On June 2nd, 2020

Young Discoverers: Funnel the Sun

Welcome scientists!

Are you ready to get curious? There’s nothing like the feeling when you learn something new! Join us for this week’s #STEMatHome Young Discoverers activity! 

Make sure to check out last week’s lesson on Scientist Journals!

Every Wednesday, we will are uploading a new #STEMatHome video of our Young Discoverer Educators doing what they do best, sharing fun, hands-on activities geared for the Pre-K audience and families to do from the comfort of your home! We hope you have a STEM-tastic time!

Story-time recommendation:

The Sun: Our Nearest Star by Franklyn Branley

Activity: Funnel the Sun

The sun is a big ball of exploding gas and energy that lights up our world during the day. Its temperature can be more than 27 million degrees Fahrenheit! Many scientists have been working for many years to try and take the sun’s energy and turn it into energy that we can use.

Your quest today is to find out if we can harness energy from the sun to heat up our finger or even a tasty treat. Let’s get to exploring!

Materials Needed:

  • Construction paper
  • Tape (double sided tape if you have it) or glue
  • Aluminum foil


  1. We are going to try and harness the energy of the sun and funnel it to focus the heat. The first step is to pick out a piece of paper, this can be a plain white piece of paper or it can be a fun colored piece of construction paper.
  2. Once you have your paper picked out, measure out aluminum foil that is the same size as the paper. Cut it if you have to and glue/tape it to the paper. It should be completely covered in aluminum foil on one side and has no foil on the other. Let it dry if its glue.
  3. Roll it into a funnel shape, making sure to leave a hole at one end that is about the size of your finger. The other end should be much much bigger! Make sure the aluminum is on the inside of the funnel, not the outside! As soon as you have a good funnel shape, tape it closed so that it will not unroll. Discuss: why we would need to have this tool in this shape to get the energy we need?
  4. Go outside with your new tool on a bright, sunny day! Point the big opening towards the sun and the little hole should be pointing down. To test if your funnel works, put your finger at the bottom of the funnel, right under the opening. It should start to get very very warm. Once you have made sure your funnel is able to heat up your finger, you can test it by putting a small piece of chocolate under the hole and funnel the sun’s energy to try and melt your chocolate. For added fun, put a marshmallow on top of a graham cracker and try to heat up your marshmallow to make a solar-heated s'more! 
  5. Modification: To make a solar oven, take a plastic bottle and cut the top half off. Use the bottle opening as a stand for the funnel and put the smaller end inside. Take the now suspended funnel and position it over a marshmallow and leave it outside covered by the plastic bottle and the solar funnel. Check back a while later and see if you have cooked your marshmallow!

Further Exploration:

The energy that you felt today was in the form of heat. Heat is created by atoms moving very very fast, the faster the atoms are moving the hotter the substance. In our case, the sun has transferred its energy into the air around us causing it to heat up with all the extra energy. We have now taken this energy in the air and focused it to warm up our finger or food.

The sun is constantly sending waves of energy to our planet and solar panels are some of the inventions humans have made to try and capture that energy. The solar panels are designed to absorb the energy of the sun and convert it into energy that we can use to do other things, such as charge our phones and turn on our tvs. So similar to our solar funnels, the solar panels are working to collect the energy the sun is hurling our way. The packs of energy that get sent to earth are called photons, they travel 93 million miles to reach our planet and it only takes them about 8.5 minutes to do it!

When we funnel the sun, where is the energy that heats up our finger coming from? What else could we use this solar heat and energy for?

Share your curiosity and experiments with us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter! Each month, we’ll post our favorite community videos on our website and social media sites, so you too can be a part of our STEM story!

Remember to tag The Discovery Center of Idaho! 

@dcidaho #dcidaho #STEMatHome #DCIatHome

Video links and pictures can be shared HERE  

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