5 Food Science Ideas for Your Kitchen or Classroom

There’s a saying in my head that food is the essence of life. And since science is the understanding of life, it only makes sense that when you can involve food in your science demonstrations, projects, and experiments, you most definitely should involve food in your science demonstrations.

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Just don’t forget to Instagram it!               (Source: Wikimedia)

Whether you call it kitchen science or delicious science or any number of cute and creative culinary catchphrases, you can’t deny food science ideas have a place in  education. So hop aboard this magic cutting board through the marble countertops and linoleum floors of your neighbors’ kitchen (never try this at home, try it at a friend’s home).


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5. Homemade Ice Cream

This classic is a huge hit in all kinds of settings. You can find homemade ice cream at barbecues, summer camps, science labs, and during afternoons around the house. Why is homemade ice cream so popular? Simple: it’s way better than any other ice cream you’ve ever tasted.

Just don’t let Steve make you help him..

The first time I made my own ice cream was as a Cub Scout. Whether I was a bruin or dire wolf or feral cat, I can’t remember, but I was after a badge of some sort and making my own ice cream was a surefire way to get that badge. I made the ice cream, but I had no clue as to why I put all of that sidewalk salt in there.

The full scientific answer to why rock salt gets tossed into the homemade ice cream mix is, admittedly, a bit more complicated than my cubby noggin could handle. Still, I didn’t even get that ice made the temperature in the container colder. I just thought it was food magic.

With these rings, you shall soon have lasagna!
With these rings, you shall soon have lasagna!                              (Source: Pixabay)

When Should I Use It?
Ice cream is a year-round treat for many, but making it should probably happen during warm weather stints. Making homemade ice cream in cold weather… it just sounds like a poor life choice.


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4. Strawberry DNA
Genetics may seem like a field of science that can’t possibly have a hands-on demonstration using food. That kind of thinking might be a result of my initial mistake. I didn’t know that less complex organisms, in relation to humans, also have DNA. For example, I hadn’t a clue that strawberries have DNA. Did you?

Sorry about your nightmares.
Sorry about your nightmares.     (Source: Pixabay)

Whether you knew or not, there’s a fairly simple demonstration that will walk you through extracting the DNA from a strawberry. Fifteen steps may seem like a book, considering the 4 and 5 step procedures of some activities, but considering you’re extracting the DNA of fruit, it’s fairly simple.

When Should I Use It?
Use it whenever! It’s not like you have to wait for the strawberry to be ripe before killing it, removing it’s DNA, and putting it under a microscope. Heathen.


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3. DIY Rock Candy
Rock candy is a county fair tradition. Giant, geometrical crystals of sugar that look like the most delicious creation from Krypton’s version of Willy Wonka’s factory. The looks of rock candy suggest an immaculate amount of craftwork from a sugar artisan. Realistically, it’s probably just a carney named Paul that doesn’t wash his hands.

But who cares if Paul washed his hands?
But who cares if Paul washed his hands? (Source: Wikimedia)

Luckily for you and other purveyors of geological delicacies, you can make your very own rock candy right at home. It really is as simple as heat, sugar, and more patience than a successful doctor. Seriously, you’ll need at least 5 day for a good-sized rock candy delight. That’s because sedimentation, the act of science that creates the rock candy, isn’t really a process that can be rushed.

When Should I Use It?
Homemade rock candy, although frowned upon by the frumpier home owners’ associations, is one of my favorite party favor ideas. The only thing to keep in mind… it is a lot of sugar.


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2. Fruit-Powered Battery

When life hands you lemons, you pick four of them, connect them using alligator clips, and create a fruit-powered voltaic battery. Obviously, lemonade would be a tastier end-game for a bushel (gaggle? flock?) of lemons, but we’d love to see lemonade bring an LED to life like this food science idea. (Fun Fact: lemonade can actually conduct electricity and therefore, at least theoretically, could act as the acidic solution in a voltaic battery.)

She's going to have a lackluster day of sales without a juicer for those lemons.
She’s going to have a lackluster day of sales without a juicer for those lemons. (Source: Flickr)

The Fruit-Powered Battery will require a lot of people to go out an find the alligator clips, but these miniature jumper cables really are invaluable when it comes to experiments and demonstrations involving electricity and currents. Aside from that, everyone can get some nails and pennies. Just *send me your address (*don’t). I *will send you a ton of each (*won’t).

When Should I Use It?
This project is best suited for units involving circuits and/or chemistry. While the “wow” factor is pretty awesome, younger scientists may struggle getting more out of it than that.


Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 3.09.48 PM 1. GAK You Can Eat
Remember the first time you touched slime? Didn’t a tiny little piece of you want to bite into that ooey-gooey mass dripping through your fingers? I did, and whether that makes me weird or not, someone else obviously has, too. Otherwise, how would we have a recipe for perfectly edible slime? Huh? Answer me that one!

I'd eat it.
I’d eat it.                                                                                                            (Source: Wikimedia)

The truth is, this edible slime recipe isn’t the most delicious thing in the world. It is edible in the loosest since of the word. Meaning, that while this slime is edible, digestible, and actually good for you if you’re lacking fiber in your diet, it doesn’t taste very good. That’s why you get to experiment! Try to make your edible slime completely edible! Make it taste good!

When Should I Use It?
Once you’ve perfected your edible slime, making it taste like edible slime should (like unicorn poop, me thinks), it’s perfect for Halloween. I mean… c’mon! Kids eating slime around the most science-filled holiday around? Do it!

You’ve got plenty of food science ideas, now. So… make your lab, home, or classroom a delicious exploration of the world according to science!

 

541289_10151141696561242_1371670891_nFresh Prince of the Science Fair.
Writer for Steve Spangler Science.
Dad of 2. Expecting 1 more.
Husband. Amateur adventurer.

Expert idiot.

A Matter of Balance

One of my many “parlor tricks” is to leave a restaurant with the salt shaker balanced on a single grain of salt. My kids just sigh and take it for granted now. salt shaker, grain of salt It might look like a magic trick, but the the salt shaker balancing act is really a feat of science, plain and simple. The beveled edge of most restaurant salt shakers only needs a tiny flat edge to lean against, and voila: magic.

It’s also really easy to do. Easy, and impressive.

Just pour a small pile of salt onto the table top, or a plate, or any absolutely flat surface. Set the shaker into the salt and press until the shaker is well into the salt. Now, tip it and start trying to balance. There’s no rhyme or reason to this part; you just have to tip and balance until you feel the shaker settle, and then you let go. You’ll know when you can remove your hand. You’ll just. . . . know.  Once the shaker is balanced, carefully blow all the rest of the salt pile away.  All you really needed was one grain.

This is an activity that can easily become a habit.

salt shaker at Nick's English Hut

Grains of salt are not symmetrical; they’re fairly square-ish but not perfect. They do, however, have several facets, or flat sides, and that’s what your salt shaker will find to lean on.

magnified grain of salt

A salt shaker will balance more easily than will the pepper shaker because the weight of the salt helps with the balance.  Pepper is a lot lighter.  Oh, it will eventually balance, too, but it’s a lot easier to use the salt shaker.

If the shaker has even a slightly beveled bottom edge, balancing it is easier, but with some practice, you’ll be able to balance almost any kind of container on a grain of salt.  Pop cans, glassware, coins, napkin dispensers. . .  just be careful.  A full or partially full container will balance more easily than will an empty container.  You need a little ballast to lean against the salt facet.

My father used to say that he spent a lot of tuition money for me to go to college and learn this trick all on my own in the cafeteria, but quite honestly, I’ve gotten a lot more enjoyment and actual classroom use from the balancing salt shaker demonstration than I got from Intro to Aztec Sociology 216.  Not but what all that digging into the human heart with the bare hands wasn’t interesting and informative. . . .I mean, when I saw that heart removal scene in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” I understand exactly what was happening.  But I’d still rather share the salt shaker balancing act.

 

Jane GoodwinJane Goodwin is a professor of expository writing at Ivy Tech Community College, a hands-on science teacher for College for Kids, a professional speaker and writer, and a social media liaison  for Steve Spangler Science.  She wanted to be a ballerina and an astronaut, but gravity got the better of her.

The Spangler Demo Team Does the Reverse #ALSIceBucketChallenge

Steve Spangler and his demo team was challenged by a few of our fans and customers to join into the #ALSIceBucketChallenge.

We are a science company after all, so we had to add a science spin to the challenge.

Liquid Nitrogen  is 323 degrees below zero (translation – extremely icy liquid.)

We didn’t dump the liquid nitrogen over our heads. It is so cold, it will cause burns. Instead, our team dumped water into the liquid nitrogen for a completely different effect.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The Spangler Science demo team now challenges… the Ellen DeGeneres Show backstage crew, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Sid the Science Kid (because we want to see a puppet dump water on its head and support ALS).

Donate to the #ALSIceBucketChallenge >

The Experiment of the Week Keeps Them Interested in Science!

School has started for most students by now, and many parents are wondering how to keep their kids interested in science – and other subjects – after school and on weekends.  My suggestion to these concerned and interested parents is to subscribe to the Experiment of the Week!

Steve Spangler Science Making Science Fun

Once you subscribe, you’ll get a super interesting science experiment in your email once a week!  The experiments come with full explanations of the actual science of the experiment, and usually can be done with what’s probably already in your pantry.

Your kids – and YOU – will find yourselves looking forward to every Experiment of the Week; with many families, this is a ritual they all participate in, every week.  Spangler Science’s Experiment of the Week is absolutely free of charge; just send us your email address and enjoy your free experiment – complete with a video explaining it – every week!

science rocks

While you’re signing up, why not check out our Deal of the Day?  You can score some awesome deals with this one!

Whether your children are homeschooled, unschooled, or going to public or private school, all students will benefit from participating in our Experiment of the Week.  In fact, not only will your kids benefit, they’ll look forward to it every week.  Our experiments are far more than merely educational; our experiments are loads of fun, and present scientific principles in ways that will intrigue and interest your kids while teaching them important concepts they’ll be able to apply to other things, as well.

When it’s science fair time, your kids will have sooooo many more cool ideas than the other kids will have!

Did I mention that Steve Spangler’s Experiment of the Week is FREE?  Well, I’m mentioning it again.  We want your kids to become not merely interested in science – we want your kids to become FASCINATED with science.  Come on, sign up for the Experiment of the Week.  You’ll be so glad you did, and your kids will thank you with every  individual experiment they get to experience.

Don’t think YOU will escape being interested and educated, either.  Parents are just as interested as are their kids.  You’ll find yourself anticipating that Spangler Science email as much if not more than Billy and Susie will!

Jane GoodwinJane Goodwin is a professor of expository writing at Ivy Tech Community College, a hands-on science teacher for College for Kids, a professional speaker and writer, and a social media liaison  for Steve Spangler Science.  She wanted to be a ballerina and an astronaut, but gravity got the better of her.

The 4 Elements of a Memorable Science Demonstration

Since starting at Steve Spangler Science in 2009, there’s one question that gets asked of our team more than any other: how do you create a memorable science demonstration? And the truth is, from our customer service team to our production team to Steve Spangler himself, we’ll all give you a different answer. So which answer is right? All of them!

Nobel Prizes for everyone!
Nobel Prizes for everyone!                             (Source: Wikipedia)

No matter who is supplying the formula for a memorable science demonstration, they’re correct. Every demonstrator uses the same 4 elements to create the perfect demo for their group, family, kids, or audience, though their methods may be different. They happen to correspond very well with the 4 classic elements. Most people start with…


DirtEarth – Research
Earth is the most familiar of the elements. We spend every day traversing its dusty, dry surface, but we have no clue what’s actually going on inside of it. For all we know, the core of the earth is a big, bubbling vat of baking soda and vinegar waiting to erupt with dyed carbon dioxide bubbles.

Science fair basics aside, it’s good to reacquaint yourself with the science behind the demonstration you’re going to perform. Even if you’re confident in your answer as to why you can create a teeter-totter by with two candles, it will be beneficial to get a refresher. Who knows, science could have uncovered a different answer!

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The world’s most sinister seesaw results from a children’s demonstration.

Researching your demonstration is also a great opportunity to discover ways of taking your experiment further. Find ways to spin off of your initial demonstration. This is your chance to really find ways of driving your lesson home.


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Water – Practice
More often than not, mysterious happenings come from the water. Flesh eating river fish, mythical monsters, and giant snakes make sure that no human (scientist or otherwise) ever gets too comfortable within a triple-jump of water’s edge.

You shouldn’t be too comfortable in the performance of your demonstration, either. No one (read: actually, literally no one) likes having their demonstration, presentation, slide show, or what-have-you fail to perform. Geysers that don’t explode, launchers that don’t launch, and paper airplanes that don’t do the “plane”-part are all sure-fire ways of winding up red-faced in front of your audience.

IT WAS A JOKE, PEOPLE!
IT WAS A JOKE, PEOPLE!

Now, this is science, so there’s always a chance that things just won’t go your way. THAT is what makes practicing your demo so valuable. Practice gives you the chance at troubleshooting possible issues with your demo. From setup to procedure to clean up, practicing makes sure you’re ready for anything that science throws your way.


air-19227_640Air – Application
Without air, we’re dead. That’s just a fact of life, and YES I intended that horrible pun.

We all require air to run our body. While you never forget how to breathe, we don’t think about it very often, unless we’re really USING our breath. Runner, yoga instructors, midwifes… these people know what it means to really use our breath, because they learned to apply it.

The same goes for so many science demonstrations and lessons. When our minds learn new information, like that hot air has low pressure and rises, we are much more likely to remember it with a direct application. Talk to them about how the downstairs of their house probably feels cooler than the 2nd story or talk to them about weather, wind, and pressure.

Blue and yellow make blellow. Just so you know... it's science.
Blue and yellow make blellow. Just so you know… it’s science.

When demos don’t match up with a solid application, you create the dreaded, “When am I ever going to use this?” You need earth and water to be ready for that one!


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Fire – Passion

Earth is solid, water is liquid, and air is gaseous. Fire is plasma? Fire is flame? Fire is part of a grouping of things called “intangibles” by sports coaches everywhere; just like passion.

Here we see the intangible ability of narcolepsy.
Here we see the intangible ability of narcolepsy.                           (Source: Flickr)

Passion may not be absolutely required to pull off a memorable science demonstration, but it definitely aids in the effort. People of all ages can tell when someone is passionate about what they’re doing. The more genuinely excited you are about the demonstration you’re doing, the more excited your audience is going to be. Your energy is contagious.

Now just go and do it!

 

541289_10151141696561242_1371670891_nFresh Prince of the Science Fair.
Writer for Steve Spangler Science.
Dad of 2. Expecting 1 more.
Husband. Amateur adventurer.

Expert idiot.