Activity time: 60 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Handout 1, Solar Oven Instructions
- Cardboard pizza boxes, one for each solar oven
- Rulers, at least one per table
- Markers, at least one per table
- Box cutters or sharp scissors, at least one per table
- Aluminum foil, two large pieces for each solar oven
- Glue, at least one bottle per table
- Packing or duct tape, at least one roll per table
- Plastic wrap, two large pieces for each solar oven
- Black construction paper, one large piece for each solar oven
- Ruler, stick, or large, stiff straw, one for each solar oven
- Ingredients for a treat to cook in the solar ovens
- Clear plastic or glass plates, such as a pie plate, one for each solar oven
- Oven mitts
- Tables and chairs
- Optional: Towels, one for each solar oven
- Optional: Handout 2, Solar Cookers International
- Optional: Camera or smartphone or video camera
Preparation for Activity
- Read the Description of Activity. Decide whether to plan solar oven cooking as the Faith in Action for Unit 3 or to investigate other options (some are suggested below).
- Consult with the religious educator to choose a date and time for this event.
- Decide what kind of treat you will cook in the solar oven (e.g., s'mores, toasted cheese bread, hot dogs, quesadillas, nachos), and determine what ingredients you'll need. Consider any known allergies in your group, and make sure to provide alternatives.
- Identify a space with enough work tables for small groups to make solar ovens and share supplies. Designate a sunny location outside or a full-sun window where the solar ovens can be set up.
- Draft an invitation to the Chalice Children families. In the invitation, ask families to bring a clean cardboard pizza box (or, you can designate a co-leader or parent to obtain and bring as many pizza boxes as you will need). Note that the congregation will provide the rest of the supplies. If your congregation has a committee or group devoted to environmental issues, consider extending a special invitation to them.
- E-mail or post the invitations and publicize the event in your congregation's newsletter or social media.
- Set up tables and chairs.
- Gather all the materials needed, and set them out along the tables so they are easily accessible. You may wish to have extra cardboard pizza boxes and newspapers on hand.
- Optional: Recruit volunteers to take photographs during the event or to videotape the event.
Description of Activity
The theme of Unit 3 of Chalice Children is "We wonder." The Faith in Action activity described below-making and using a solar oven-speaks to "wondering about nature." This activity introduces children to solar energy-the wonder of the sun.
Instead, the Faith in Action activity for this unit could be a visit to a planetarium, perhaps after Session 17, Wondering About Stars or Session 18, Wondering About the Moon. You will find additional ideas among the 16 Faith in Action activities in the Tapestry of Faith program World of Wonder, which is geared toward children in kindergarten or first grade-two of these activities are Help the Honeybees in Session 2, Nature's Partnerships and Worm Composting in Session 7, Decomposition. There are more activities in the Tapestry of Faith Toolkit Book Creating Justice Together: Service Projects for Families and Multigenerational Groups, which provides nearly 40 social justice projects, including ecology-focused projects, for UU families and multigenerational groups.
Learn more about involving children in planning, implementing, and processing a service activity in Creating Justice Together. The Tapestry of Faith children's program Sing to the Power discusses service activities in four steps: identifying, planning, executing, and reflecting.
Solar Oven Cooking
Children experience solar energy by making a solar oven and then cooking (and eating!) a treat.
Welcome participants and invite them to sit at the tables. Try to have people of mixed ages at each table. Say, in these words or your own:
Our Chalice Children have been wondering-about the stars, the moon, rainbows, and more. Today we'll experiment with one way that nature provides "green energy"-energy that comes from sources that are cleaner and low-polluting and will last forever, such as sun, wind, and water. Today we will use solar energy-the power of the sun-to cook a special treat.
Distribute Handout 1, Solar Oven Instructions, to older children, teen, and adult participants. Invite the people at each table to introduce themselves to one another and to follow the instructions on the handout to make a solar oven. As the guests work, encourage discussion by asking:
- What are some ways you save energy or use green energy in your family?
- Have you ever seen a solar panel? Does anyone in your neighborhood have solar panels?
- Besides energy, what else does the sun provide?
When each table has made a solar oven, show participants where to put their ovens, for maximum sunlight, and invite them to use their solar ovens to cook the treat you have planned. Note: You can preheat the oven as high as 200 degrees Fahrenheit by setting it in direct sunlight for 30 minutes before cooking your treat.
Optional: While the treats are cooking, distribute Handout 2, Solar Cookers International.
Make sure that participants have oven mitts. Remind them to use caution when removing the hot plates from their ovens. Invite participants to eat and enjoy the treats they've made!
An important but often neglected aspect of a Faith in Action project is the opportunity to reflect together on the experience. When the event is close to ending, ask everyone to help clean up and then gather briefly in a circle. Remind the children and families that our congregation is a place to wonder and to ask questions, and ask them to share some of the things in nature they wonder about. Say, in these words or your own:
As Unitarian Universalists, we believe that that all people and animals and plants are part of an invisible web of life. One important way that we can care for this interdependent web is to save energy-which we did today, by using the awesome power of the sun to cook our treat!
Close the gathering with one of the Chalice Children songs.
Including All Participants
Make sure the areas you select for the event is accessible to all. When planning what snack(s) to serve, be aware of any food allergies in the group, and offer alternatives.