After being invited by Angela Nelson of Champaign, Illinois' Next Generation School, College Chefs' Chef Stephen Cash presented some interesting food science to 3rd grade students. Below is a summation by Chef Stephen Cash following his presentation:
The STEAM program at the Next Generation School in Champaign is an after-school program for K-8 students that focuses (as you might expect) on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math. This summer, the program zeroed in on food-related issues. The students explored the physics and chemistry of cooking, and also studied issues such as safe food production, sustainability, organic production and GMOs. I was asked by the program director, Angela Nelson, to provide a presentation to the students on the topic of ‘Healthy Food Choices'.
In order to really approach the topic in a practical way, and also to emphasize the scientific aspect of the subject, we started by talking about what the science of Nutrition really is, and about what the basic building block of food are – Protein, Carbohydrates, Lipids, and Water – and what those compounds do in your body. We emphasized the fact that Nutrition is a very young science – less than two hundred years old, really, compared to physics and chemistry, which have both been studied in a modern fashion for at least four hundred years apiece. We talked about the fact that your body needs all of the building blocks of food. It needs Protein for structure and process, Carbohydrates for energy, Lipids for insulation and certain processes, and of course water. Plus, your body needs lots of different vitamins and minerals. So problems only arise when we consume these things in the wrong amounts, or when we eat things that aren’t in these categories – additives, preservatives, pollutants, etc.
After we identified all the different building blocks, we identified good examples of each category. For example a potato is a carbohydrate, beef jerky is protein, and butter is a lipid. We also talked about combinations, like the fact that beans, legumes and grains are all really combinations of protein and carbohydrate. Then, the kids had a scavenger hunt! I had hidden about thirty different foods all over the building, and Angela and I made six bins – each labelled with a building block or combination. The kids had to find all of the food, and sort it into the proper bins. I had also brought several examples of food with high levels of added sugar or other chemicals. After the scavenger hunt, we spent some time looking at the nutrition labels of these foods and talking about whether or not they would be good for you, and why.
The whole thing lasted about an hour and a half, and the kids had a great time. They seemed to really get the idea that the best food doesn't come in boxes. The STEAM program has come to an end this year, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity to do it again next year!
--Chef Stephen Cash