Sun, S’mores, Solar Ovens and Sixth Graders

Middle School science instructor Russ Glenn prepped a food-focused experiment, giving our youngest Spartans the freedom to design and build their own ovens heated by the sun. The day’s recipe? S’mores.

The multi-purposed hands-on project, sponsored by Austin Energy, teaches sixth graders how solar energy works, how solar panels function – including panels on some St. Stephen’s buildings – and the science lesson sheds light on the sun’s power.

"This program fits in well with our school because Austin Energy helped us put the solar panels on buildings," said Glenn. "This is for our solar unit."

Austin Energy provided each student with a cardboard shoe-sized box that included energy efficient LED light bulbs and power strips. In addition to those resources, the only requirement was to use the cardboard box to capture as much sunlight as possible. Glenn also gave his students the option to use any other materials they thought would be a sufficient power source.

The students began the design process by sketching out a blueprint on paper. They then spent about a week in the building phase using items such as foil, plastic food wrap and black construction paper – on the inside and outside of the box – intending to raise the solar oven’s temperature once exposed to the sun. 

With the sun shining bright on a pleasant 70 degree day, it was finally time to test the ovens on “Solar Oven Challenge Day.” Ready with their ovens, graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows, the students placed their s’more stack inside the ovens. Each student used a digital thermometer to measure and record the inside temperature. They also made notes on their data table about the day’s weather conditions.

“You can see the chocolate melting!” exclaimed Kiki Sharma ’30 as she patiently waited for signs of success. 

The best part of the entire experiment was getting a chance to taste test.

“Best science class ever!” said Ellie Freels ’30 as she took the first bite of her s’more.
Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213