices?


Safety Note: Remember to be cautious when handling scissors or a cutter and always wear sunglasses when observing the solar oven in direct sunlight.



Additional Solar Chef Activities:

  1. Cooking Adventure with Family and Friends: Put your Solar Chef skills to the test by preparing a delicious meal for your family or friends using the solar oven! Start with simple recipes like heating water to make tea or coffee. Gradually challenge yourself with more complex dishes like cooking rice or vegetables. Share your sustainable cooking creations and the benefits of solar cooking with your loved ones.

  2. Explore Solar Recipe Collections: Discover a world of solar cooking possibilities by exploring various solar recipe collections online or in cookbooks. Seek out recipes specifically designed for solar cookers, and experiment with a wide range of cuisines and flavors. Challenge yourself to create a diverse menu using your solar oven.

  3. Design Your Own Solar Recipes: Unleash your creativity and design your unique solar recipes! Experiment with different ingredients, cooking times, and flavor combinations. Document your creations and share your innovative solar recipes with others who are interested in sustainable cooking.

  4. Solar Cook-Off Challenge: Organize a friendly solar cook-off challenge with friends or family. Each participant can choose a recipe and prepare it using their solar ovens. Share your culinary masterpieces and evaluate each other's dishes based on taste, presentation, and sustainability. This fun competition can inspire everyone to explore solar cooking further.

  5. Optimize Solar Oven Design: Get hands-on with solar oven design by experimenting with window size and placement. Test how different configurations affect cooking efficiency. For example, try cutting a small window versus a larger window with a margin of about 5cm on the borders. Record your observations and discuss your findings with fellow Solar Chefs.

  6. Solar Cooking Outreach: Share your knowledge and passion for solar cooking with your community or school. Organize a solar cooking workshop to teach others how to build and use solar ovens. Spread awareness about the environmental and social benefits of solar cooking and inspire others to adopt sustainable cooking practices.

Relevant information if you are facilitating

This activity allows young participants to become Solar Chefs, promoting sustainable cooking practices using solar cookers. Encourage critical thinking by exploring solar cooker efficiency and potential design modifications—foster creativity in experimenting with various recipes using the solar oven. Promote communication and collaboration in sharing the benefits of solar cookers with others. Develop social and emotional intelligence by discussing the positive impact of solar cookers on communities facing energy challenges. Encourage responsible citizenship in reflecting on the ethical implications of reducing firewood consumption. Support digital literacy in researching and accessing information about solar cooker designs. Encourage self-direction in constructing, using, and maintaining the solar oven—Foster global awareness by discussing the significance of solar cookers in addressing environmental challenges worldwide.

Time needed

2 hours

Age range

  • 15 and above


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Time needed

2 hours

Age range

  • 15 and above