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I am planning a "Top Chef" competition for my students to learn about organic molecules. I was thinking about having students create menus based on a specific type of food (ie. Italian, Indian, etc). They would have to explain what organic molecule is in each part of the menu, and then the best created meal would win. I am looking for suggestions if someone else has created a similar activity, or if you have ideas of how this could be very meaningful for students. Thanks!
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This sounds like an excellent idea, did you plan on having the students actually generate the menu? will they be making them during the school day or will they be bringing it in from home? have you uploaded the assignment by chance I would love to use it with my classes
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I haven't actually done the assignment yet. I am in the process of planning it. I think it would be great if students could bring in the menu, but that would also take a large amount of time. I was thinking about having them just plan the menu and presenting it through a PowerPoint presentation. I would love some suggestions if you have an idea of how it would work well. Any suggestions are greatly welcomed!
Once I get everything designed I will upload the lesson plan.
Your idea reminded me of the "Food Around the World" project we did when I was in 5th grade. Groups researched a particular food for their assigned country. They prepared the dishes at home and made attractive display that advertised their food and their country.
Could students work in groups to create a simple menu featuring organic molecules that you assign? Each person in the group could prepare one of the menu items and they could create a display that serves to advertise and educate their "consumers" - then other classes and teachers can taste test. A rubric would be an easy way to let visitors do your grading for you! :)
Then again, I could have completely missed your intention on this...
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Another idea would be to have them consider how their meal fits into the diet/nutritional needs for them in a day. I'm not sure what grade you teach, but my high school students could easily do the project you outlined and also use the ingredients list to calculate the percentage of daily servings contained in the meal. That would wrap in some other science skills that you could use for data comparisons against the different meals created.
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I like the idea a lot. In each type of food, there will likely be several different proteins, carbohydrates, nutrients, and minerals. It could be a lot to research! Are you planning to have them focus on a specific type of compound? Perhaps selecting a couple per dish and then extending the analysis to include how the compounds are used in the body as well as reactions would make it even more real. Do you have them include diagrams?
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Another thing I just thought about-how about chemical reactions that occur as the food is being prepared? What causes the change in the color on the top of the creme brulee, or oil to become mayonnaise? How does the seafood "cook" in ceviche?
You might also look at some food-borne illnesses caused by improper handling of food, and what the chemical reactions are behind them.
What a practical idea. I would love to see your lesson plan when you get it done.
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I would also like to see the lesson plan when it's complete.
Additionally, you might want to check out the SciGuide on Food Safety.
Piggybacking on David's comment, there are also science objects on:
What Is Food?
What are nutrients?
What happens to the food I eat?
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What a great topic! I'd really like to see the lesson plan once you finalize it. I'd also be very interested to see how the students respond.
I've included a collection I put together on food chemistry. I hope it helps!
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This is a good idea but a huge topic. I found an interesting connection that would work well with a biology teacher. I am going to upload the science object as another perspective. What happens to the food you eat?
Nutrition: What Happens to the Food I Eat? (Science Object)
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The Nutrition SciPack contains a great deal of information about the chemistry and biology related to the food we eat. The same information is contained in the related Science Objects as well. "What Happens to the Food I Eat" and "What is Food?" described above are two of the Science Objects in the SciPack. The other two are listed in the attachments below.
Nutrition: What is Food? (Science Object)
Nutrition: What are Nutrients? (Science Object)
Nutrition: What Choices Lead to a Healthy Lifestyle? (Science Object)
ACS has a video Thanksgiving and Chemistry: What's the Connection?that discusses some of the kitchen chemistry reactions, including turkey pop-up timers, carbohydrate breakdown, antacids, and using baking soda to make bread rise. The concepts are simple, and the demonstration is fun and interactive for students. The video was captured in a college classroom, but presented in a manner that it could be used for late elementary through high school, especially that day before Thanksgiving break when students don't seem to be as focused. There are several other videos demonstrating other kitchen chemistry as well that you may want to investigate.
Katherine, that is such a creative and engaging way to introduce organic molecules! Using the "Top Chef" hook will make it that much more engaging. I can't wait to see the lesson plans. It sounds to me like this will be a great activity to write up and submit to the NSTA journal when you are done!
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I like the Top Chef idea, and everyone has shared some excellent ideas and resources.
I think if you are going to have a "Top Chef" focus, then you will want to have the groups do some cooking and have a "taste off" with a panel of judges, similar to the TV program. This would be very engaging for the students.
Cooking is all about food chemistry, after all. I know I became a much better cook when I took Organic Chemistry in college. I love the suggested tie-ins to Nutrition and Healthy Diet too.
The students could be judged on presentation of the chemistry background information, taste of food and their research/presentation on health and nutrition.
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I have an anatomy class and we just finished up on presentations of vitamins and minerals. This could be added to your lesson. I also found a couple of sites where the students can figure out their caloric intake for one day, it focused on fats and calories. I also had the students keep a log for 30days what they ate. I wanted them to realize what they were eating and how healthy it was or not healthy their diets were.
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I have forgotten where I have seen this idea. Our school always does food drives during the holidays. Before budget cuts, we sent students down to the food bank once a month to work for a couple of hours sacking food. Anyhow, the idea was for students to organize the food into parts of the plant - flowers, seedes, stems, leaves, etc. What if you were to arrange the food by highest percentage of organic molecule - carbohydrates, fats, or protein? Get students to read food labels, do a little math, and be connecting the organic molecule to the food they actually put in their mouth.
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Susan wrote, "What if you were to arrange the food by highest percentage of organic molecule - carbohydrates, fats, or protein? Get students to read food labels, do a little math, and be connecting the organic molecule to the food they actually put in their mouth."
What a marvelous idea. This a great way to incorporate math into the science curriculum and also to teach your students the importance of looking at the nutrition labels. I have also had anatomy students keep a food log. We did it during our unit on the digestive system. Some of my students were very surprised that their so called "healthy" choices were not so healthy. That is why I like the new food pyramid. Do you have your students determine some healthier options to their not so healthy choices? Do you talk about "superfoods."
I look forward to hearing your response.
It has been a while since I have had to teach nutrition even at the middle school. When I was in the high school, I had students pick a meal from McDonalds and figure the general nutrition - protein, carbs, sodium, etc. Then I had them pick their favorite meal from Subway. They found that while lower in fat, Subway was loaded with sodium. We discussed the implications of eating too much sodium in class. I had them look through both menus and choose a meal that may not have been their favorite, but was balanced and nutritionally sound. A bit more difficult when you start looking at complete nutrition...more than calories, carbs, and fats.
Along the same lines of nutrition, but changing the conversation a bit. This is more about evaluating the label and reading the ingredients. Has anyone seen the products made by Sensible Portions. I am referring to the Veggie Straws and Apple Straws. Now, Sensible Portions don't make any claims that are false. Their name is a bit suspect.
I was envisioning letting the students go to the website and read their information, having bags of the chips available for students to read. Before letting the students read the information, I would show them the bag and ask, what do you think when you see this? Have students write their thoughts. Then, let them research. Give them other guiding questions, such as, What claims does the bag make? What nutritional claims does the website make? Are any of these claims unsubstantiated? Then the big question, are their vegetables in veggie straws? Are their apples in apple straws?
The answer would be yes, but the vegetable and apple ingredients are far down the list. Next to last on both, if I remember correctly. (I have joked with other teachers that I could eat a bag of veggie straws and if the V8 commercials are true, I would still walk around with a zero above my head for vegetable servings.) Just an exercise in critical thinking skills to emphasize the importance of actually reading the ingredient list. The bags don't make any unsubstantiated claim, but they do lead people into thinking they are eating something healthier than they are.
Katherine wrote, "I am planning a "Top Chef" competition for my students to learn about organic molecules. I was thinking about having students create menus based on a specific type of food (ie. Italian, Indian, etc). They would have to explain what organic molecule is in each part of the menu, and then the best created meal would win. I am looking for suggestions if someone else has created a similar activity, or if you have ideas of how this could be very meaningful for students. Thanks!"
I am wondering how your students liked using the "Top Chef" competition to learn more about nutrition. Would you care to share what you learned with the forum?
Thank you so much for all of your replies, they were extremely helpful as I designed and implemented the project. I was not able to take as much time for this project as I would have liked, but I was able to give 3 days to the students to do the project. Basically, I introduced organic molecules and then the students were broken into groups. Each group chose a genre of food to focus on, and then they had to research and plan a menu for an Appetizer, Salad/First Course, Main Course, and Dessert. After they designed their menus they found recipes and researched the ingredients in each item to figure out which category of organic molecules the foods fit into. They have to find at least 2 facts about the organic molecules for each food item, and each person was responsible to have 10 facts total. Due to the lack of time and facilities to actually cook the food, I did not have the students make the food. Instead, they designed posters to look like place settings and put on pictures of the food items. I have attached the sheet I gave students along with the rubric for the students.
Top_Chef.doc (0.04 Mb)
Thank you for sharing your student handout and rubric. What a great way to have your students apply and synthesize what they are learning. I'm sure they were very motivated.
They are presenting their menu posters tomorrow, so I will take some pictures of the final product and put them up. The students have been highly motivated and focused on the project. They are excited for the competition tomorrow, and are anxious to see what dishes end up being the best.
Thanks for keeping us posted and providing the lesson plan and rubric for your creative idea, Katherine. I can't wait to hear how the competition goes. I hope you will eventually decide to share this great activity as a 5 E lesson plan and write it up for the NSTA science journal! It is a winner.
I love the top chef idea for organic molecules! I participated in a teacher Top Chef competition that was so much fun. We were presented with a pile of cookies/candy and told we had 20 minutes to design a lesson using the ingredient we chose and present it to the class. I've always wanted to adapt this idea into my own classroom. Thank you for sharing!
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Have those of you interested in the chemistry of cooking checked out the exporatorium http://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/
Explore recipes, activities, and Webcasts that will enhance your understanding of the science behind food and cooking.
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Here is a small collection that I put together on the topic of teaching chemistry with cooking
You can also integrate nutrition in the organic compound unit. A McDonalds Happy Meal many of the organic compound components, such as lipids, proteins are carbohydrates.
Blend a Happy Meal together and use it as a mystery substance for students to guess.
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That is a wonderful idea to connect the idea of nutrition to organic chemistry, really driving home the relevance factor. My students were baffled at the idea that they consumed DNA. Does anyone know a way to measure the fat content from the blended happy meal or other nutritional test?
You are right, Angie. For many students, they do not realize that DNA is being consumed. They also have trouble making connection with nitrogen found in living things.
Thanks for the suggestion, I will try to incorporate that next year. My students did ask about DNA, since I did not make them include that in the menu. As we talked about it they realized that it was in everything that ate. It was awesome to watch them make the connection that the DNA must be in their food because their food came from living things.
Next time I do this you will have to come in for the day!
A fabulous site for teh science of cooking is here
Kind of going off on a tangent here...but an epiphany I had while putting together a calorimetry lab comes to mind here. We were attempting to determine the calorie content of different food items using specific heat and water. The lab didn't really work out to well, but one connection I tried to have the kids get was the different ways the foods burned. The three foods we used were a cheese puff, marshmallows and pecans. All 3 items had a similar calorie content but the cheese puff and the marshmallow burned up in about 10-15 seconds, where the pecan takes 6-7 minutes to burn. I tried to get them to think about what organic macromolecule was most represented by each food. Marshmallow/Cheese puff are carbs where the pecan is mainly lipids (oil)...and then draw the connection to how carbs are for short term energy where lipids are for long term.
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