Food Science Activities for Middle School

Instructor: Grace Pisano

Grace has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in teaching. She previously taught high school in several states around the country.

After introducing the ways food science incorporates many biological, chemical and physical properties, use these activities to help students learn more about the makeup of food and scientific principles.

Incorporating Food Science

There are few things that get students, especially middle school students, more motivated about learning than food. With the activities in this resource, students will use everyday food objects to learn more about complex scientific principles. Incorporate these activities wherever they fit in your classroom. There are opportunities for both group and individual activities in this resource.

When doing these activities, make sure to tell students if or when it is acceptable to eat the food and also remind them that food is typically not eaten in a science classroom.

Is it an Acid or Base?

For this activity, students will be testing foods and drinks to see if they are acidic or basic. Then, students will describe if they can distinguish acids and bases by taste.

Put students into their lab groups or small groups of about four. Give each group about 10 food or drink items, with some acids and some bases included. A sample list of acidic foods includes: lemon juice, pineapples, sugary soda, and sauerkraut. A sample list of basic foods includes: tofu, egg whites, corn, coconut milk and baking soda water. For the items that are solids, have students mash the items first. Enough liquid will be produced to test pH. As a control, students should also test the pH of tap water.

Students will use pH strips to test the pH of the foods and then record their results. Although directions vary based on brand of pH strips, students will generally want to put half of the strip into the liquid for about 20 seconds. Afterwards, students can taste the foods that they choose. Collectively, they should talk about how the most acidic foods make their mouth feel vs. how the most basic foods make their mouth feel.

Once all groups have finished, come together to discuss results as a class.

  • Materials Needed: Foods to test pH, pH strips

Does it Contain Sugar?

For this lab activity, students will be testing a variety of foods to see if they have sugar. Begin by talking with students about what sugar is. Then, tell students that sugar is put into many foods today that you wouldn't expect to have sugar.

Put students into their lab groups or groups of about five. Each group will need the materials listed in the materials section.

In their groups, students will make predictions about whether or not the food items have sugar. You will want to use a variety of items including fruits, vegetables, snack foods, drinks, etc.

Then, they will place approximately one teaspoon of food into each test tube. If the food is solid, they should crush it into fine pieces and add water. Groups should also prepare one tube that has only water, as a control.

Once the test tubes are prepared, students should add 10 drops of Benedict's Solution to each tube.

Students should put their beaker with water (half full) onto the hot plate. Once the water begins to boil, they will place the test tubes in individually and record their observations.

If a food contains sugar, it will turn red, yellow, orange or brown. After students have finished their experiments, come together as a class to discuss observations and conclusions.

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