Feb 15

Students Make and Test ‘Sun Oven’


Kathy Stanley’s 2nd/3rd grade class at South Whidbey Elementary is learning science, art and literacy skills through the study of “Sustainability.” From the benefits of reducing waste and recycling to using alternative energy sources, the students are putting these concepts into practice and learning about responsible environmental stewardship.

According to Ms. Stanley, “Sustainability is now a required part of K-12 curriculum with it’s own learning outcomes. We developed curriculum to integrate sustainability with our ongoing classroom activities.”

One highlight of the integrated studies program is made possible by a $450 grant from the South Whidbey Schools Foundation, which provides needed financial support for teacher-requested projects and innovative learning activities to benefit South Whidbey students. Some of the funds managed by the Foundation, including those awarded to Ms. Stanley, were provided by Puget Sound Energy.

Ms. Stanley’s class used the Foundation grant to purchase a solar oven. The apparatus uses reflective aluminum panels to concentrate the sun’s rays to heat a compartment for cooking without the need for electricity or gas. As Ms. Stanley’s class learned, similar ovens are often used in disaster relief efforts and in impoverished areas of the world where fuel for heating is either scarce or dangerous to use.

Despite less than ideal conditions, the students deployed their energy-saving device for the first time on an overcast day in February to cook a batch of gluten-free brownies.

The mid-winter sun provided enough energy to heat the oven to 300 degrees F, 50 degrees short of that recommended by the recipe. Undaunted, the students merely adjusted the cooking time – from one to four hours – and before the end of the day the brownies were cooked and ready to enjoy. According to at least one student, “They were sooooo good!”

The students maintained journals in which they wrote about other aspects of the program, including documenting the process of garbage rotting over time to learn what waste items are good candidates for garden composting. The class also wrote letters thanking the Foundation for the grant and invited Foundation board members to share in treats from the solar oven.

Foundation President Lisa Bjork said she is looking forward to the next sunny school day so she can taste the class’s next planned solar cooking adventure – gluten free chocolate chip cookies!