The Science Of Food: The Chef And The Scientist
by Carrie Fehr
Teaching science through the lens of cooking encourages students to understand the valuable connection between a chef and scientist, and offers a rich stew of inquiry-based science lessons that reinforces the vital role food plays in our health.
The Lesson: In the science of cooking lesson, fifth graders explore the relationship of cellular respiration, a process about how cells extract energy from food– and its impact on our health. In the concept of cellular respiration, students learn that the human body uses sugar glucose as a main source of energy, and when combined with oxygen, it will release that energy. For example, eating simple carbohydrates, will offer a quick boost of energy, but the excess glucose (energy) will convert into fat, also increasing the risk for developing diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity, an epidemic that according to experts affects one out of three children and teens. Eating foods rich in complex carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, will breakdown the glucose more slowly, process the energy more efficiently, and will help lower the risk for getting diseases.
The Experiment: To prove the effects of cellular respiration, students investigate three different nutrient sources from the recipe, Three Sisters Succotash aka Corn, Beans, and Squash. Yeast, a single cell organism that can convert sugar into carbon dioxide, is mixed with each nutrient source, and then sealed inside a plastic bag submerged in a warm water bath. For comparison purposes, students create a fourth variable that is only sugar. Students make predictions on what they think will happen between the nutrient sources and the sugar. Lucky this is the science of cooking class, because students now put on their chef hats and prepare the recipe, Three Sisters Succotash, while waiting on the outcome of the cellular respiration experiment.
As another epic class concludes, the results of the experiment confirm that sugar processes energy the fastest, but yet the message is clear: slow and steady, corn, beans, and squash will win the race, the marathon of all–good health.