Integrating STEM and PBL: Pizza Box Solar Oven

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In OST programs across Philadelphia, school-age professionals have been challenged with integrating STEM activities into their PBL lesson plans.  STEM disciplines generate new ideas, foster creativity and exercise active learning.  Although, for some OST providers, this might be a new approach to afterschool programming, the great thing about STEM is that everyone can do it!  There are many fun and inexpensive ways to integrate STEM into your PBL lessons. Here is an example of a STEM activity that can be implemented into PBL with limited resources.

Driving Question:  How could we use the sun for energy if there was no electricity?

From this activity, students can learn how sunlight can enter a device and become a source of energy.   This is called solar heat gain.  The pizza box oven accomplishes a direct gain from the sun when sunlight enters the oven, and the dark surface absorbs heat.  The heat absorbed is then reflected from the shiny flap onto the surface of the oven.   Insulation occurs by trapping air inside and around the oven to contain heat and reflect thermal radiation back into the oven.  This will then cause the food to cook inside of the oven.  On a sunny day where the temperature is 60⁰F or above, the pizza box oven can reach a temperature of 200⁰F!

The pizza box oven is a great way for youth to discover how the sun uses energy, as well as alternative ways to cook if there were no electricity.  This can also lead to discussions on how living organisms use energy, as well as the role that solar energy plays in regulating bodies of water.

So drop into your local pizza store and ask for pizza box donations and use the instructions below to cook your favorite healthy snacks such as roasted nuts or veggies!

by: Lenora Felder

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