How to Cook Up a Great Science Fair Project

Science fair season has arrived in our school district again, but I don’t despair or wail or tear my hair out (much). Two reasons:

  1. I am not a scientist, but I am pretty good in the kitchen, and the district science fair is a perfect way to fuse the two worlds for the benefit of my little guy.
  2. The local library or bookstore can provide books that hold a family’s collective hand through simple and quick science experiments that perhaps should not be done the night before in a panicked rush…but some of them can.

Our favorite books are Kitchen Science Experiments: How Does Your Mold Garden Grow by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen (Sterling Publishing 2010 ) and The Science Chef: 100 Fun Food Experiments and Recipes for Kids by Joan D’Amico and Karen Eich Drummond (John Wiley & Sons 1995).

kitchen science books

Kitchen Science Experiments takes a topic like bacteria in the kitchen, explains a bit of background, then guides you through an experiment that explores the topic  (e.g.”Blue Milk: How do temperature and time affect the growth of microbes in milk?”) and then follows up with more simple but thorough explanations. A couple of years ago we did an experiment from the book that explored yeast, that got the fermentation process to blow up balloons. That led to our making simple breads and other tasty things. We are planning to try to maker ice cream with dry ice for this year’s project, which seems a delicious way investigate how liquids can become solids. The book is bright and attractively laid out, with lovely illustrations by Edward Miller.

The Science Chef is more recipe-oriented, asking questions like “Why Does Toast Brown?” then providing quickie experiments that compare, say, plain bread with buttered bread to compare which browns faster. The follow up are kid-friendly recipes such as peanut butter and jelly French toast or fruit and cheesecake toast tarts.

So, whether it is to develop a good science fair project or just adding a science component for kids learning to cook (which explains the raw egg soaking in vinegar on my counter right this minute), these are two kid-tested resources we recommend!