Advent calendar 2015: week two Inspire article

Welcome to the Science in School Advent calendar for 2015

For each week of Advent we will be sharing some inspiring teaching ideas for Christmas, winter and the end of term. Did St Nicolas visit with treats and sweets last night? Well we have some edible teaching treats for this week. And don’t forget the food and drink portions of the 2010 and 2012 calendars as well.

The American Exploratorium site has a whole section on the science of cooking, including a whole section on candy and sugar. I myself am a lover of chocolate which is even more complicated. In Chemistry World this month, Nina Notman (who has written for Science in School in the past) explores how controlling crystal structures and emulsions is the key to good chocolate, including her own trip to a chocolatier. I was taught by my mother to melt chocolate in a bowl over hot water but there are people that use a microwave. If you take out the rotating mechanism you can use chocolate and a microwave to measure the speed of light and then make a delicious melted chocolate dessert. Chemistry Chris talks about Newton’s Law of Cooling and the science of heat transfer while making a molten chocolate cake and at Harvard Pia Sörensen uses both the molten chocolate cake and other examples in her science of cooking course.

While it might be obvious that cooking can be used to teach physics and chemistry, biology can also feature in the kitchen. Denaturing proteins is a key part of cooking as Bitesize Bio explains but you don’t have to use heat. Maria Constantin at the University of Copenhagen shows how you can also use alcohol.

While perhaps less of a Christmassy treat, beans and pulses are a staple food that can also be experimented with.  In their dried form, they can be stored for years and then soaked in water to restore their soft texture. In this science activity from Science Buddies, explore how the temperature of the water used to rehydrate dried black-eyed peas affects how quickly they become rehydrated—and ready to cook up! Perfect for next year, the International Year of Pulses.

Of course, we will all indulge in treats at this time but we should all make sure we don’t eat too much. Obesity is a growing problem and diabetes can also be caused by poor diet, and a poor diet can also change our epigenome. You can find more of our food related activities by using the search and don’t forget that many will be translated into other languages. Until next week!