You know this already, I am sure. One way to grab the attention of your students is to add food to whatever you are doing!
I always used food items as math manipulatives when I taught third grade. We graphed the colors of M &M’s. We use Hershey’s candy bars to show plate tectonics. On Valentine’s Day, we used conversation hearts for graphing, predicting, and compiling tables of information about the words.
So, of course, I have tried food in the STEM Lab. But, I had to make it all about science!
Steps of the Candy Experiments
- Experiment with Gobstoppers
- Brainstorm and Choose
- Design your own experiment
We also spent time talking about the steps of the Scientific Method and controls of the experiment.
TIP: Spend time talking about scientific drawings. I have found that students will just color a blob when you tell them to draw the results. I show my students how to add dimensions and layer colors to be more realistic. And we label everything!
This is a very special kind of candy and you may have trouble finding it. I actually found some at the Dollar Tree! Wal Mart may have some in boxes in their candy section.
The science behind Gobstoppers- The candy is made of layers of colors and a lot of sugar. As the outer layer dissolves the sugar water will arrange in bright colors and it will stop flowing as it runs into a different color. So, when you place four different colors along the edge of a round pan (like a petri dish) the sugar water will form into triangular wedges of colors.
Now, if you are very observant you will notice that the candy in the above photo is not Gobstoppers. It is M& M’s. Guess what! This candy will also work. The thing about Gobstoppers that is different is that the second layer of colors in the candy will add more colors to the sugar water and eventually they will begin to blend together and create new colors. Just know that M & M’s can be used if you cannot find Gobstoppers.
TIP: I have Petri dishes in my lab, but you can use any clear shallow round bowl. Try to find one that has a smooth bottom, not with ridges. Clear is good so you can see the layers from a side view.
After the Gobstopper experiment, we talked- a lot! We learned about the science of the candy and why the wedges of color formed. We also created an anchor chart with questions we had.
This included many new ideas?
- What if we used a different liquid?
- What if we used more water?
- What if tried a different kind of candy?
- Does it have to be a round bowl? What about a square dish?
- What if the candy pieces are touching at the bottom of the bowl?
Design a New Experiment
After brainstorming a list of things to try each team had to pick one! They filled out their lab sheet and gathered the materials needed for their new experiment.
First, take a look at the above photos. On the top row, a team tried placing many candy pieces in a line. The colors did separate into consistent shapes. Also on the top row, a different kind of candy was tried and it did not separate into color bands. The bottom photo shows a team that tried a lot more water and discovered this does not work!
In the smaller photo, you can see what happened when a team tried using milk!
If you really look closely at the milk photos you can see the wedge of colors. From the side view, you can definitely see the colors along the bottom of the petri dish.
This is such a fabulous way to have students add some science to your class and then design their own method. We used a well-laid out lab sheet that has space for recording everything – including scientific drawings!