Homeschool Discoveries

Sharing a few things I've discovered along the way…

Baking Cookies in a Solar Oven July 7, 2012

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras — kirstenjoyhill @ 6:00 am

The heat wave is finally breaking here in Minnesota, but it has been scorching hot here for well over a week prior to this.  When it’s over 100 degrees no one wants to turn on their oven…so how about using some of that solar energy to bake cookies?

Tony thought it would be a fun family project to bake cookies in a solar oven on the 4th of July.  We were inspired by tutorials at Playsational and Home Science Tools as we built our very own pizza box solar cooker.

It only take a few simple items to make a solar oven: pizza boxes or other cardboard boxes, black construction paper, aluminum foil, and plastic wrap or a plastic baggie.  You’ll need some tape and/or glue to hold things in place as well.

Here’s Tony and the kids assembling one of the reflectors.  (I didn’t take step-by-step photos, so check out those tutorial links above if you want to know exactly how to do it!)

I made a batch of cookie dough, and we took our ovens outside:

I also decided to see how it would work to put some of the dough in our hot, enclosed van:

Here’s how our dough looked after about 30 minutes:

We left the cookies in the ovens/car for at least three hours, though after about two hours I’m not sure they got any more done.

Here are the final cookies…after hungry kids (and grown ups) devoured some many of them:

All in all, the cookies were tasty, yet still somewhat doughy.  Our not-very-easy-to-read oven thermometer indicated that the solar ovens did not get much above 80 degrees C.   The car-baked cookies were a bit better done than the cardboard box cookies (I wish we would have had a thermometer in there too!).  Perhaps we need better-insulated boxes next time!

Solar ovens aren’t just for cookies — Solar S’mores are a tasty treat with no fire required.  And I even found this entire page filled with solar oven dessert recipes (and links to many other recipes for non-dessert solar oven cooking too).

Linking up with…

Science Sunday


From Caterpillar to Butterfly June 25, 2012

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras — kirstenjoyhill @ 1:17 pm
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It took less than a month.  A tiny baby Monarch caterpillar that Miss M brought home on June 1st emerged as a butterfly yesterday, June 24th:

When a monarch emerges from its chrysalis (almost always in the morning), it needs to rest and inflate/dry its wings for a few hours.   Our monarch emerged on Sunday morning before we left for church.  Miss M and I had a bridal shower to attend after church so Tony and the boys released the butterfly while we were gone.  (I did just learn, though, from reading this page on rearing monarchs that they could have waited until we returned home in the afternoon, and the butterfly would have been fine. Now we know for future years!).

I love the process of raising monarchs.  The tiny caterpillars grow so quickly and the change of metamorphosis is wonderful to see and such a great learning opportunity!  Monarchs are a declining species due to loss of habitat, and it feels good to be involved in helping a monarch or two survive to adulthood each year.  This year we’re also going to plant some milkweed of our own instead of relying on the milkweed of neighbors! We’ll create a bit more habit for them and have an easier time getting food for our little guys next year.

I’m linking up with:

Science Sunday