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Teacher’s Guide
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(6) Make a Solar Oven

Students will learn about the benefits and costs of renewable and non-renewable forms of energy and why some types of energy are more of a priority for companies to make than others. For instance, most homes are heated with natural gas, oil or electric power. Yet, every day the earth receives enough energy from the sun to heat every home in the world for one year.

Start video after you hear:
“But what would happen to our economy if many Americans began to consume less? Would a reduction in spending create an economic crisis? Stop video after hearing: “I do it because I want to make a small change. I hope other people will follow my example. In Holland, we have a saying, 'consum minder.' It means to consume less than you really need.“

A cardboard box for every student or student team measuring 1 to 1 1/2 feet square and about 6 inches deep, aluminum foil, black paper or paint, coat hangers, turkey or tofu hot dogs, one for each student. To see photos, drawings and construction details of other kinds of solar ovens, and some cooking tips, see To see a commercially available solar oven and solar cooking recipes, see

In Escape from Affluenza, members of Dutch eco-teams look for ways to reduce their household energy and water use, solid waste and overall consumption of resources. It’s a notable endeavor, considering that the Netherlands already has half the per capita energy consumption of the U.S.

The Dutch make special use of renewable forms of energy. For example, they encourage the use of food as energy (bicycles) by having an elaborate system of bike paths and separate traffic lights for bikes, and the Dutch have long harnessed the wind with windmills. In this exercise, students will explore the renewable energy source of sunshine.

Ask students to cover the outside of the box with black paper or black paint. Line the inside of the box with aluminum foil. Pull the coat hanger apart and straighten it before poking the wire into opposite sides of the box. To cook your hot dogs on a hot, sunny day, pull one end of the hanger out of the box and skewer the dogs on the wire over the inside of the box. Have students place their boxes in a sunny place and wait 5 to 10 minutes until the dogs are hot. Ask students to be careful, the inside of the box and the wire will get hot.

(a) If the sun can cook a hot dog, what are the possibilities for heating a house?

(b) Why isn’t there a greater effort to harness the sun -- the sun is free...who might NOT want to promote the use of solar energy?

(c) Why do companies have a greater incentive to deal in oil?

(d) Is there a bike path where you live? Who uses it? Why don’t more Americans ride their bikes? What kind of energy savings are to be had from riding a bike?

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