Science Can Be Delicious

CATEGORY: Academics, K-12 Outreach

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Science can be delicious.

That’s the lesson more than 400 Montgomery County Public Schools students learned when they visited Johns Hopkins University’s Montgomery County Campus in April and participated in the King Arthur Flour Bake for Good: Kids Learn Bake Share program. The fourth-graders came from four Montgomery County elementary schools: Farmland, Luxmanor, Ronald McNair and Stedwick. (photo gallery)

This was the third year the campus teamed up with Vermont-based King Arthur Flour on this initiative.

The idea is to teach students the chemistry of bread baking through hands-on demonstrations. As students mixed and measured ingredients in front of their classmates, King Arthur Flour instructor Paula Gray taught the children that yeast is a living organism, that water needs to be just the right temperature to awaken dormant yeast, the role of carbon dioxide in baking and that baking involves a lot of fractions.

Gray used words such as “hypothesis” and “estimate” as she gave her lesson, words students are learning in school. In fact, the bread baking demonstration aligns with the fourth-grade science curriculum on the changing states of matter, properties of matter and the differences between mixtures and new substances.

“This is such a great science experiment,” Gray said. “You get to eat it when you’re all done.”

Alexis Mitchell, 10, of McNair Elementary, said she was surprised to learn how much of a role science and math play in baking a loaf of bread.

“Carbon dioxide is a gas,” Alexis said. “I didn’t know gas was involved in cooking.”

King Arthur Flour donated enough ingredients and supplies for each student to bake two loaves of bread at home. One loaf was enjoyed by the child’s family. Students at Luxmanor, McNair and Stedwick donated their second loaves to Interfaith Works. Farmland students donated their bread to the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless.

Charlotte Garvey, communications manager at Interfaith Works, said in addition to the science, the “other piece of the lesson is about sharing.” On any given night, more than 1,000 people are homeless in Montgomery County.

“Bread is meant to be shared,” Garvey said. “Thank you so much for sharing of yourselves.”

The students’ bread will help make sandwiches, croutons, French toast and other items at the Community Vision shelter in Silver Spring and at the men’s emergency shelter in Rockville.

Arieana Romero, a fourth-grader at Stedwick, said she appreciated the opportunity to donate.

“My mom says, be grateful for what you have because other kids might not have what you have,” she said.

Bringing math, science and community service together was the goal of the program.

"The King Arthur Learn Bake Share program at Johns Hopkins University not only provides a direct application to the science that fourth-grade students are learning at our elementary schools, but it reinforces how science and mathematics can be found in our everyday lives,” said Amy Gensemer, supervisor, Science, Technology and Engineering at Montgomery County Public Schools. “Students are able to speak the appropriate academic language of science after observing the baking demonstration, and build their social emotional skills by applying the science and math to something that can be contributed back into their community through the donation of the bread."

After the bread baking lesson, students spent time on campus doing hands-on science with several community and educational organizations. Nurses from Suburban Hospital taught students how to thoroughly wash their hands and prepare a healthy plate of food. Staff and faculty from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences’ Center for Biotechnology Education taught students how to extract DNA from strawberries and how to make raisins dance. Representatives from Navigant, Shady Grove Adventist Hospital and Montgomery College also participated.