Food STEM

Food is a hot-topic at the moment – as is sustainability and grow-your-own food. I’ve always been fascinated with it and thought this would be a great season for you to get a bit more familiar with the story of food. Also, with the current lack of recycling in many council areas – I’ll be providing a few easy ideas to make your own recycled containers.

Food STEM Facts

  • Bananas are berries but strawberries aren’t
  • The most stolen food in the world is cheese
  • Large groups of pistachios can spontaneously combust
  • There are 7,500 varieties of apples
  • Oscar winner Jamie Foxx is an avocado farmer
  • Avocados vary depending on location grown (Mexican ones are the best for making guacamole)
  • Wild Garlic is also known by many different names – including Ramsons, Wood Garlic & Bear Leek
  • Nutella uses 25% of the world’s hazelnuts
  • The most expensive pizza in the world costs $12,000
  • Nutmeg is a hallucinogen
  • The red food dye for Skittles is made from boiled beetles
  • In Japan, chefs study for 2 years to qualify to serve pufferfish

Activity 1

Food Journeys

Where does your food come from? And why does it come from so far away?

You will need:

  • Food packaging
  • Worldmap/globe/ Google
  • Measuring tape
  • Paper
  • Pen

Gather lots of different food packaging – include a wide range for example fresh fruit, meat (if you eat it), and pantry items (like rice or tinned beans). Have a look at where the food originated from and or where it was packaged.

Can you find these places on a globe/Google maps? Discuss reasons why it might have travelled so far – is the climate different?

We also looked at transport route options – how could the food have gotten to us? Via boat? Lorry? How many people do we think were involved in the entire journey from picking to packaging to transporting to stocking to stacking the shelf? How much did the item cost?

We also used a measuring tape to measure distances (in cm) on the globe and write them down to practise number formation. Of course for more advanced learners you could convert and calculate the distance in miles (and km for an extra challenge!) or you could cut string for younger learners and lay the string out to compare different lengths).

Finally, we discussed why some packaging might say ‘Produced in the U.K.’ versus ‘Packed in the U.K.’

Activity 2

Sustainable Living

Use your recycling pile to replenish your food stocks!

You will need:

  • Milk cartons
  • Egg boxes
  • Pin (or skewer)
  • Scissors
  • Soil

You can use most old food packages to create a new home for growing your food at home (see Activity 3 for how to grow them). Designing your own homemade plant pots is fun, gives new life to old packages destined for the bin, and is a great way to explore ways to reuse rubbish.

Egg-boxes are fabulous as they are biodegradable and so when your plants get bigger they can be planted directly into soil. We removed the top of the box, filled the egg-box with soil and planted seeds in each pod.

With milk cartons or plastic bottles – it’s best to cut them in half, pierce the bottom for drainage, fill the bottom half with soil and use the top half to create a miniature greenhouse by placing it back on once the seeds are planted.

What other old food packaging could you use?

Activity 3

Grow your own

Have a go at growing your own fruit and veg with this exploratory activity.

You will need:

  • Food with seeds (apples, avocados, peppers etc)
  • Potato
  • Ziploc bag
  • Kitchen roll
  • Toothpicks
  • Cup
  • Knife
  • Water

Instructions

Select a range of foods – ideally some which have their own seeds. Discuss why plants have seeds (we’ll explore this more in the Plants theme).

You could brainstorm and make a poster with all the foods you can think of that come with their own seeds.

Using these foods, work together to dissect them and discuss ways you could grow the seeds into new plants.

Avocados are really fun as they can be grown in such a bizarre way. Take the seed (stone) and peel off the brown papery layer surrounding the seed. Holding the seed with the rough circle at the bottom, carefully insert 3 toothpicks equally spaced around the outside of the seed (I tend to find placing them slightly higher helps with the next stage). Now suspend the seed in water by balancing the toothpicks around the edge of a glass filled with water. After a while (could be a fortnight) you’ll notice the base split open and a root starting to descend. After that, a shoot will emerge. You can plant the seed once it has roots and a shoot, however I’ve heard that it can take up to 15 years to flower and you would need an orchard for cross-pollination – so it’s quite the investment! But my kids love growing the seeds as it really is interesting to watch!

Apple seeds are much faster to grow – simply remove them from the core of the apple, place them on some damp kitchen roll and insert it into a ziploc bag. Leave it so that the seeds get plenty of sunshine and ensure the kitchen roll remains damp. Very soon you’ll see shoots and roots start to emerge – and once they are quite established they can be transferred to a pot to be grown. Weather dependent, you could keep them inside for a while longer before transferring them outside.

Potatoes are another easy one – especially because you can just leave them in a dark cupboard and forget about them! Then every so often have a look to see how much they’ve sprouted.

You can experiment with all sorts of seeds – either googling how best to nurture them or simply allowing your kids to devise a plan for growing them. You might find that they’re far more engaged if you let them design their own experiment!

This is also a great opportunity to get your hands dirty (something young children either seem to love or hate) and if they see you doing it they might be tempted to join in! Remember there are loads of health benefits to playing in mud – so get outside and give it a go!

Activity 4

Foraging

Could you gather some ingredients on your daily walk?

You will need:

  • Foraging bag/ziploc bag
  • SEEK app (optional)

Instructions

On our daily walks we’ve been lucky enough to come across some fabulous local produce – perhaps you are walking right past it without knowing it (we were!). But if you’re not able to forage at the moment please please please vow to try some of these once lockdown is over – my kids absolutely loved foraging and then using the ingredients in recipes at home.

We found 2 ingredients locally – wild garlic and gorse. Both grow in abundance and we’d never thought about using them before.

Wild garlic has long, waxy leaves – however can look quite like Lily Of The Valley which is seriously poisonous so it’s best you don’t get the two mixed up! I use the SEEK app to help me identify local plants and wildlife – it’s free and easy to download from the app store. We used the wild garlic to mix with dandelion leaves from our garden to make a lovely pesto.

Gorse has a very sweet smell and there are loads of recipe ideas for it – we decided to make a gorse cordial with ours. It was so easy and a great one for the kids to do.

We used 4 handfuls of gorse flowers, 600ml of water, 250g caster sugar, juice of a lemon and zest of an orange. Simply make a basic sugar water by heating the sugar in the water – stirring constantly. Then add the gorse flowers, lemon juice & orange zest and leave overnight in the fridge. The next day we strained it through a (clean!) muslin cloth and funneled it into a recycled bottle. You could even use it to flavour your gin 😉

Whatever you do, have fun and enjoy exploring creating something from scratch. This activity not only encourages physical exercise, but also a love and understanding of nature, talking about numbers when measuring out ingredients, and a great understanding of sourcing and using locally-sourced food.

Activity 5

Make your own

This recipe for homemade lemonade is so easy and perfect for warmer weather!

You will need:

  • Lemons x 4
  • Jug
  • Water
  • Caster sugar
  • Juicer/fork
  • Pan & spatula

Instructions

Heat 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar together in a pan until the sugar disappears – this creates a lovely sugar water. Allow it to cool.

Cut the lemons and juice them – if you don’t have a juicer, spearing the inside with a fork pressing around inside is just as effective. Pour the juice (or strain it) into a jug.

Pour in your sugar water along with 4-5 cups of tap water (depending on how watery you like it). That’s your lemonade made!

Pour and enjoy!

We couldn’t wait for our sugar water to cool so simply poured it in warm and added some frozen berries as ice cubes.

Activity 6

Healthy Food Rainbows

You will need:

  • Paper
  • Pens/paint
  • Healthy food (optional)

This is a fun opportunity to see how many healthy foods your kids know – we decided to draw each food that matched the colours of our rainbow (you can choose any colours you want for your rainbow). An alternative is you could draw a massive rainbow and lay real foods along it. Can you design a delicious snack/meal using the rainbow foods as inspiration?

Family STEM Learning

The only thing we could do at the end of Food STEM week is, of course, cook a healthy meal together.

We are so excited to announce our first collaboration project for this! The fabulous Lowra of @lowra_eats_well is a guru on healthy eating and shares this week’s family learning task.

Lowra demonstrates how to cook beautiful, healthy meals – and the best thing is you can make them with young kids.

Click the button below to watch how to make Rhubarb Crumble.

And you can visit all of her easy to make recipes so far on her Lowra’s Healthy Recipes YouTube channel.

I hope this week has inspired you to take a closer look at food and spend some time learning healthy recipes with your family. As always, share your ideas with us over on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Happy learning!

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