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Greenhouse S'Mores

Author(s): Nancy P. Moreno, PhD, Barbara Z. Tharp, MS, and Judith Dresden, MS.

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This activity enables students to observe how some transparent materials allow light to pass through, but do not let heat escape. It also helps students to understanding the role of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere (“greenhouse effect”).  Students will make predictions and observations, model, and draw conclusions based on their investigation. They will discover that different materials absorb and trap heat differently. 

  1. After Materials Managers have collected the materials for their groups, instruct students to make covers of different colors for three of the cups (white construction paper, black construction paper, and aluminum foil). All three covers should be about the same size and shape. The fourth cup will be used without a cover. An easy way to make a cover is to roll a sheet of paper into a tube that fits around the cup. Fold and tape (or staple) the top of the tube and place it over a cup (see illustration on the slide). 

  2. Once students have made covers for three of their cups, have each Materials Managers pick up supplies for the experiment. Ask students if they have ever made S’Mores using marshmallows and chocolate squares. Explain that for this activity, they will be using solar energy to make S’Mores!

  3. Each student should create one S’More by spreading a small amount of marshmallow cream or frosting on a cookie, and then placing a chocolate candy on top. Direct students to place their cookies on a plate or tray and to cover each cookie with one of the cups. (If the experiment will be conducted outside, have students tape the cups to the plate). 

  4. Within their groups, have students discuss the cover treatments and predict which treatment will result in the most softened or melted chocolate. Have them rank their predictions, using a scale of 1–4, in which 1 = least softened and 4 = most softened. 


Funded by the following grant(s)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

My Health My World: National Dissemination
Grant Number: 5R25ES009259
The Environment as a Context for Opportunities in Schools
Grant Number: 5R25ES010698, R25ES06932


Houston Endowment Inc.

Foundations for the Future: Capitalizing on Technology to Promote Equity, Access and Quality in Elementary Science Education