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Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

Make a Solar Still

Lesson Description:
solarstill Students will be able to:
  • Explain the need for creating potable water systems and describe how the process of distillation can be effective in this area.
  • Explain the process of distillation and how it works in a solar still.
  • Identify solar energy as a major energy source and describe ways in which it helps man and the environment.
  • Form and test a hypothesis, observe and record the results, analyze the data collected, and draw logical conclusions.

Lesson Type:
  • Discussion
  • Experiment

Sustainability Topic:
  • Energy
  • Water

GEF Program Category:
  • Sustainable Water Challenge

Time Needed:
60 minutes
Standards Addressed:

Science Standard 1: Understand Atmospheric Processes and the Water Cycle

  • Benchmark # 7: know that most of earth’s surface is covered by water, that most of that water is salt water in oceans, and that fresh water is found in rivers, lakes, underground sources and glaciers.

Science Standard 9: Understand the Sources and Properties of Energy
  • Benchmark # 4: know how the sun acts as a major source of energy for changes on the earth’s surface (i.e., the sun loses energy by emitting light; some of this light is transferred to the earth in a range of wavelengths including visible light, infrared radiation, and ultraviolet radiation).
  • Benchmark # 11: understand the origins and environmental impacts of renewable (e.g., solar energy and non-renewable resources, including energy sources like fossil fuels.

Science Standard 12: Understand the Nature of Scientific Inquiry

  • Benchmark # 3: design and conduct a scientific investigation (e.g., formulate hypotheses, design and execute investigations, interpret data, synthesize evidence into explanations).
  • Benchmark # 6: use tools and techniques to gather, analyze and interpret scientific data.

Technology Standard 4: Understand the Nature of Technological Design

  • Benchmark # 5: implement a proposed design (e.g., organizes materials and resources, makes use of group collaborations, chooses suitable tools and techniques).
  • Benchmark # 6: evaluate the ability of a technological design to meet criteria established in the original purpose (e.g., consider the factors that might affect acceptability and suitability for intended users) suggest improvements, and try proposed modifications.

Geography Standard 16: Understand the Changes that Occur in the Meaning, Use, Distribution and Importance of Resources

  • Benchmark # 7: understand how the development and widespread use of alternative energy sources (e.g., solar, wind thermal) might have an impact on societies (in terms of, e.g., water quality).

Geography Standard 18: Understand Global Development and Environmental Issues

  • Benchmark # 1: understand how the interaction between physical systems and human systems affects the current conditions on earth (e.g., relationships involved in economic, political, social, and environmental changes; geographic impact of using solar power as a major energy source).

Materials Needed:
  • Bowl (one for each group)
  • Plastic cups (at least two inches shorter than bowl)
  • Clear plastic food wrap
  • Tape or rubber ban

School or Group:
Green Education Foundation (GEF)
Contact Email:
Lesson Documents:
application/pdf SolarStill.pdf
Located in: Science

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Center for Green Schools