Pasta Science With Kids In The Kitchen


Whats In The Workbox today? 

A fun and tasty science project for all ages.

Into the science workbox put a box of pasta, a piece of paper, a pencil, and a small pretend cooking pot.  Ask the children to share ideas of how to use these items together.  Ask the children the questions from the key concepts listed below.  This helps build their interest in the project.  Then explain that we are going to do an experiment. 

This project can be done by kids of all ages with adult assistance to monitor for safety and assist as needed.  Our younger three kids were learning about the letter "P" and this experiment tied in nicely.  However, they did not participate in the heating steps of this experiment, rather observed their older siblings doing those steps based on their skill levels.

Key concepts
What is pasta?
What is dehydrated?
What is rehydrated?
What happens to dry pasta when it is heated for 10 minutes in boiling water?

Senses involved:
touch
sight
taste
smell
hear

Skills involved:
following directions
observation
measuring
counting
reason and deduction
safety
cooking-life skills
writing
scientific method


The Simple Pasta Experiment

We used two packages of pasta from a macaroni and cheese mix.  Place the pasta into measuring containers.  We used matching cereal bowls that were identical.  Have additional matching containers on hand for latter in the experiment. 



Two quarts of water.



For this to be a correct scientific method, you need have the same amount of dry pasta and jars of water set aside as your control.  These would not be used during the heating process.  Simply left alone and then used for comparison.

Have the children write out the experiment on paper. 



This can be as simple as a few pictures, written words, or more it can be more sophisticated.  Its up to you.  I allowed each child, based on their skill level the freedom to write out the experiment with pictures and words. 



Have the children feel the dry pasta.   Have them shake the pasta and hear what sound it makes.   Ask them to look at it and describe it to you.  Then ask them "what do you hypothesize will happen when the water is heated to a boil and the pasta is cooked in the hot water for 10 minutes?"  From experience of eating macaroni and cheese, the children will likely say the pasta will get cooked, or soft.  The older children will understand in advance that the pasta will increase in size as it absorbs water.



Pour the water into a pan.



With the supervision of an adult, heat the pan of water to boiling.  Add pasta.  Stir.  Cook for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Have the adult strain the pasta reserving the liquid.  Place pasta back into containers or heat proof bowls that held the dry pasta at the start of the experiment.

Let the children assist with the experiment according to their skill level and safety awareness.  Always use caution when working around a hot stove and boiling liquids.   For example, my two and three year olds were able to assist with putting the dry pasta into the bowls.  The six and eight year olds assisted with setting out the equipment needed and filled the quart jars with cold water.   My 10 year old was able to assist with putting the water on the stove to boil.  Mom strained the cooked pasta as children are not yet aware of how to do this safely and avoid getting a steam burn.  Even mom still gets these from time to time.  Later all the children assisted with different tasks with clean up and when we made a meal from our project.

Observation:
Observe the changes in the pasta and liquid.  

             

Several things we observed:
The pasta expanded and now filled three identical bowls instead of two. 
Pasta changed from hard and dry to soft , flexible, and wet. 
The pasta no longer made sounds when you shake it.
The pasta looks similar to before in shape, but now it is bigger and lighter in color.



When cool enough, transfer the liquid back into the quart measuring equipment you started with.  We used a mason jar.  Compare how much liquid is left after straining out the cooked pasta.  Has it changed?  Compare the results to the start of the experiment.  Discuss where the liquid "disappeared to" and how it was absorbed by the pasta as it cooked.



Have the children write down the changes they have observed.  Be sure to discuss the key concepts you set out to learn, such as what is dehydration and rehydration?



When your are done with your experiment, why not eat your pasta?

Be sure to toss your pasta with something delicious and reinforce more of the children's learning experience.   How about chicken and white sauce, or mix it with some milk, butter and cheese, or the cheese packet from the box, or mix up some pasta sauce.   We reheated ours with milk, cheese packet, and butter for approximately five minutes on low heat to medium heat, and had a tasty meal to enjoy.



The kids really had fun making a science project out of their food today.



These young scientists gobbled down every last bite!



What a great way to reinforce a science concept .  They were able to use all their senses in learning today.  This will go a long way in helping them retain what they learned, because they "lived it" along the way.

Now if we could only eat our grammar lesson.



Expansion Ideas
:
Measure and record the size of a piece of pasta before and after it is cooked.
Weigh the bowls of pasta before and after they are cooked.
Soak pasta in cold water for ten minutes and compare with pasta cooked in boiling water for ten minutes.
Have the children make pasta from scratch and work through the drying process of pasta to learn more about dehydration. 
Grind your own flour from grain for making the pasta.
Read a book about pasta.
Do a lapbook about pasta.
Research different kinds of pasta shapes and made from different kinds of grains.
Repeat the experiment again using different kinds of pasta and compare what happens.
Research where various pasta come from around the world.
Learn about grains and proteins, nutrition, allergies, milling of flour, and more about what causes pasta to hold its shape, what causes it to loose its shape, and why is heat needed for it to keep its shape while softening verses the idea of why it does not dissolve back into flour and water paste.
Look under a microscope at grains, flour, wet pasta, dry pasta, fresh water, and leftover pasta cooking water.
Research what happens to pasta after you eat it, such as what happens to it in your stomach, in your intestines, and the end results when it leaves the body.

Pasta is so much fun!



 

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