Learning in the kitchen


By Robin Young
PREVIEW Columnist

With the holidays upon us, there are many opportunities to bring learning into the home. 

STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is one of those opportunities you don’t have to learn only in a classroom or a lab. In fact, our homes have one of the best laboratories — the kitchen. 

Experimenting in the kitchen is one of the most effective (and tasty) ways to promote the relevance of science. Most kids I know love to eat and make baked goods. Next time your child wants to put on an apron and whip up something in the kitchen, add a little STEM to the mix. Apply the approach listed below to any recipe. 

Take advantage of teachable moments by allowing your child to explore what they are eating. STEM in the kitchen will do far more than just give your kids some practical education. Your children will learn to appreciate every bite. They will also be more empowered to make informed decisions about what they choose to put into their bodies.

Curiosity is at the foundation of a long and positive relationship with STEM.

Start by gathering up all the ingredients and go over them one by one. Discuss where each item comes from. Discover the process and technologies involved in altering the ingredients from their natural state to their current state. Some items require little processing (like eggs), while others go through multiple stages before we purchase them at the store (like sugar). Look at the ingredient labels and talk through the nutritional facts. Discuss serving sizes and measure them out for each ingredient. Discuss options to replace, delete or add ingredients.

Next, explore the tools in the kitchen. Go over safety, same as you would in any science lab. You will use bowls, measuring cups and spoons, a wire whisk or electric mixer, a spatula, a pan and an oven. Chat about the purpose of each item. Are there any alternative tools you could use to make your baked good? What if you cooked it on the stove top instead of the oven? Would the result be the same or different?

Scientific process. Now you and your young chef are ready to bake. The scientific process is very important here. As you start mixing the ingredients together, discuss the purpose of each ingredient and the importance of measuring each item. After successfully completing the bake, allow your children to experiment. Let them think about each ingredient and decide if it is necessary or if the recipe would be improved with a little bit more or a little bit less.

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