On a recent, warm autumn day, when the temperature reached into the mid-50s Fahrenheit, students in Ms. Amy Stemkoski’s 7th grade science class tested their solar ovens to deepen their knowledge of thermal physics.
The 7th grade science class began their work this school-year reviewing and extending concepts that were developed in their 6th grade physics main lesson block, taking advantage of the very warm weather, to focus particularly on thermal physics. With the goal of baking nachos or s’mores in mind, the students have been engaged in the scientific process of designing, creating, testing, modifying, and re-testing solar ovens – built from pizza boxes, aluminum foil, black construction paper, newspaper, and plastic wrap. The students combined research (e.g. what is the melting point of chocolate? Or of cheese?) with the results of their experimentation (e.g. what temperature did my oven achieve and sustain?) in order to develop their plans for the food trials. Even on a cool, windy 55 degree Fahrenheit day (you can ask a 7th grade student to convert that measurement to Celsius, or to confirm it by properly using a laboratory thermometer), both s’mores and nachos were baked using these solar ovens. The students greatly enjoyed eating the melted cheese and the dripping chocolate – all in the name of science!
Understanding the concepts brought during their science main lessons (7th grade has three science main lessons in human physiology, chemistry and physics and 8th grade has three science main lessons in human anatomy, organic chemistry and physics), students in Waldorf’s middle school also have science class for two periods per week. In this class, students engage in scientific exploration, experimentation, and discovery through hands-on, experienced-based work in the physical and life sciences.