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Food science.

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How much food do you eat in a day? A week? A year? On average, each person in North America eats one ton (more than two thousand pounds) of food every year. But even though we eat a lot of food, most of us don't know that much about the food we eat.

Where Does Food Come From?

If you stop someone on the street and ask which animal produces milk, chances are the person will say, "cows." Cows do produce milk, of course, but so do many other animals--buffalo, yaks, goats, sheep, and camels. Most U.S. grocery stores sell cow's milk cheeses, like cheddar, but they also sell goat cheese and sheep cheese (such as feta).

Humans, hummingbirds, and horses all love sugar. In much of the world, sugar comes from sugar cane. In the United States, however, most of our sugar comes from sugar beets. Sugar beets don't exactly look delicious--they look something like short, fat, whitish-brown carrots. How about salt? Salt comes from seawater or underground salt mines. Some salt manufacturers make a big deal out of selling "sea salt" but all salt originally came from the sea, so "sea salt" is nothing special.

Want Some Salt On Those Grasshoppers?

In some countries, insects are a common source of food. They are nutritious, with lots of protein and minerals. Termites, ants, butterflies, stinkbugs, grasshoppers, cicadas, and bees are all eaten. You may think that the idea of eating termites (which taste like pineapple) is disgusting, but you yourself probably eat insects without realizing it. Lettuce has tiny plant lice called aphids that you can't wash off. The tiny brown spots on citrus fruits may actually be insects. Tiny black specks in flour and bread are often pieces of flour beetles and flour moths. And while you might not want to eat bees, you happily eat bee vomit--it's called honey. Bees swallow nectar from flowers, carry it back in their stomachs to the hive, then vomit it into the honeycomb.

Opening Activity

Levels Pre-A--B: Read The Little Red Hen. Talk about how bread is made. Read Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Talk about how our lives would be different if food fell from the sky.

Levels C-E: Bring an edible flower into class (rose, lilac, tulip, daylily, violet, pansy, orchid--check with a nearby greenhouse or florist to be certain) and eat it. Talk about how some flowers are edible and others are poisonous.

Initiating Questions

1. Where does food come from?

2. Where would we get food if we didn't have supermarkets?


Follow-up Questions

1. What are some foods that come from plants?

2. What are some foods that come from animals?

3. What are some foods that come from plants and animals?

4. What are some things we eat that don't come from either plants or animals?

5. Where would we get food if we didn't have supermarkets?

6. How can you tell if a food is healthy or unhealthy?

Level Pre-A

Main Concept: Food comes from plants and animals.

Picture Activity

Talk with students about where food comes from. Fruits and vegetables are plants that we eat in their original form. But bread comes from plants too (wheat), and so does sugar (sugar cane and sugar beets). Ask students where milk and eggs come from (usually cows and chickens but other animals can provide milk and eggs as well).


Answer: Students should put a square around the milk and eggs. They should draw a cloud around the carrot and banana.

Weekly Lab--Wet or Dry?

The wet bread will grow more mold. Tell students that molds are tiny organisms--they are in the air all the time, but you can't see them because they are too small. When they find a place to grow, like damp bread, they grow in huge numbers and become visible.


Answers: 2 brown foods; 1 apple + 2 strawberries + 3 cherries = 6 red foods.


Discuss different methods of obtaining food: farming (growing vegetables, growing wheat which is used to make bread, milking cows, making cheese and butter from that milk), gathering berries, mushrooms, and other edible wild plants (warn students NOT to try this themselves), and hunting.


Lemon juice contains carbon compounds, which turn black or brown when exposed to heat. When the invisible answer is heated with the light, it turns dark and becomes readable.

Bringing it Home

Answers: Students should circle the milk, the apple, and the sandwich. They should X the French fries, the chocolate bar, and the soda.

Level A

Main Concept: Food comes from plants and animals. Some foods are made from a combination of plant and animal ingredients.


Answers (other answers also possible): P--potato, L--lemon, A--apple, N--nuts, T--tomato

Mushrooms are not plants--they are fungi, which is a different kingdom from plants.

Weekly Lab--Nice Iced Tea

The superfine sugar will work better. The powdered sugar will turn into gummy lumps. This is because powdered sugar has cornstarch in it, and the starch gums up the tea because it won't dissolve in cold water. Discuss with students the fact that foods often have things added to them that we are unaware of (like the cornstarch in the powdered sugar).


If students have difficulty with this activity, you can do it together as a class. Start with breakfast, and say, "If you had cereal or toast or oatmeal for breakfast, put an X under Grains. If you had milk or yogurt for breakfast, put an X under Dairy. If you had a banana or other fruit for breakfast, put an X under Fruits and Vegetables" etc. At the end, tell students that if they are eating a healthy diet, they will probably have Xs in a lot of different boxes.

Writing in Science

Encourage students to be as exact as possible. Example: write, "turkey and cheese sandwich" instead of "sandwich."


Answer: Students should circle flour, egg, sugar, oil, water, and baking powder. Baking powder makes the cake rise. Yeast is what makes bread rise.

Bringing It Home

Discuss with students which foods have more fat, sodium, cholesterol, sugar and protein than others. Tell students that in general, foods with less fat, less sodium (salt), less sugar, less cholesterol, and more protein are healthier. However, some fat, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar are important for good health (also, there is "good" cholesterol and "bad" cholesterol).

Level B

Main Concept: Food comes from plants and animals. Some foods are healthier than others.


Answers (other answers also possible): P - potato, peach; L--lemon, lettuce; A--apple, asparagus; N--nuts, nectarine; T--tomato, turnip


Answers: 1) Sam; 2) Lia; 3) protein

Weekly Lab

Make sure hard-boiled eggs are fully cooled before handling! if a raw egg breaks, make sure any surface touched by the egg (especially students hands) is thoroughly washed with soap and water to avoid salmonella contamination.

The hard-boiled egg should spin faster because it is solid and spins as a unit. The uncooked egg will spin slowly and stop quickly. This is because when you spin a raw egg, you spin the shell, but the shell has to start moving the liquid inside the shell. This uses up energy, making the egg spin slowly.

Writing in Science

You will need lemons, Q-tips, and a lamp without a shade for this activity.

Lemon juice contains carbon compounds which turn black or brown when exposed to heat. When the invisible answer is heated with the light, it turns dark and becomes readable.


Answers: Anne and Bobby like foods that have two of the same letters in a row.

Jelly rolls: Yes; Pickles: No; Chicken: No; Broccoli: Yes

Bringing it Home

(Please see level A.)

Level C

Main Concept: Foods come from plants and animals. Many foods are made by combining other foods.


Answers: 1) beg (to ask for); 2) super (often informally used to mean "excellent"); 3) egg beater (a kitchen appliance for thoroughly mixing eggs, batter, etc.); 4) scorn (to mock or jeer, to treat with contempt); 5) sublime (outstanding); 6) speedy (very fast)

Bonus: Super and sublime can have similar meanings--a terrific cake could be described as super or sublime. Review meaning of each word with students.

Weekly Lab--Root Beer Floats?

The diet drink should float, while the regular drink should sink. This may be surprising because both cans are the same size and have the same amount of fluid. But one can is heavier. Have students read the ingredients. They should see that one can has sugar while the other has aspartame (sugar substitute). Pure aspartame is MUCH sweeter than sugar, so they don't need to put in very much to sweeten the soda. This means that there is much more sugar in the regular soda than there is aspartame in the diet soda - which makes the regular drink weigh more. The result is that the can of regular soda is denser than water (and thus sinks), while the can of diet soda is less dense than water (and thus floats).


Answers: 6 eggs; 6 + 1.5 cups flour = 7.5 cups flour; 1 cup oil; 4/3 tsp baking powder = 1 + 1/3 tsp baking powder; 3 cups sugar

The baking powder causes the cake to rise. Yeast makes bread rise.

Bonus: Eggs come from animals (chickens). Oil and flour both come from plants.

Writing in Science

(See WEEKLY LAB.) Discuss with students why one can floats and the other sinks.


Answers: recipe 1) chocolate cake; recipe 2) apple pie; recipe 3) strawberry ice cream


Answers: Anne and Bobby like foods that have two of the same letters in a row.

Possible answers for foods that Anne and Bobby don't like: fish, bread, tea, chocolate

Possible answers for foods that Anne and Bobby like: broccoli, jelly, coffee, bubble gum

Level D

Main Concept: Food comes from plants and animals. Your nose is important for tasting food. Some scientists are trying to create plants that provide "better" food.


Answers: 1) ton--more than 2,000 pounds;

2) m--manure; animal poop; 3) e--sugar beets-whitish-brown roots that we get sugar from

Weekly Lab--The Nose Knows

Safety note: sure that students do not have any food allergies before giving, them food.

Students should have more difficulty telling the difference between foods when they don't use their nose. Noses can tell the difference between a huge number of smells, while tongues can only detect a few different tastes. Food flavor comes more from smell than from taste (about 10-20 percent of flavor comes from our tongues). If the students do not have more success telling the difference between the two flavors of pudding when using their noses, the smells of the two flavors of pudding may not be strong/different enough. You can try with other similarly textured foods such as apple and pear, orange and lemon, or sliced carrots and radishes.


Discuss with students the formula for determining the percentage of correct guesses with nose plugged. They divide their correct guesses by 6 because there were a total of 6 guesses with nose plugged and then they multiply by 100 to get a whole number. They should use this same formula to get the percent correct with nose unplugged. Explain that the percent wrong can be obtained by subtracting the percent correct from 100 because the two together add up to ALL of the guesses, or 100%.

Writing in Science

It is important to close your eyes so that only your mouth and/or nose are being used to tell the flavor of the pudding.

Scientists always repeat experiments multiple times. This improves the accuracy of their results. If you only do an experiment once, your answer may be a fluke--averaging the results of many trials means the answer will be much more accurate.


Answers: A) pancake; B) scrambled eggs; C) oatmeal; D) hot tea; E) orange juice

Bonus Answer: They are all breakfast foods!

FYI--Furthering Your Interests

(Please see level E.)

Level E

Main Concept: Food comes from plants and animals. Some foods are healthier than others. Certain scientists are trying to create plants that provide "better" food.


Answers: aphids; salt mines; cane; protein


Weekly Lab--Focusing on Fat

The French fries, potato chips, and cream should become the most transparent due to having the most fat, while the carrot, mushroom and grape juice should not let light through. It is fine to use other foods if these foods are not available! Try to choose some that will be high fat and some that will be low fat (see WRITING IN SCIENCE for list).


Answers: 1) 7; 2) 8 (Joshua)--5 (Anthony) = 3; 3) 2 + 2 + 2 + 5 + 2 = 13; 4) Wednesday (3)

Writing in Science

Discuss with students that some fat is important but that it is not healthy to eat too much fat. Generate a class list on the board of high-fat and low-fat foods. High fat foods include nuts, cheese, bacon, butter, cookies, cake, and beef hamburgers. Low fat foods include most fruits and vegetables (except avocado), skim milk, pretzels, and bagels.


Discuss with students how to actually carry out these experiments. For example, if testing which brand of popcorn pops fastest, you have to use the same microwave and the same power level to test each brand. You should also test each brand more than once in order to be more accurate and then average the times. If testing which liquid freezes first, you need to put the same amount of each liquid in the same type of container on the same shelf in the freezer - keep everything the same except the type of liquid.

FYI--Furthering Your Interests

Some potential benefits of genetic engineering:

1. Scientists might be able to create foods that do not cause any allergies.

2. Scientists might create foods that grow in poor soil conditions. This could allow food to be grown on land that would otherwise be barren.

3. Scientists might create plants that produce more food for the same amount of space--for example, an apple tree that produces two times as many apples.

4. Scientists might create plants that are very healthy but still taste great--like brussels sprouts that taste like strawberries.

Some potential downsides of genetic engineering:

1. Scientists might accidentally create a food that causes strong allergic reactions.

2. Scientists might accidentally create a food that makes people sick.

3. By replacing natural plants with newly-created plants, we might damage the environment.

4. By replacing natural plants with newly-created plants, we might accidentally replace a plant needed by certain animals to survive and thus cause extinction of that animal.


There are about 10 garbage cans full of wasted food for each person in North America a year. That's about 550 pounds of garbage.


You have probably eaten bugs Without realizing it.


Heavy cream weighs LESS than light cream!


Stinging nettles can be eaten in soup or stuffed into pasta after disarming the stinging hairs by blanching in boiling water.


Some students may have allergies or health conditions that make it dangerous for them to sugar.

Science says...

Salt does not come from plants or animals. It comes from seawater or underground salt mines.


New Words


sugar cane

sugar beets

Where does food come from? Eggs come from chickens. Milk comes from cows. Fruits and vegetables (veg-e-ta-bles) are plants.

Sugar cane (Su-gar cane) and sugar beets are plants. Sugar comes from plants.


For each letter below, write the name of a food from plants.






Weekly Lab

Nice Iced Tea

Adult Supervision Required

Teachers: See Teaching Notes!

You need: unsweetened iced tea, powdered sugar, superfine sugar and a teaspoon

Step 1: Stir 1 teaspoon of powdered sugar into 1 cup of iced tea.

Step 2: Stir 1 teaspoon of superfine sugar into 1 cup of iced tea.

Step 3: Look at both glasses of iced tea and taste both glasses of iced tea.



Fill in the chart, below. If you had cereal with milk for breakfast, put an X under Dairy (milk) and an X under Grains (cereal)in the Breakfast row.

 Dairy Grains Fruits and
 milk, yogurt, bread, cereal, vegetables
 cheese crackers, pasta

Writing in Science

Keep a food journal. For one day, write down every single thing you eat.


For breakfast, I ate


For lunch, I ate


For dinner, I ate


For snacks, I ate


Which ingredients (in-gre-di-ents) are used to make cake? Circle them.


Do you know which ingredient makes the cake rise?


Is it the same ingredient that makes bread rise?

Brinqinq it Home

Look in your cabinet. Find a food that comes in a box or a can. Ask an adult to help you find the nutrition information (nu-tri-tion in-for-ma-tion). Write down the amount of total fat, protein (pro-tein) and sodium (so-di-um). Sodium is another name for salt.

Name of food:

Total Fat: g (grams)

Protein: g (grams)

Sodium: g (grams)


Bring your answers back to school and compare with a friend.

Which animal has a tongue covered with teeth. "A snail, of course!"

"You'll learn more about snails in our next issue!"


Weekly Resources

Helpful Sources for Planning Your Science Weekly Classroom Activities

Recommended Resources For Kids:

* Muller, Eric. While You're Waiting for the Food to Come. New York: Orchard Books, 1999

* Ontario Science Center. Foodworks. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1987

Recommended Resources

For Teachers:

* Wolke, Robert L. What Einstein Told His Cook. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2002

* McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking. New York: Scribner, 2004

Internet Resources:
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Publication:Science Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 17, 2007
Previous Article:Sharks.
Next Article:Social insects.

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