Hello! Welcome back to our monthly post that will focus on STEAM activities and snacks you can do at home with your family or with your troops!
January can seem like a time when there’s not much going on – the holidays have passed, decorations are being put away, and it feels like it gets colder each day. January is also the perfect time to incorporate fun and creative STEAM projects for your family and Girl Scouts to overcome those “January doldrums.” This food science activity combines BOTH the STEAM and a snack! There are so many more STEAM projects out there and if you have a favorite or a new topic you’d like to see please let us know in the comments.
Why food science?
Food science is simply the study of food! Food Scientists use various scientific and engineering methods to explore the food we eat every day. They take a closer look at the physical (what we can see), microbial (what we can’t see), and chemical makeup (how different ingredients interact) of food. Food Scientists apply their findings to develop safe, nutritious, and sustainable foods. They also create innovative packaging that are used in stores and supermarkets. A Food Scientist’s job contributes to ensuring that our food supply is:
- Tastes good
- Easy to prepare
Food Scientists use creative thinking to solve problems and come up with brand new food products and packaging. So this is a great opportunity to enable girls to think outside-of-the-box and expand their creativity to help make the world a better place. A great way to guide your girls’ thinking is through the stages of creative thinking:
- Preparation: The very first step of the creativity process; it refers to the curiosity of an individual to explore a problem. At this stage, you identify the problem and collect all the information you need in order to properly formulate it and start thinking about possible solutions. This is when you have to set your goals, conduct research, map your thoughts and brainstorm.
- Incubation: During this stage, you might stop thinking directly about your problem as you begin to combine your thoughts putting your imagination in action. You don’t have to find a solution now, but this is the beginning of its construction.
- Illumination: This is when your ideas come together becoming one piece in a logical manner. It is what is known as the “aha” or “eureka” experience.
- Evaluation: At this stage, you need to evaluate the solution that came as an epiphany into your mind. Ask for feedback and make any adjustments needed in order for your solution to be valid and finally approved.
- Implementation: The final step of the creative thinking process is to transform your solution into a final product. Implement your ideas and make changes until you are pleased with the result.
What if I’m not an expert?
We are not all food scientists, and it’s okay to feel like we don’t know enough to lead the girls in a food experiment. But remember you do! Think back to the time when you were young and were told not to play with your food – for food scientists, using food for something other than a meal or snack is actually their job – so embrace what comes along with this activity and refer back to the 5 stages of creative thinking.
If you are feeling you want more expert knowledge reach out to your troop parents, friends, relatives or other GSHPA troop leaders on the GSHPA Facebook page to see if there is a food scientist or someone who works in the food industry that you can invite to come talk to your girls.
How do I get started?
Take some time to look over the 5 stages of creative thinking. These stages are not only helpful for this activity, but can be applied to almost all activities and situations in life and Girl Scouting.
Take a look at the following links to read about cooking experiments and the different branches of food science. If your girls are interested in learning more about food science, have them do research on different colleges, universities, and companies that offer or utilize food scientists.
- The (Food) Science of Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Experimental Cookie: Teaching Kids Science Through Baking
- What is Food Science?
- Why Food Science Matters
- Penn State Department of Food Science
- What kind of careers do Food Scientists have?
Our activity is a great start to partially completing Step 2: Discover the Possibilities in the Brownie, Junior, and Cadette STEM Career Exploration Badges. This badge explores 6 different fields of STEM careers and food science is listed under the Food & Agriculture field:
- Computer science
- Creative technology & design
- Food & agriculture – a field that focuses on growing, cooking, and consuming food. It includes careers such as a baker, farmer, food scientist, chef, agricultural engineer, urban farmer, and agricultural scientist.
- Health & wellness
- Nature & environment
Materials: at least 2-3 kinds of cookies (use your favorites, granola bars work great too), frosting (as many flavors as you like, or you can use Nutella, jams, etc.), sprinkles, plates, cups, spoons, butter knives, paper towels/towels, multiple pieces of paper, pencil, things to color with. *(Cookies and frosting can be swapped out for healthier choices, use whatever snack foods you like!)
Set up a separate table or section of table where you are working with all the food supplies: cookies, frostings, sprinkles, etc. This is where girls will go when they need more supplies. Use plates for the cookies and small cups or bowls for the frosting and sprinkles.
For this activity, the girls will act as food scientists to come up with a brand new cookie! Girls will use existing cookies and materials to create several cookie samples, document their cookie creation steps, design cookie packaging, and then share their ideas. Throughout this activity, break the steps into each of the 5 steps of creative thinking. Remember – creativity is a process that results in generating new ideas OR transforming old ideas into new ones. You will help the girls create new cookies OR transform ones into a brand new idea.
Introduction to the Girls: Start the activity by talking to the girls about what a food scientist is and introduce the 5 stages of creative thinking process. Refer to the list of questions & talking points:
- Have you ever heard of food science/food scientists?
- Raise your hand if you like to cook or bake – some of you are closer to food science than you think!
- Have you ever wondered how different foods or snacks at the grocery store are created? They are designed and developed by food scientists! They think of new and innovative ways to create food for us to eat every day.
- Ask about favorite snack foods and things they’ve seen at the grocery store.
Step 1: Preparation
- Explain to the girls that they are acting as food scientists that have been tasked with creating a new cookie. They’ve been given certain samples and need to create a new combination.
- Pass out paper and pencil. Have the girls fold their paper so it creates three different sections. This is where they will write down their notes for the three different kinds of cookies they will create. Girls should include the following info for each cookie:
- Name, ingredients/samples used, and a brief description of what the cookie is like/tastes like.
Step 2: Incubation
- This is where girls are able to gather supplies to create their THREE cookie samples.
- Encourage them to try and make three different types of cookies if possible.
- Let girls’ creativity and imagination run wild in this step. Remind them that we are scientists, so we must write down our ideas and steps we take in designing each cookie so we can refer back to them later.
Step 3: Illumination
- During this time, girls should have all three cookies made.
- Once they have their three samples, they will choose ONE cookie to move forward with.
- This step is important, as food scientists create many different samples but only ONE ends up getting chosen.
- Have them review the notes they took about each cookie.
- Who would like this cookie/who is the best consumer?
- Is this cookie easy to eat or really messy?
- Remind younger girls that even though they have to pick just one cookie, the time they took to create all three is so important! Without creating and testing their cookies, they wouldn’t know which would be the better of the three they created.
Step 4: Evaluation
- Have the girls share their cookie ideas with each other and get feedback.
- Feedback is great because it can help the girls improve their cookie designs and make them even better.
Step 5: Implementation
- The final step is to transform their solution into a final product – implement the changes they received from the feedback.
- Once their cookie creation is complete, girls will complete the last step – use their imagination to create what their cookie packaging will look like!
- Girls will use paper, pencil, and things to color with.
- To help them think of ideas, grab any boxes or packages of food in your kitchen and have the girls take a look:
- Colors, shape, size, where the name of the cookie is, etc.
- If you have extra boxes, tape the girls’ pictures onto a box to bring it to life!
- When they are ready to begin, have them draw what their cookie box/packaging looks like.
- For older girls, take it one step further and ask about packaging materials (plastic, paper, etc.), are the materials sustainable or environmentally friendly, how many cookies are in each package, etc.
Present their products
Make sure to leave 10-15 minutes, depending on how talkative your group is, to review with them.
Once the girls have finished creating their packaging, have each of them share their cookies! Have them share as much information about their new creation as they want. To help guide you, ask girls these questions:
- What is the name of your cookie?
- How did you decide on the flavor?
- How did you decide on your cookie packaging/box?
- What’s your favorite thing about your cookie?
- Who do you think would buy your cookie if it was sold in stores?
- Has this activity inspired you to learn more about food?
Congratulations, you did it! You deserve a snack – eat your cookie creations! Remember those cookies that didn’t get chosen? Time to snack on those! If you have extra cookie creation supplies, design another snack to enjoy!