Is whipped cream a solid, a liquid, or a gas? What about jam or jello? Oil and water don't mix, right, so how is it possible that mayonnaise is mostly oil and water? How come sugar sinks to the bottom of your iced tea but seems to disappear if the tea is hot? In this hands-on science class, students investigate the chemistry of kitchen mixtures like these. They develop their own experimental questions, conduct experiments, do background reading, and write up their findings.
Starting with the question: What is the best way to make exactly one cup of simple syrup, if you have to use one part sugar to one part water?, the students begin their study of dissolution and the properties of different kitchen solutes, solvents, and solutions, including colligative properties. Next we examine crystalline versus amorphous structure in solids, usually through an experiment involving rock candy. Finally we examine colloids, beginning with vinaigrette and then mayonnaise. Final projects vary but always involve student-developed experiments on the chemistry of kitchen mixtures.
The first lab report functions as the first interim assessment. Depending on the semester, the topic may be solutions or crystalline and amorphous structure in solids. This may be done class-wide, in small groups, or individually.
The final lab report functions as Interim Assessment 4. Each student develops an individual experiment based on background research about a topic related to kitchen colloids. Students present their work to the class and lead a short discussion.
Research culminating in a literature-inspired experimental question, an introduction presenting relevant background information, and a hypothesis that addresses the literature. (This is assigned at least two different times each semester).
Individual or small-group presentations. These take place at different stages of the process of developing and conducting an experiment. Students are expected to share what they know, identify areas that need more work, and then respond to feedback and suggestions from the class.
Experimental designs. Students must develop procedures for testing specific hypotheses.
Analysis. Students must analyze the results of their experiments. They also critique the experimental design, and suggest possible follow-up investigations.