Earth Day, on April 22, is nearly here. The American Chemical Society (ACS) annually joins in the day, focusing on chemistry aspects of the environment, through Chemists Celebrate Earth Day (CCED). As Journal of Chemical Education editor Norb Pienta mentions in his April 2017 editorial Teaching about Chemistry Related to Food (freely available), ACS’s selected theme for this year’s CCED is “Chemistry Helps Feed the World.” Past themes have included plants, soil, water, etc., but the topic of agriculture brings it all together, viewed through the lens of chemistry. Where to begin with the theme? Pienta mentions one misunderstood example, corn, and its potential for sharing with students. He also points out that the Journal is rich in resources related to food chemistry. The articles he mentions are mainly directed toward the chemistry of the foods themselves, rather than the agricultural steps it takes to get the foods. Deanna Cullen also had a recent post highlighting ChemEdX resources related to food and cooking.
One of the articles from the April issue also focuses on a final food product—lemon cake. A high school educator in Norway uses cake and the variables involved in its making (e.g., ingredient amounts, baking temperature, baking time) as an opportunity for experimental design. Her article title A Tasty Approach to Statistical Experimental Design in High School Chemistry: The Best Lemon Cake (available to subscribers) describes the evaluation goal—which combination produces the “best” lemon cake? The project involves many considerations, with students making decisions such as which qualities of the cakes to assess in their quest for the “best,” which of the many variables to adjust in the selected recipe, and how to organize a taste test panel.
I could see implementing these parts in a standard high school classroom. But, Liguori takes it even further, with the application of statistical experimental design, which she states that no literature has been reported in connection with the high school classroom. She uses the mathematics program Geogebra, with tools such as making three-dimensional response surface plots for the experiment. I readily admit this is well beyond my current knowledge. But, I see it as an professional development opportunity. It could take the shape of learning more through self-study. It might mean collaborating with a mathematics teacher either at the high school or college level. Or, one might just pull the non-mathematical pieces from the article and use it as a delicious example of experimental design for students. Any way you slice it, it is another reminder that chemistry does help feed our world.
Share and Celebrate
Interested in sharing CCED in your classroom or with other teachers in your area? ACS’s Celebrating Chemistry publication is geared toward readers in fourth through sixth grades, with free PDFs available online in English and Spanish. The ACS ChemClub page also offers an Agricultural Chemistry curated link collection with activities and articles from around the web.
More from the April 2017 Issue
Mary Saecker offers her round-up of all the content from this month’s issue of the Journal. Visit JCE 94.04 April 2017 Issue Highlights.
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