This year we learned how to make a solar still. It was a perfect activity for our survival skills summer camp at home.
Making a solar still isn’t just a fun summer science experiment. Solar stills are also one way to purify water for drinking, making it a great survival skill to learn.
Homemade Solar Still
- Clean Glass Jar
- Wide Plastic Bucket or Bowl
- Plastic Wrap
- Small Rock
- Rubberband or Tape
Find a sunny spot to place your solar still. It should be a spot that gets sun almost all day.
Start by pouring an inch or two of water into your large plastic bucket. To really demonstrate how a solar still can be used to clean and purify drinking water, we decided to use water from our pond. You could also add a bit of dirt to tap water or just use clean water to begin with. The choice is yours.
Place your clean glass jar in the center of your bucket. Be careful not to get any of the dirty water inside the jar.
Cover the bucket with plastic wrap. It needs to form a good seal around the bucket. Some brands of plastic wrap will cling tight, but if yours doesn’t want to stay put try using a large rubberband or a bit of tape.
Finally, place a small rock on top of the plastic wrap, right over the jar.
Then let your solar still sit undisturbed for several hours. (Use the time to learn trail marking in a no-prep scavenger hunt with the kids.)
With the help of the sun, the water will evaporate and then collect on the plastic wrap. The water droplets will then run towards the center because of the rock and fall into the jar, producing clean water that is safe to drink.
Another fun twist to this experiment is to try it using salty water. The water that collects in the jar won’t taste salty and will be perfect for drinking.
While this isn’t the fastest way to purify water, it is effective. We let our DIY solar still sit in the sun all day and wound up with about an inch of drinkable water.
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