Friday, February 23, 2018

Homeschool Science: Testing for Organic Compounds in Food

A few years ago, when I was doing a biology unit with the kids, I began working through an MIT OpenCourse biology class. It wasn't long before I was stymied, however, as it turned out that biology was all chemistry, and the professor kept assuming chemistry knowledge that I didn't have. So I switched to an MIT OpenCourse chemistry class, and was quickly stymied there because it turns out that chemistry is all math, and the professor kept assuming mathematical knowledge that I didn't have.

So I switched to Khan Academy to fill in those gaps, but that's a whole other story, and I'm only telling you that so that I can tell you that I was not surprised when the children's biology textbook went exactly one chapter before moving to chemistry.

Because biology is all chemistry!

Chapter 2 of CK-12 Biology explains the role of carbon and its many organic compounds that are crucial to life. I supplemented this chapter a LOT, and I'll tell you the other resources and activities we used another time, but for this particular activity, I found myself turning to Teachers Pay Teachers for hands-on activities and science labs that contextualize the material and give it more depth. I don't usually like to pay even a few dollars for resources that I could make myself, or have the kids make from scratch, but we're a busy family this year and I appreciated the shortcuts!

After reading 2.1 and completing the questions at the end of the unit, I gave the kids this organic compounds foldable to create. They could mostly find the information in their textbook, although they did have to do a little outside research, and instead of making the foldable exactly as instructed, they ended up cutting it up and placing it piecemeal in their science notebooks--you can spy it in the photos that I took of the lab, as they used it for reference.

When the kids were solid on organic compounds, we cleared off the kitchen table and did some biochemistry!

I bought this lab, Testing for Organic Compounds in Food, and bought the chemicals that I needed for it from Home Science Tools. While I was shopping, I went through our lab manual, The Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments, put the procedures that I knew I wanted the kids to do onto our syllabus, and also bought any supplies that I needed for those. So fun to get a little box full of test tubes, rubber stoppers, and dangerous chemicals in the mail!

As I mentioned earlier, I almost always create our resources from scratch, but it WAS nice to have everything all set up and already written down for me! The lab included step-by-step set-up instructions for me, and step-by-step instructions for the kids, as well as charts for them to fill in, comprehension questions, and questions that got them thinking beyond just the procedures, as well. All I really had to do was supervise, make sure they kept up their safety standards, and enjoy watching my young scientists at work!



Here's Will halfway through explaining that real scientists ALWAYS drink from their test tubes.



Don't worry--she didn't actually drink from a test tube... that I know of.



The process feels enough like chaos with two kids and one adult at one table that I shudder to think of what this looks like in a classroom.



Actually, it's probably super well-organized when it's in a classroom! Our homeschool is just chaotic by nature.



And yet even though it feels like there's a lot going on, I love to see how intently each kid focuses:



This lab, and the chemicals needed to perform it, were well worth the money. Although the kids completed the entire lab, and then completed a second lab in which they were required to come up with new substances to test, you could repeat this lab tons of times and still find new things to explore. It's repeatable even later in this very biology study, because I know we'll touch on nutrition when we're in the human biology units. It's repeatable when we study chemistry, and there are even a couple of Girl Scout badges that this lab could apply to.

It turns out that there are LOTS of scientifically sound reasons to experiment on your food!

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