Environmental Learning Lessons To Grow! Pure Science


Kitchen Science with Growing Green Hearts:  Chocolate, Cookies, & Crystals

Kitchen science is always hands-on, usually messy, and sometimes filled with surprises.  Here are some science vocabulary words, background information and questions to keep the fun and learning rolling out as fast as your cookie cutters can cut!

When thinking about ingredients and tools used in a recipe ask your crew, “Is each item grown, mined, or both?”  Examples of ingredients that are grown are flour from wheat, eggs from chickens, milk from cows.  Many of the kitchen tools are metal, glass and plastic.  Just as Minnesota’s iron ore, called taconite, provides iron that is used to make steel, aluminium comes from the mined ore called bauxite.   Glass is made from the mineral quartz, also known as silicon dioxide.  Plastics are made from the mineral resource called petroleum.  How about that rolling pin?  Wood is grown- from trees, of course!

Rocks and ores are mixtures of minerals and minerals are made of crystals.  A crystal is an organized pattern of atoms or molecules.  Crystals are all over the kitchen, including common ingredients both mined and grown.  Salt’s mineral name is halite.   Rock salt can be mined from underground and “harvested” from salt pans.  Many cooking stores sell salts from many parts of the world and the added impurities give colors like gray, green and pink.  If you look closely at table salt you can see the cubic crystalline structure.  Sugar is crystalline, but not mined.  If you live in the Midwest, your sugar is most likely processed from sugar beets rather than sugar cane.  The sugar cane plant needs a warmer climate.

Chocolate is a mixture of many chemicals, but it starts with cacao beans from the cacao tree.  The trees need a tropical climate to grow.  In the Twin Cities area, you can visit the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory to see a real cacao tree, touch the bark of a cinnamon tree, smell an allspice plant.  For more information about how chocolate is made check out this  video about Chocolate.  WARNING:  Be prepared to eat chocolate afterwards.

For my family, Christmas is the time of year when sugar cookies abound.  I’d much rather decorate cookies than my house.  Here’s a great sugar cookie recipe that works well with kids.  Keep in mind that…

–       Flour keeps the dough from sticking to the counter and the rolling pin.  Use plenty.

–       Sugar cookie dough is high in butter which softens at room temperature.  If dough gets too sticky but it in the fridge.

–       Chilled dough will be hard and crumbly due to the butter, so play with it a while and the dough will soften and stay together.

–       Cookie cutters are like a geometry puzzle.  How many shapes can kids get together?  What silly shapes can you create by combining cookie cutters?  What shapes fit best to least the least amount of scrap dough?







Play. Learn. Love.

December 2014