Celebrate Solar Week!

Make a solar cooker at home or in your classroom with a pizza box, aluminum foil and a few other supplies!

Make a solar cooker at home or in your classroom with a pizza box, aluminum foil and a few other supplies!

By: Richard Miles, SCI Programs Coordinator

Next week is Solar Week, and everyone can participate!

Each day of Solar Week (October 21-25) will focus on a different aspect of solar science. At the Solar Week website, you will find games, activities, and a message board where you can interact with solar scientists. Teachers also can find sun-related curriculum for their classroom!

On Friday, October 25, and Saturday, October 26, SCI will be participating in Solar Week by featuring various solar activities and demos throughout the day. Visitors will be able look at the Sun through solar telescopes, see how sunlight can change the color of some materials and even witness how the sun’s energy can be harnessed to melt a copper penny! Check out our Daily Program Guide for details.

For anyone interested in doing some cool solar activities at home or in the classroom, you can find several here. (And, once NASA is back online, here.) But for starters, here’s one of my favorite DIY solar activities – it lets you harness the Sun’s energy to make your very own oven!

Solar Cooker Activity


  • Pizza Box (empty and clean)
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Black Paper
  • Saran Wrap
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Hot dogs or s’mores


  • Close the pizza box and use the ruler to draw a 9” by 9” square opening in the center of the lid.
  • Using the scissors, cut along three of the lines you just drew on the lid. By leaving one side uncut, you will have created a cardboard flap in the lid of your box.
  • Wrap aluminum foil around the cardboard flap of your box. The bottom side of the flap should be completely covered with aluminum foil. You can use tape (or glue) to hold the aluminum foil on the flap.
  • Lift the flap, and stretch saran wrap completely across the 9” by 9” opening in the pizza box. Use tape to completely seal the opening with the Saran wrap.
  • Now, open the pizza box and cover the inside and bottom of the box with aluminum foil.
  • Tape a piece of black paper on top of the foil in the bottom of the box. (You can paint or color a sheet of paper black if you want, or black cloth will work fine too.)
  • Place a paper plate on top of the black paper in your box.
  • Place a hotdog or s’more on the paper plate.
  • Close the pizza box and use the unsharpened pencil to prop open the flap in your lid.
  • Place the box in the Sun so that the foil on the flap reflects onto the food in your pizza box (you may have to adjust the way the pencil holds the flap open to accomplish this).
  • Check on your food every 10 minutes or so until it is warm.

WARNING: You should only attempt to cook and consume items in this oven that are pre-cooked. This oven is only intended to warm pre-cooked food and is not safe for cooking raw ingredients.

Respect the sun… don’t stare at it!

One more thing I want to mention about the Sun is that it’s very important to respect how powerful the Sun’s energy can be. Please do not attempt to look at the Sun directly in any way, and do not try to focus the Sun’s energy with lenses or magnifying glasses. Doing so could result in serious eye injury or fire.

I hope you have fun with the solar cooker activity, and I hope you will come down to celebrate Solar Week with us here at the Science Center of Iowa!


Richard Miles is a Programs Coordinator at SCI and our resident astronomy expert. As part of his job, Richard presents live science programs to SCI participants and helps develop new programming. He studied physics and astronomy at Drake University and Iowa State University. Richard worked at SCI from 1992-2002 and returned to SCI in September of 2011.

Category: NASA