Ready? Steady? Let’s Be Scientists!
At the heart of every scientist is someone who observes, explores, and asks a lot of questions. Kids make great scientists – they are naturally curious and they certainly do ask lots of questions. How does a bird fly? Why do boats float? Why do leaves change colour? The world around us is teeming with science and kids can discover science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) wherever they are!
Our task as parents and educators is to provide opportunities for them to explore, to help them make connections, to find answers together, to encourage them to ask open-minded questions, and to invite curiosity into their everyday life. Over time, this will help build confidence and strengthen their understanding of the natural world.
When should we start teaching STEM?
According to children’s book author, Ruth Spiro, it’s never too early to explore STEM concepts! Spiro, the author of the popular book series, “Baby Loves Science” and special guest on Spotlight with Scientists in School, explains that babies often explore science concepts through everyday play. Spiro describes a scenario we all know too well, a baby throwing items continuously from their high chair. While dropping toys may seem like attention-seeking behaviour, Spiro explains that this is a child’s way of exploring gravity. It was simple actions like these that inspired her to write, Baby Loves Gravity. Spiro also suggests that common play such as floating objects in the bathtub, or stacking blocks, also help children understand the world around them. When stacking blocks, toddlers quickly realize that the widest block needs to form the base when building a strong and stable structure – that’s engineering 101! Spiro suggests that encouraging play-based learning helps babies make those real-world connections. Watch the full interview on our YouTube channel!
Exploring Science in the Kitchen!
You don’t need a lab to explore science. Your home kitchen makes an excellent science lab for some cool kitchen chemistry experiments. Baking soda and vinegar are the usual suspects for fun experiments, but a few teaspoons of yeast can also rise to the occasion. The kitchen can become a lab and pizzeria all in one afternoon!
Simple Science Experiment with Yeast!
You will need:
Plastic bottle with lid
1 tsp of sugar
½ cup of warm water (105-110 °F)
1 tbsp of Active dry yeast
What to do:
Using a funnel, add the warm water to the bottle followed by the yeast and sugar. Place the lid on the bottle and slightly shake bottle.
Stretch the balloon a few times before placing it over the mouth of the bottle. Once the balloon is fitted, put it aside for thirty minutes. Ask your children to make some predictions while you wait. What do they think will happen to the balloon?
After thirty minutes, make some observations.
What do you see? Is the balloon expanding? Why does this happen? Does the balloon get bigger after one hour?
You can enrich this experiment by adding more bottles and balloons. What happens if the water added to the yeast is cold? What happens if the water added is too hot? Will adding more sugar to the yeast produce more gas? What happens if you add honey or syrup instead of sugar?
The scientific name for active dry yeast is Saccharomyces Cerevisiae and it is indeed a living thing! When sugar and warm water are added to active dry yeast, the yeast “blooms” or essentially wakes up, and multiplies. As yeast digests sugar, it releases carbon dioxide, some of which bubbles out of solution. Since the bottle is a closed system, the gas produced causes the balloon to expand.
Extension Activity: A Feast with Yeast
Yeast and carbon dioxide also play an important role in making dough rise. Those “holes” you see in bread are a result of carbon dioxide bubbles being produced by the yeast. Try your hand at making pizza dough with yeast, sugar, water, and flour and see how dough rises as the yeast multiplies.
Recipe makes two pizzas.
You will need:
2 cups warm water
2 ½ tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups flour, plus extra for dusting
What to do:
In a small glass bowl, add the yeast, sugar, and 2 tbsp of the flour. Pour in ½ cup of the warm water and mix with a wooden spoon. Let it rest for ten minutes. If you see bubbles forming, this is a good sign that your yeast is multiplying. If not, discard and start again.
Transfer the mixture to the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
Add the remaining flour, salt, and water to the mixing bowl and mix on low speed until it is a workable dough. Add up extra flour if dough is too sticky.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough into a ball. Lightly coat the dough with olive oil. Cover the mixing bowl with a cloth and set aside in a warm, draft-free area for at least an hour or at least until the dough has doubled in size.
Once the dough has risen, divide the dough in half, flatten each piece onto a greased baking sheet and add your favourite pizza toppings!
Bake in a preheated oven at 450 ̊C for about 20 minutes or until the crust is slightly brown and crusty. Buon Appetito!
Enrich the Learning in the Classroom!
Fun and interactive learning can help build a solid foundation in science. Our newest virtual hands-on classroom workshop encourages kids to become chemists, physicists, biologists, and engineers! Let’s Be Scientists is a workshop designed for kindergarten students that nurtures children’s natural curiosities.
Let’s Be Scientists! Explore all kinds of amazing things as a scientist. Investigate what makes yeast grow. Take your animal for a walk and examine how it moves. Analyze a mystery footprint and identify who came to visit. Engineer a structure to keep your friends dry when it rains. Ready? Steady? Let’s be Scientists!
Kitchen Chemistry and the Perfect Brownie!
Meet Ana Cristina, a food scientist, who uses science to investigate how to make the perfect brownie and shares why she loves her job! Discover your STEM Career, is a video series on our YouTube channel. Video is suitable for viewers ages 5-9. Watch video here!