Optional Teaching Supplies

Materials for this Unit

To obtain kit materials, visit our online store to purchase a kit that includes materials for up to 30 learners.

Each unit includes a letter to send home with student for materials donation for the unit. Click here to download a copy of this letter in Spanish.

Additional Storybooks for Classroom Use

Storybooks introduce each unit with the tale of a child somewhere around the world who solves a problem through engineering. The books integrate literacy and social studies into the unit and illustrate for students the relevance of STEM subjects. 

Explore the Lessons

Students think about what technology is and are introduced to the idea that engineers design technologies.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

What is Technology? / Grade 4 / Worcester, MA

Students think about what technology is and are introduced to the idea that engineers design technologies.

Extension Lessons

What are Extension Lessons?

Extension Lessons use EiE activities as a springboard to more directly reinforce other curricular concepts.

View all Extension Lessons »

Lerato secretly wishes she could go to university. But she also wants to help her family. Making dinner is a lot of work, and keeping the younger children on task as they collect loads of firewood is not easy. Then Tsoane, Lerato’s friend and a university student, comes home for a visit. Tsoane is studying green engineering and gives Lerato a solar oven that could eliminate the tiresome chore of gathering wood. The oven doesn’t work well at first, but with careful engineering, Lerato improves the designand realizes university might be within reach.

Download a PDF of our storybook illustrations.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Lerato Cooks Up a Plan / Grade 3 / Marietta, GA
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EiE - Now You're Cooking: Designing Solar Ovens - Lesson 1

Reflection Questions

What literacy strategies do you see Linda using to increase student understanding of the story, Lorato Cooks up a Plan?

Linda conducts an interactive read-aloud, has the class contribute ideas to documentation panels, and has students look for references to the EDP in the text.

  • Linda has provided a storybook for each student so that they can follow the text as she reads aloud. She has her students repeat words they see in the text and fill in by reading words when she pauses. (0:43–1:19)
  • Linda goes back and reviews document panels, encouraging students to review, reflect on, and relate their learning. (1:40)
  • Linda has students look in the storybook text for evidence of each step of the Engineering Design Process. (2:35)

What evidence do you see that Linda had spent several days reviewing the content and context of the storybook, Lerato Cooks up a Plan?

Linda has prepared resources from both inside and outside the classroom to help deepen her students’ understanding.

  • The storybooks the students are using are marked with sticky notes, indicating that students were involved in an ongoing study of the storybook. (1:06)
  • Detailed documentation panels of each chapter hang in the classroom and highlight key vocabulary and student responses to reading prompts. (1:40)
  • Linda explains that she used EiE resource page to find a Peace Corp volunteer who was working in Botswana. The students had prepared questions about Botswana, and then participated in a video chat with the volunteer. (5:02)


Solar Ovens: Storybook / Grade 4 / Washington, D.C.
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EiE - Now You're Cooking: Designing Solar Ovens Lesson 1

Reflection Questions

What visual strategies does Vanessa use to keep the lesson relevant and maintain student engagement?

Vanessa uses illustrations, photos, and models, to put lesson 1 into context and keep her students engaged.

  • While reviewing the storybook, Lerato Cooks Up a Plan, Vanessa projects real-life images from the same location that the storybook takes place. (1:28–2:57)
  • Vanessa shows students of model of a solar oven while she is reviewing the storybook.  This allows them to see a visual representation of what they’ll be working with in the design challenge in lesson 4. (2:59)
  • Vanessa projects the Engineering Design Process (EDP) onto her Smart Board. Using the image of the EDP, she wraps up review of the storybook and then later wraps up lesson 1. (3:56 & 7:16)

In what ways does Vanessa help her students self-identify as engineers?

Vanessa uses the word “engineer” frequently. She refers to her students as engineers and uses the verb “engineer” to describe what they are doing.

  • While reviewing the storybook, Vanessa tells her students that Lerato turns into a green engineer, just like them. (3:49)
  • As she reviews the EDP, Vanessa reminds her students that they were green engineers throughout lesson 1. (7:16)

Students think like green engineers as they analyze the life cycle of the paper they use in their classroom.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
The Good Life / Grade 3 / Marietta, GA
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EiE - Now You're Cooking: Designing Solar Ovens - Lesson 2

Reflection Questions

What strategies do you see Linda using to keep her young students engaged and curious about the lesson?

Linda has a very animated style of teaching that makes listening fun. She introduces challenging share-out strategies, modifies activities, and uses props to help keep her students engaged.

  • Rather than sharing their own thoughts after small group work, Linda has students share their peers’ ideas. (1:08)
  • At one point Linda brings a tree branch into the classroom to help students visualize where wood originally comes from. (1:58)
  • In the Life Cycle Assessment activity, Linda removed the step numbers from the handout pages and had her students reassemble the pages in order. This encouraged her students to reflect more deeply on each step in terms of content and sequence. (4:53)

How does studying of the life cycle of paper prepare students for the solar oven challenge?

Studying the process of paper production heightens awareness of environmental impacts. This helps students think about the low impact of a solar versus other cooking techniques, and broadens their understanding of the overall work of environmental engineers.

  • Calculating the amount of paper students in the school use raises awareness that, even though it is used one piece at a time, the overall impact of paper use (like cooking) is large. (4:00)
  • Steps in the process of making paper highlight environmental impacts like cutting trees, carrying them by truck, and putting them into the landfill. (5:51)
  • Linda’s trip to the recycling center reveals of the impact of the paper produced by their own school. (7:15)


The Good Life / Grade 4 / Washington, D.C.
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EiE - Now You're Cooking: Designing Solar Ovens Lesson 2

Reflection Questions

What strategies does Vanessa use to keep her students engaged?

Vanessa uses a variety of techniques with her students to keep them engaged throughout the activities in lesson 2.

  • Vanessa helps her students relate to the topics they discuss by analyzing how many trees worth of paper their class uses in a year. (1:45)
  • When one of Vanessa’s student is struggling to articulate a concept, Vanessa helps guide his thoughts during a class discussion. (5:00)
  • A rephrased question helps Vanessa make sure her whole class is listening, participating, and engaging in class discussion. (1:36)

Where do you see Vanessa guiding her students to effectively analyze the environmental impact of paper?

Through pointed questions and a life cycle assessment activity, Vanessa guides her students to think critically about the environmental impact of paper.

  • Vanessa asks her students what resources are used to makes paper. (0:56)
  • The steps of the life cycle of paper are identified and distributed to students in small groups so they can explore the steps themselves. (3:25)
  • Vanessa ties in the storybook to help give her students context to the problem they are facing and to remind them of their prior knowledge. (6:33)

Students test materials in order to identify good insulators, and also analyze the impacts those materials have on the environment.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
What's Hot & What's Not / Grade 3 / Marietta, GA
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EiE - Now You're Cooking: Designing Solar Ovens - Lesson 3

Reflection Questions

What misconceptions about heat energy do you see Linda’s students struggling with? What does Linda do to address these misconceptions?

Linda is constantly assessing her students’ understanding of thermal energy transfer, and adding activities that help solidify her students’ developing knowledge of a complex science topic.

  • Linda wants her students to understand the direction of energy transfer, always from warmer to cooler areas. To help students learn this principle, she teaches them a little dance that reinforces the direction of energy flow. (0:29) She also mentions it several times in her teaching. (0:56, 1:12)   
  • Linda is aware that her students may think that air moves from warmer to cooler areas. She takes every occasion to reinforce the idea that it is the heat energy that is moving, not the air itself. (1:06, 2:47) 
  • Linda’s students have difficulty interpreting trends in the “change in temperature” data. Some students are stuck on the idea that a large change in temperature signifies a really good insulator, rather than a poor one. By adding the foam and foil jacket activity, Linda gives a concrete example that shows that better insulators result in smaller temperature changes.  

What does Linda do to make sure the process of testing insulation materials in the ice bath is both fun and manageable?

Because the testing setup is small and fragile, Linda uses procedures that reduce crowding and produce accurate results.

  • Linda prepared the testing basin as described in the guide: she has added ice water to the tub and has secured 11 cups to the bottom so that students can gently nest their test cups inside each one. (3:36)
  • To limit the number of students crowding around the ice bath, Linda assigns only one student from each group to be the thermometer reader. (3:23)
  • To help manage time between readings, Linda has the students count down to reading time. (4:04)


What's Hot & What's Not / Grade 4 / Washington, D.C.
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EiE - Now You're Cooking: Designing Solar Ovens Lesson 3

Reflection Questions

What visual methods of representing data does Vanessa use in her classroom to help her students understand the differences between certain materials?

Vanessa knows that some of her students may struggle with the concept of change over time, so she chooses to represent the students’ collected data in multiple ways.

  • For both the environmental impact and the heat transfer scores, Vanessa has her students tape the materials to a piece of chart paper in order from least to greatest. (2:38, 8:31)
  • Vanessa uses a piece of chart paper that closely represents the students’ worksheet to help show temperature changes over time. (4:56)
  • The students get to see the data they collected between flat and shredded materials on a bar graph that Vanessa puts on an overhead projector. (6:19)

How do Vanessa’s interactions with students in small group discussions impact the way her students seek answers?

Vanessa allows all of her students to pursue questions they have and grapple with new concepts before giving them a direct answer.

  • Vanessa mediates a discussion between group members so that they all have a chance to share their ideas about material properties. (2:14)
  • Vanessa patiently guides a student that is struggling with recording her thoughts to record her answers on the worksheet. (8:08)
  • Vanessa speaks with a whole group by asking questions and not providing any answers about the environmental impacts of materials. (7:40)

Students apply their knowledge of materials as insulators, environmental impacts, and green engineering as they imagine, plan, create, test, and improve a solar oven.

Supporting Materials for this Lesson

Sample Classroom Video
Designing a Solar Oven / Grade 3 / Marietta, GA
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EiE - Now You're Cooking: Designing Solar Ovens - Lesson 4

Reflection Questions

What visual aids does Linda use to “make thinking visible” for her students?

Linda builds a culture of literacy in her class by using anchor charts to record prior learning, help students self-monitor their work, and post cues for classroom activity.

  • Linda has mounted copies of the three handouts that she expects students to work on. Beneath each sheet, she has written notes how to complete each sheet. Students use this chart to help them keep track of where they are and what they should do next. (00:47, 3:20)
  • Linda attached small samples of each insulation material to poster board and labeled them. Students can touch each sample and use the chart to help them remember the English names of each material. (1:02)
  • While students are working, Linda uses the smart board to indicate which step of the Engineering Design Process they should be working on. The message reads to “Now, It’s time to PLAN!” (3:30)
  • When explaining how to calculate the total heat score of the solar oven, Linda projects a large version of the scoring sheet and invites Nathan up to fill in the data and model the scoring process. (7:37)

What important aspects of engineering is Linda promoting in her students when she has them take a "Museum Walk?"

Through the Museum Walk, Linda’s students are reminded that engineers learn by studying the work of others and by sharing ideas. They think critically about how each oven was made and make connections to their own work.

  • Students think critically as they compare the performance of their solar ovens to those of others, and draw conclusions about which materials make good insulators. (8:54)
  • Students use mathematical thinking to help them interpret the scoring sheets of other solar oven teams. (9:05)
  • Students apply the knowledge they gained when they go back to improve their own solar oven designs. (9:32)


Designing a Solar Oven / Grade 4 / Washington, D.C.
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EiE - Now You're Cooking: Designing Solar Ovens Lesson 4

Reflection Questions

How does Vanessa emphasize the importance of data collection to her students?

Vanessa refers to the student’s data collection often and keeps data charts in the front of her class to remind students about how their data should inform their decisions.

  • Vanessa has her students use data recording sheets packaged in an engineering notebook folder so that they can refer back to their data when making design decisions. (2:39)
  • Vanessa refers to a data chart about thermal properties to remind students of the testing they did in lesson 3 and how that data can inform their upcoming design decisions. (3:30)

How do you see the students in Vanessa’s class working effectively in teams?

Students share ideas as they work collaboratively to create, and then improve, their solar oven designs.

  • One student explains to another why shredded materials might be a better choice than flat materials by pointing out the data to that supports his decision. (2:07)
  • Vanessa works with a group of students and helps them agree on materials to use for their solar oven design. (2:17)