AskERIC Lesson Plans
Lesson Plan #:AELP-PHY0045

Solar Hot Box

An AskERIC Lesson Plan

AUTHOR: John Sandru; Battle Mountain Junior High, Nevada



This lesson is designed to explore different aspects of solar energy. The students have already been exposed to various forms of alternate energy sources and the reasons for their use. The students will build a solar hot box in order to test various colors and materials to find the maximum temperature that can be reached.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this lesson is to demonstrate to students through discovery that different colors and materials create various temperatures.


  1. The student will review the basic needs for alternative energy sources.
  2. The students will be able to identify at least three different materials that will produce maximum heat.
  3. The students will be able to identify at least three different colors that will produce maximum heat.
  4. The students will be able to solve a design problem for a solar hot box.


  1. Teach basic alternative energy sources.
  2. Teach heat conductive and repelling materials.
  3. Teach heat conductive and repelling colors.
  4. Experiment with materials and colors for maximum heat.
  5. Teach designs for a solar hot box.


  1. Shoe boxes
  2. different colored construction paper
  3. Cellophane different colors
  4. aluminum foil
  5. thermometers
  6. large sheet of paper


This lesson will begin with a review of what alternate energy sources are. Each student will be required to brain storm as many energy sources as they can in a set time limit. At the end of the time limit the students will discuss which of the energy sources are used every day and which ones are alternative sources. Ask the students to discover for themselves why we consider some energy sources alternate and some not.

Explain to the students that today they will experiment with solar heating to decide if all energy needs in the U.S. can be met by solar energy.


  1. Experiment with colors to determine which colors will absorb or reflect heat. Use colored cellophane when they build their boxes.

  2. Experiment with materials to determine which materials will absorb or reflect heat. Use shoe boxes, foil, construction paper for the materials.

  3. Define what a solar hot box is.

  4. Define what a solar collector is.

  5. Explain that a solar hot box differs from a solar collector only in the respect that the solar heat is collected and contained in the box is not purposely transferred. The heat from a solar collector is usually transferred from the collector by a heated air or water medium to another location.

  6. Students will build their own hot box using the colors and materials they choose. Students can work in pairs or alone to build their box and conduct the experiment.

  7. Explain that each hot box groups will go outside and complete a temperature experiment to determine the maximum temperature it will reach.

  8. Have each group set their experiment up with a thermometer on the inside.

  9. At one minute intervals have each group record the temperature of the hot box. Do this for ten (10) minutes.

  10. Bring the results into the classroom and record the temperatures for each group on the board.

  11. Ask the students which hot box achieved the highest temperature the fastest.


When the students have decided which box worked the best and which one didn't work ask them to brain storm conditions outside that would help or hinder the solar heating process. Make a list on a large sheet of paper and hang it the room.


For the next day, ask the students to compose a paragraph addressing why solar energy might not be the answer to all the energy needs of the U.S.

May 1994

These lesson plans are the result of the work of the teachers who have attended the Columbia Education Center's Summer Workshop. CEC is a consortium of teacher from 14 western states dedicated to improving the quality of education in the rural, western, United States, and particularly the quality of math and science Education. CEC uses Big Sky Telegraph as the hub of their telecommunications network that allows the participating teachers to stay in contact with their trainers and peers that they have met at the Workshops.

This activity has been copied, with permission, from the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) server to ours, to allow faster access from our website. We encourage you to explore the original site.

See one young man's experimentation with solar cookers for a science fair project!

Back to Coalition Home

To Reach Out! volunteer organization at the University of Michigan