Duchesne Combines Cooking and Chemistry in Elective
At Duchesne Academy, Food and Chemistry was a science elective that 12 seniors took this August and September. The class was taught by chemistry teacher, Amiee Modic.
I asked her why she thought Food and Chemistry was a good idea to pitch as a class. She replied, “Chemistry is all around us, and I love to be able to see the connections to real life in chemistry. Everybody is interested in food." She thought that would be a great way to bring chemistry into 'real life;' "there are a lot of shapes of molecules, and behaviors of things, that are directly related to chemistry that create flavor and texture.”
The students did a project where they investigated a molecule of their choice and subsequently created a molecular model using craft supplies. Students chose an array of molecules, including orange, mint, chocolate, vanilla, and rosemary, and presented their project to the class along with food samples. Madeleine Agee, who chose chocolate for her project, brought a chocolate cake for her classmates to taste.
Another lab activity included separating the colors of grape kool-aid and identifying the specific red and blue dyes. This was an example of how they looked at molecule’s characteristics and observed how that molecule presented, color or flavor. Another day, they made butter and mayonnaise to look at emulsions, and made pancakes with different leaveners (baking soda and baking powder) in them. Sometimes the Upper School Principal, Donald Cramp, and the Upper School Dean of Students, Tatum DiSorbo, tried their foods and gave their commentary.
Student feedback confirmed that a favorite project was the muffin vs. cupcake. In class, they learned the difference between a muffin and a cupcake: muffins are denser and mound-shaped, whereas cupcakes have more air and are flatter. Each student made either muffins or cupcakes at home and brought them to school. They were not allowed to use box mix because part of the activity required comparing recipes and looking at the different ingredient ratios. Then the class would guess what each student made.
Senior Mary Longo said, “We all got to try each other’s muffins, and I ended up taking some cupcakes home and my mom got to review them. Only two people made muffins and I tried a blueberry muffin, and my muffin was a banana nut muffin.
The last week of class, they made gummy bears and marshmallows. These candies have similar ingredients, but one difference is that the marshmallows need to be whipped to make them airier and gummy bears have more gelatin in them as they need to be firmer.
When asked about how the gummy bears tasted, senior Calah Bell said they "tasted interesting, but the smell was… not good”. Madeleine Agee also said, “The gummy bears weren’t amazing. They tasted kinda funky.”
Whether or not the food always tasted the best, the interactive class activities and hands-on projects in the Food and Chemistry class were a big hit among the seniors.
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