As a mom, I love finding new ideas to engage my kids in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). And, as a food scientist, I’m simply geeked to instill a sense of kitchen curiosity in all youngsters.
It’s no secret I’m a big fan of getting kids into the kitchen – so much sensory, so much science! Food is a great way to engage (especially young) kids in science because it’s familiar and fun. And bonus, where else do you get to taste the experiments?
How can cooking be considered an exercise in STEM?
Kids are naturally curious. That’s one of the best parts about being MOM, right? The cute and insightful questions, the quizzical sounds, that adorable lopsided eyebrow twitch… Now is the perfect time to garner the attention of your young ones. Their little minds crave discovery!
There are so many aspects of cooking that coincide with STEM initiatives, especially if the activity is approached like a lab experiment. When you set out to make a recipe, talk to your young scientist about what they expect to happen (draw a hypothesis), encourage them to make observations (tasting is important too!), and evaluate their results. Ask probing questions as you go!
Some specific concepts to master when bringing STEM into the kitchen with kids:
- Measuring. As in a science lab, precision and accuracy is important. Cooking requires the use of a lot of math!
- Weights vs. volume. Different ingredients are measured in different ways. Discuss wet vs. dry and volume vs. weight (and while you’re at it, density!).
- Chemical reactions and physical changes. How do various cooking methods affect individual ingredients? Are there new substances formed (like a gas)? Does the state of matter change (like jello)? Reversible and non-reversible changes are fun to explore!
- Microbiology. Topics like spoilage, decomposition, and food safety are great lessons that will intersect with school lessons in biology.
- Package design. This is a favorite when tinkering in the kitchen. Talk to your students about what makes a good food package and discuss how they’d design their own.
Are you a homeschooling, family & consumer sciences, or general sciences educator?
Consider working food science into some of your existing curriculum. Are you a parent looking to get a rise out of your kiddos at home and offer some fun new learnings? (Good for you!)
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