What is more fun than doing your science homework and eating it too?
A dear friend of mine, Amber Neal, is homeschooling 3 kids and recently did a fun edible science project with her family. They are learning about cell structures and functions. She expanded her kids ability to retain information while learning about the biology of cells by incorporating an edible model of a cell, and using a multisensory approach (including the eyes, ears, hands, nose, and taste buds on the tongue) into the learning equation. Read on to see what a fun learning adventure they had…….
The Edible Cell
I actually saw the edible cell craft many years ago. I knew of other homeschoolers that had done this, but I never could really work it in to what we were learning. Then I found myself without a science topic to study for our Friday Science time I decided now was the perfect time! This was such a fun experience for us to do together as a family. My son (7) said this was the best science topic ever!
After looking on several websites for ideas, I finally decided on making a cake and decorating it for our cell study. There are lots of great ideas how you can make an edible cell on the internet. Some people made big cookies, cupcakes, or jello molds for their cell study but in the end we are cake lovers—so cake won out!! This is what we did.
The Setup – Edible Cell Cake
I actually baked the cakes the day before we started. This way they were nice and cool, ready for the day’s assignment. I used some silicon baking pans that I had, but you could use just regular circle (8 or 9 inch) baking pans. Just make sure to use cooking spray or what you like to use to grease your pans well so the cakes will pop out easily. I came out with 4 small square cakes. After they cooled completely I iced them. I made my own icing up and split in into three different bowls. One I colored green for the plant cells. The second bowl of icing I left white for the animals cells. The third smaller bowl I made it a blue/ green color for the cell wall and cell membrane. I went ahead and iced the cakes, thus putting on the cytoplasm and the cell wall (plant) and cell membrane (animal). This made it so much easier for the kids to just jump in and start decorating, and helped control mess too (mom’s favorite thing)!
Another benefit to having them ready was the kids were very excited to get started the next day on Science. Throughout the morning they both kept asking me when it was time for science. I mean really wouldn’t you be excited to learn something if you knew cake was involved?
To go along with the edible cell I had printed out a few cell worksheets from Enchanted Learning www.enchantedlearning.com and put them in the kid’s science notebooks. I included some of the links at the bottom of the post.
When everyone came to the table to start science I had the cells (frosted) sitting in deep pans, their science notebooks opened ready to go, and all the candy I was going to use ready in bowls. Then the fun started!
Learning About Cells
Using the worksheets I had printed out, we went through each part of the cells. We started with the plant cell and then ended with the animal cell. Each kid got to decorate both an animal cell and a plant cell. What an assignment right? We used print outs that I got from Enchanted Learning. The top was the parts of the cell and the bottom part we labeled the cell with what we used to represent each part.
As we talked about each part of the cell and what it did they would stick the designated candy on the cell (cake). Once we did that they would have to write in their notebooks what we used in the appropriate spot.
You may have also noticed I had my toddler sitting at the table for this learning adventure too. Normally I have a small sensory tray or a busy bag to keep her occupied, but with all the candy out that wasn’t happening that day! Since my normal tactics were not working I gave her a notebook and her special markers (they only come out at school time). She happily drew in her notebook and munched on some candy mix (M&Ms, goldfish, raisins, and pretzels). I am not normally a fan of candy but today was a little different, and in the science the exception was made!
After we completed both cells we filled out a Venn diagram comparing the plant cell with the animal cell. I printed this one out from Enchanted Learning as well, but you could just draw one if you wanted to include this for your kids.
I really recommend doing a Venn diagram. It really helped us to see the differences between the two cells. It also initiated a great discussion on why God would have made the cells different, what plant cells do that animal cells don’t, etc.
The End Process
Here is what our cells ended up looking like. (I had to snap these fast because everyone was ready to enjoy them!)
Then came the really fun part!! Eating our yummy cells!!
Each kid made two cells (one plant and one animal). Now having four cakes and only two students decora
ting we decided to share one cake each. I let them pick which one they wanted to eat and which one they would like to share with someone. The toddler was very happy they decided to share as well as their wonderful daddy who was home too.
Learning is always much more fun when you get to share it with others!
While the kids ate their cells I read them a book I had gotten from the library about different kinds of cells (muscle, skeleton, etc). I drew out on our white board an easy and quick explanation of how cells divide and become more cells. We talked about the cells and I asked them a few review questions:
What was your favorite part of the animal cell? What did it do?
What was your favorite part of the plant cell? What did it do?
What do you think the funniest looking part of each cell was?
Whenever we do a science topic together I always like to ask the kids – Now that we learned about this, what does this tell you about God? How does this prove there is a God? How does backup what we believe? While I am not looking for long answers that are very in depth (even though I have gotten some) I want them to see that God is in everything and to see how amazing it is that He created this world and everything in it.
This was a really fun science topic for us to do together. The kids talked about this for a couple of days so I was really impressed with how much they really retained from making an edible cell. I think when you make something fun and you actively engage kids in the learning process they tend to remember it better. When I was in public school I learned about the cell from a boring textbook filled with questions with little bubble in answers. It was mind numbing to say the least. I am so happy that my kids will not have that same memory because cells are to fascinating to be boring!
Printouts of animal and plant cells:
I have a membership to Enchanted Learning. It is $20 a year and I have used it way more than enough to get my money’s worth! If you don’t want to buy the membership you can still use this site to gain a lot of your information that can help you draw it out yourself.
Enchanted Learning ANIMAL CELLS
Enchanted Learning PLANT CELLS
I used this as a guide for what I could use for what part of the cell. You can use whatever you wish or even make the jello 3-D craft. This is the link for that
Enchanted Learning JELLO CELL CRAFT
(You can also Google edible cell and find other great ideas!)
Books I Used
I only used this book because it was one of the only ones at our library that I liked. I did not read the whole book (the first page is about sperm cells- so I left that part out of our study).
Cells Are Us / by Fran Balkwill ; illustrated by Mic Rolph
Look at your local library and see what kind of books they have on cells. I was always led to believe you had to read each and every page, just to gain the information that you needed from five pages of the book. So remember, you don’t always have to read the whole book to get what you need. You can just pick the parts that are relevant to your study at the time.
Child of God, Friends with Jesus,
Wife to Superman, Mom to 3 Goofy Goobers, and
Lover of learning!
Thank you Amber for sharing your Edible Cell project with us!
Tasting is a great way to remember concepts. How can you forget that you love the taste of ice cream but you don’t like the taste of liver? How can you forget that you LOVE the taste of chocolate? I don’t think I would ever forget that I do not like the taste or smell of stinky cheese! The brain remembers things we have eaten, how it looks, tastes, smells, and how we feel about it. What a great idea it is to associate skills and abilities used while eating with our abilities to remember.
We can incorporate tasting, smelling, and eating while we are learning a subject that normally might seem unrelated. The more senses a child uses in learning information, the more likely it is that he, or she, won’t forget it.
Be sure to check out other stories in our Human Body science section (more to come) and especially the Jello Edible Cell we did in learning about the human body! It was a whole lot of yummy learning fun!
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No Time For Flash Cards
What is more fun than doing your science homework and eating it too?