Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pancakes, Mixing Bowls, and Baking Powder, Oh My!

The latest and greatest STEM Challenge

I had this Brain Pop one night.
It happens to me all the time- just random thoughts of greatness.

I mean, sometimes, I think of great things and then they become a disaster. One day I will have to tell you about letting kids shave crayons in my STEM Lab. Yeah, well, trust me,  don't try it.

Anyway, back to my Brain Pop!  I was searching for something STEM related and came across a home-schooling mom's blog and she was showing all these really neat kitchen experiments she does with her very little kids. Made me think about what we could cook at school.... which led to thinking about cooking on a griddle, since I don't have a stove in the lab...but I do have a griddle .....which led to pancakes. Cause, that's why I even have a griddle, for pancakes.

So, I'm thinking...we are going to cook pancakes, but how can I make that an experiment or design challenge. Ha! Easy Peasy!

First, I found a recipe that did not include eggs. I really did not want to even contemplate having kids crack open eggs. I found one that used milk, water, oil, flour, sugar, and baking powder. This is good, right?

So, what's next? Well, I needed to reduce the recipe so that it made a very tiny pancake. Little bit of math, no problem.
I was very excited.

Onward, to the lab!

Big mistake. 
I truly expected that kids would know how to measure flour.

I even showed them to use the edge of a knife to level off the tablespoon. They could do it, but it took nine hundred years. They had never done this or were being very careful.
I don't know. It took way too long.

Then we cooked our tiny pancakes and tasted them.
Now, I know what you are thinking. I said the math to reduce the recipe was easy, but somehow I messed it up.
Wrong! I did the math correctly. I just PURPOSELY left out the baking powder in the first batch. The pancakes were flat and gummy and like rubber.
So, we talked about this and also about the chemical reaction of baking powder....

See how I got that Science in there.

Next, we tried again, but this time the kids added whatever amount of baking powder they wanted to add- but they did have to choose from four specific measurements.
I also had learned my lesson about the flour so this time I pre-measured it into little cups.
This time when we cooked the pancakes you could see something really odd happening...
Do you see it???

The kids were very excited as they watched those bubbles forming.
Got some science in there again!

Well, ultimately the testing of different measurements and keeping data of the results led each group to declare a certain amount of baking powder was the best. Some of them felt rather strongly that three-fourths a teaspoon was the best.
I knew it would be too much.
Did I tell them?

Next step...
They had to increase their recipe! Giant math problem as every measurement of ingredients had to be multiplied by 8- and these were fraction amounts.
Pretty clever how I got some math in this activity, don't you think?

The final batch of pancakes made a large pancake for every student. They brought toppings and ate until their little tummies hurt. The ones that used too much baking powder had giant biscuits instead of pancakes, but when you put chocolate chips and syrup on that it tastes pretty good!

I'd say we learned a lot!

What have you tried lately? Seriously, even our epic failures teach us something!


  1. This looks like such fun! I didn't know it was the baking powder that makes pancakes bubble. I'll think of this post every time I make pancakes!!

    Mrs. Laffin's Laughings

  2. What a cool lesson! It is so true that students don't have a clue how to measure ingredients. I checked out your classroom page too. It is HUGE!! Amazing stuff! Can I be one of your students?! :)
    Fourth Grade Flipper

  3. Love this, Carol! I nominated your blog for a Liebster Award! To accept the award (and pay it forward) click on this link:



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