Notes from the field by Ian Rossiter, FoodCorps Service Member:
This past week, I played Hot Potato with Fairview Elementary’s 3rd grade science class… well actually, they cooked potatoes while learning about the physics of heat! With the simple ingredients of local potatoes, salt, pepper, and olive oil, and just a fraction of the tools supplied in Fairview’s brand new mobile cooking cart, students experienced the effects of thermal energy transfer through cooking.
After a quick classroom calisthenics exercise demonstrating particle movement, students were challenged to identify different conductors (such as pots and pans) and insulators (like oven mitts) they might find in the kitchen. This segued into a demonstration of three methods of heat transfer: conduction, convection, and radiation. Although these concepts are often depicted in lesson plans by a cartoon of a man near a fire, students were encouraged to take a chef’s point of view as the class sautéed, steamed, and baked potatoes to observe conduction, convection, and radiation, respectively. To top it off, students then got to taste the results of this science experiment, which excited such commentary as “Don’t tell my mom, but those were the best potatoes I have ever had!”
Having cooked and tasted the potatoes myself, I can safely say that the potatoes did not deserve these exemplary reviews… they were clearly undercooked. This is goes to show: 1) the interest and engagement you can foster in students by incorporating food and hands-on activity in classroom lessons, and 2) the willingness of kids to try (and enjoy!) any food that they have helped to prepare… even if it doesn’t actually taste all that good.