SUNY?students build solar cookits

Future teachers at SUNY Fredonia are already making a difference, even before reaching a real classroom. Students in Michael Jabot’s science education class, Teaching Science in Inclusive Settings, made solar cookits which will be sent to those in need.

Jabot, who integrates engineering into his education classes, always tries to connect his teaching methods to sustainability. He has worked in the past with the organization, Solar Cookers International who “spread solar cooking technology to those who need it most,” according to their website. He said it was “a natural connection” to incorporate the organization into his lesson plans.

“These are all future teachers. It was science methods, a course about how to best teach science to kids,” said Jabot. “We did a whole piece on doing engineering with elementary kids. We extended the unit to build a cooker that is used in Sub-Saharan Africa. These are cookers that are actually used to cooked people’s food and pasteurize water in Africa and other parts of the world. Using one of these (solar cookers) stops, mostly women, from having to go collect wood to heat and cook with and to boil water.”

The class consisted of 52 students enrolled in four sections during the fall semester who collectively made eight solar cookers. Jabot plans to donate the cookers to SCI to be sent to Africa. The cookers, made out of cardboard and Mylar film, can boil about a gallon of water per hour, which is important for parts of the world whose people worry about the quality of their drinking water.

“These (cookers) are set up so they all fold together, but it’s one solid piece. It’s more durable that way and it’s easier to store. They get hundreds of uses out of these,” Jabot said.

Jabot has plans to do the project again in the spring with his classes. He said some of the students were reluctant about the project at first, thinking it would not come to fruition and actually work as a cooking utensil. Jabot said when students first learned about the impact of this product, they were very quiet – an indication the project had a meaningful impact.

“They loved it. When we were first starting to do it, I think (the students) didn’t believe this worked. Then when you fold it up, they go ‘Wow, that is so cool,’ said Jabot.

“What they learned is how to connect the learning they’re going to share with children in the classroom with how it has a greater impact on the world. About 2 billion people still cook and heat with wood. I think the students did a fantastic job. They’re going to be great teachers; they’re going to bring really important ideas in science to the students they work with,” Jabot continued.

Jabot said the project can be utilized in classrooms, even with elementary-aged children. He said cookers can be made out of pizza boxes for younger children and s’mores can easily be made.

“The big thing is (cooking) s’mores … You can melt the marshmallow and chocolate very quickly. A lot of the ones we do with elementary kids, you just make them out of pizza boxes. That’s another reason for doing s’mores … whatever food you have has to be more shallow than the box,” Jabot said.

If any classroom teacher or parents want more information regarding how to build a solar cooker with their students or children, Jabot is willing to offer educational tools or instructions. Jabot can be contacted at michael.jabot@fredonia.edu or by calling 673-3639. For more information on SCI, visit www.solarcookers.org.

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