I am a terrible baker- just ask my husband. But I know that if there is one surefire way to get my students to pay attention, it’s food. So I decided to let my students do the baking for me… and teach them a little real-world biology along the way!
I put these activities in my “mini-unit” on fungi (which will be gone next year due to curriculum alignment). Next year I will be moving these activities to my cell function unit as part of cellular respiration because I just cannot bear to part with the results!
We start with a basic yeast lab. They put yeast in three test tubes with water. One tube also includes sugar and another includes salt. Each tube is then topped with a balloon and we let them sit overnight. This allows them to identify control and independent variables and make a hypothesis about which balloon will inflate the most ( a surprising number of them guess the one with the salt, for a bunch reasons that I never really understand).
What they find the next day (if all went right) is that the yeast/sugar combo will inflate the balloon. We then discuss how the sugar effects the yeast, usually involving a comparison of how sugars work in our own bodies. Once they have this concept down… it’s time to put it to use. Get bakin’!
I send out an email to all of their parents about a week in advance asking for donations of ingredients and supplies. I really like that this gets the parents involved and lets them know what is going on at school. I keep a list of who is bringing what so that we don’t have a million overlaps. Make sure you give them a due date that is a few days before you actually need them so you can get whatever they don’t bring (for whatever reason). One student was supposed to bring in 4 pounds of butter, and brought none!
Here are the recipes we used:
Overnight Rolls: This one gives you lots of different flavor/topping options
The trick was to find ones that were labeled “quick rise” since lots of recipes involved letting the dough sit for an hour or two and then kneading it again. Obviously, I have a 50 minute window to work with. So some of these were ready to be baked in 45 minutes. Others had to sit over night, but were ready to be rolled and baked when they came in the next day.
I obviously have a lab, not a kitchen. We don’t have home-ec. classes at our school, but one of our special education classrooms has an oven. We also were lucky enough to be able to use the cafeteria’s ovens. So we ran pans of bread up and down the halls for two days. I got several compliments on how nice the building smelled!
What we were left with was a LOT of bread. Cheese bread, sweet bread, cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls. They worked in groups of three, each recipe made 12-24 rolls, and I have 4 classes. So a LOT of bread. I brought in a variety of dippings (marinara, jellies, honey, butter), and we ate bread for a few days. I also let the students bring home bags of bread if they wanted to. It was pretty great.
Again, giving the students a hands-on way to use what we are learning is awesome. The students who maybe aren’t the best test-takers have a chance to shine. Some of these kids really enjoy baking and are good at it. I loved watching them be able to show off in the classroom and have other students come to them with questions. It boosts their confidence and (again) shows them that biology isn’t just a bunch of words in their gigantic textbook.
If you try this out in your classroom, let me know how it goes. Bon Appetite!