Building brains and community through Food Science theme

After a week of introduction devoted to food groups and nutrition in the elementary and middle school separately, six multi-age groups of students were formed, including typically 3 front-roomers, 3 back-roomers and 2 middle-schoolers. Students from the middle school prepared fun food science experiments in the morning that they presented to the elementary school students in the afternoon. One purpose was for the older and younger students to interact in still another context than the playground or buddy reading time, helping them know each other and be comfortable with each other, thus helping build our school-wide family. Another purpose was for the students to start the science journal that they will keep year-round, learning to describe experimental procedures, make predictions and draw conclusions, using various graphic organizers. Still another purpose was for the middle school students to act as teachers of the younger students, thus launching their leadership training class.

On the first day, the experiments demonstrated that red cabbage juice is an indicator for acids and bases; the blue solution turns pink when an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice is added to it, or green when a base such as baking soda or detergent is added to it. On the second day, the experiments showed that iodine is an indicator for starch; the orange iodine solution turns blue/black when in contact with starch. Students saw that there is starch in corn starch of course, but also in flour, in a slice of potato, in beans, in rice, etc. , but none in milk for instance. On the third day, the experiments illustrated the way various acids such as vinegar or lemon juice “clean” pennies.

Starting this week, students will dwell deeper into the concepts illustrated in these experiments. The four Explorations teachers will engage the elementary students (front-room and back-room still mixed) into four different topics on a rotation basis: nutrients and calories (and the concept that food is the source of our energy), digestion (and the concept of gastric acids breaking down our food), absorption (and the concept of solutions of nutrients passing through cellular membranes), and plants (and the concept that we can grow our food). There will also be two field trips, one to visit the FAMU Extension Garden, and one to visit New Leaf Market.

To continue engaging your children in food science at home, you can consult the following websites for nutrition:


For experiments, you can make your own red cabbage indicator by either crushing shredded raw red cabbage leaves inside zipped plastic bags with some water and straining the water, or by steaming some shredded red cabbage leaves and collecting the water below the steamer. In both cases, you should obtain a decidedly blue solution that you can use to test the acidity of every food in sight in your kitchen. Betadine, found in pharmacies, or its generic equivalent, works fine as an iodine solution to test for the presence of starch.