Food Science is a great way to engage (especially young) kids in easy STEM activities at home because food is familiar, fun, and such a sensory experience. In what other field do you get to taste a science experiment?
How can cooking be considered a real science lesson or fit the bill for STEM activities at home?
Kids are naturally curious. You know this well. The cute and insightful questions, the quizzical sounds, that adorable lopsided eyebrow twitch… Their little minds crave discovery!
A lot of educators tend to jump to areas like mechanical engineering when they’re looking for STEM activities at home. For good reason! Our “tinker trays” are some of the most loved toys in our house. But that said, STEM concepts are applicable to many different careers, ideas, daily tasks and kid-friendly activities. Your students will have fun expanding your lessons into new realms!
The kitchen can be one of those discovery areas for students.
There are so many aspects of cooking that coincide with STEM initiatives, especially if the activity is approached like a lab experiment and you’re able to loop in the scientific method. 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. And one of the most important elements of an educator’s role: Ask probing questions as you go!
Some specific concepts to master when bringing STEM into the kitchen with kids:
Of course, tailoring a particular effort to your student’s age is key when getting it right with STEM activities at home. The below concepts are a few broad topics to consider for any age – you can go deeper into these categories as it suits your student’s interest level.
- 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 seeking easy STEM activities at home or classroom?
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!)
You might enjoy some of our posts on STEM activities at home: