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Learning science is a process that is both individual and social. Like researchers, engineers, mathematicians or physicians who work in teams to answer questions and to solve problems, students in science classrooms often need to interact with their peers to develop deeper knowledge of scientific concepts and ideas. The GroupWork activities were developed to foster an environment in which groups of students work cooperatively to:

  • plan experiments,
  • collect and review data,
  • ask questions and offer solutions,
  • use data to explain and justify their arguments,
  • discuss ideas and negotiate conflicting interpretations,
  • summarize and present findings,
  • and explore the societal implications of the scientific enterprise.

The GroupWork environment is one in which students are “doing science” as a team. Suggestions about when to introduce these group activities are included in the Teacher Activity Notes.

Format and Organization of GroupWork Activities

Each GroupWork activity includes teacher activity notes, an activity guide, an individual report, resource materials, and at times, data sheets. The activity guide contains instructions for the group's task and questions to be discussed as students plan for and work on a group product. Resource materials are varied. They might include textual information, visual resources such as photos, drawings, graphs or diagrams, video, or audiotapes. Individual reports by students are an integral pan of each activity to be completed in class or as pan of a homework assignment. Planning information for the teacher is found on the Teacher Activity Notes page.

Sets of GroupWork activities are organized around a central concept or a basic scientific question-a “big idea.” Ideally, as students rotate to complete these activities, they encounter this central idea, question, or concept in different scientific contexts or in different social settings. These rotations provide students with multiple opportunities to grapple with the material, explore related questions and dilemmas, look at different representations, and think of different applications. Figure 1 shows how students rotate from activity to activity around the “big idea.”

The GroupWork activities were designed to be open-ended to foster the development of higher-order thinking skills. Such open-endedness allows students to decide as a group how to go about completing the task, as well as what the final group product might be. Open-ended group activities increase the need for interaction as students serve as resources for one another, draw upon each other's expertise and knowledge, and take advantage of their different problem-solving strategies. When groups are heterogeneous and include students with many different intellectual abilities, the repertoire of strategies and previous experiences is rich and diverse. As students interact with their peers, they learn how to communicate effectively, justify their arguments when challenged, and examine scientific problems from different perspectives. Such interaction scaffolds students' knowledge of scientific concepts and principles.

These GroupWork activities then are quite different from traditional lab activities that include more step-by-step procedures and are crowded with details. In addition to reading, writing, and computing (the traditional academic abilities), students use many different intellectual abilities to complete their task. They make observations, pose questions, plan investigations; they use and create visual models, access and interpret scientific information from different sources and from different media, and convey scientific findings in diagrams, graphs, charts, or tables. The use of a wide array of resource materials provides students with additional ways to access and use information, as well as with additional opportunities to demonstrate their intellectual competence and be recognized for their contributions. We have included in the Teacher Activity Notes a partial list of some of the multiple abilities students might be observed using in these group activities.

When group activities are open-ended, rich, and intellectually demanding, a single student will not be able to complete the task in a timely fashion by himself or herself. Making students responsible as a group to interpret a challenging task and to design a common product or group presentation increases group interdependence. Teachers know, however, that it is also important to hold each student personally accountable for contributing to the group's success and for mastering the concepts or the big idea of the activity. To do so, students are required to complete individual written reports in which they respond in their own words to key discussion questions and summarize what they have learned in the group activity. These written responses can be useful for teachers in gauging and monitoring student knowledge and progress.

Role of the Teacher Planning ahead and organizing the classroom for GroupWork is important for the successful implementation of group activities. We suggest that you refer to Elizabeth Cohen's book, Designing GroupWork: Strategies for Heterogeneous Classrooms, published by Teachers College Press in 1994. (See also Lotan, RA., J.A. Bianchini, and N. C. Holthuis (1996). “Complex Instruction in the Science Classroom: The Human Biology Curriculum in Action,” in R.J. Stahl, (Ed.) Cooperative Learning in Science. A Handbook for Teachers, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company)

Many teachers have realized that when students work in groups, direct instruction is no longer practical. The teacher can't be everywhere at once, telling students exactly what to do and how to do it. Thus, teachers delegate authority to students and students take responsibility for their own behavior and their own learning. Rather than constantly turning to the teacher for help, students talk with each other to find out what they should be doing and to solve the challenging problems assigned to them. Teaching students to work collaboratively and to be responsible to one another as a group is an important prerequisite for successful GroupWork. Students also support the smooth operation of groups when they have learned to play different roles in their groups effectively. For example, the facilitator sees to it that everyone in the group knows what has to be done and gets help when necessary. The recorder keeps notes of the group's discussions and checks to see if individual reports have been completed. The materials manager sees to it that the group has all the equipment necessary and that the tables are cleared at the end of the lesson. The reporter presents the findings of the group during wrap-up time. When the activity involves hazardous materials, a safety officer might be needed. Every student must have a role to play, and roles rotate so students learn how to perform each role competently.

Delegating authority doesn't mean that the teacher withdraws from the class or completely stays out of the action. Instead of being the focal point of the classroom, the teacher carefully observes the students as they work in the groups, stimulates and extends their thinking, and provides specific feedback.

Equalizing Participation among Members of the Group Making sure that all members of the group have access to the materials and that one group member doesn't take over or dominate the group while another withdraws are among the principal challenges of GroupWork. Teachers can increase participation of students by explaining how the different intellectual abilities are relevant to the successful completion of the task. The teacher states that while no one group member has all the abilities, everyone in the group has some of the intellectual abilities necessary to complete the task successfully. Furthermore, after careful observation of the students' work in groups, the teacher can publicly acknowledge those students who have made relevant contributions and explain specifically how these contributions made the group move forward and become more successful. It is important that the teacher be able to notice the intellectual contributions of students who have low academic or peer status, and who are frequently left out of group interactions. These strategies are particularly relevant in untracked classrooms, where students have a wide range of previous academic achievement (mainly in reading) or where significant proportions of students are English-language learners. Teachers, class mates, and the low-status students themselves need to understand that when many different intellectual abilities are necessary to complete a task successfully, everybody's contribution becomes critical to the success of the group. As more previously low-achieving students feel and are expected to be competent, their participation in the group increases, and subsequently their learning achievements increase as well.

Rachel A. Lotan, Ph.D.

School of Education

Stanford University

Figure 1: Activity Rotation in GroupWork

GroupWork Contents

Activity Duration Materials Activity Summary
1. Orientation Activity 20-30 minutes None Students discuss possible answers to the question, “Why do we eat?”
2. Food around the World 50 minutes Dietary table, multinational/ethnic cookbooks, an encyclopedia, and geography or world history books Students research why people in a particular country eat the kinds of food that they do. Students are asked to explore a wide range of possible influences: environmental, religious, political, economic, and cultural.
3. Fear of Fat 50 minutes Videotape (edited) of Fear of Fat, ads and/or articles taken from assorted magazines, paper and colored pencils, crayons, or pens Students examine the flip side of the “why do we eat” question by exploring why some people don't eat. Students use the information about eating disorders and self-image provided on the resource sheet and video to analyze, and subsequently redesign, a magazine ad.
4. Food as Fuel 40-45 minutes Use student materials from page 000. Students explore the concept of food as energy. They use a calorimeter to determine the energy content of two food items.
5. Energy as Calories 35-40 minutes Packaged foods, audiotapes, and tape recorder Students explore the concept of food as energy. They determine the number of calories in different kinds of foods and discuss how the human body uses food for energy.
6. Building Blocks 50 minutes Butcher paper and colored candies, paper, or blocks Students create a model depicting segments of two proteins found in food. They then show how the protein is broken down into amino acids and reconfigured to create protein for cell membranes.
7. It Takes Guts 50 minutes Butcher paper, balloons, and assorted art supplies including pens, paint, and construction paper Students explore the physiological mechanism that controls appetite: the stomach. Students create a model showing the changes in the nervous system signals sent when the stomach is empty and when it is full.
8. Culminating Activity 40 minutes Food labels Students synthesize the information from the previous group activities in order to analyze food labels and provide reasons why an individual mayor may not eat a particular food.

GroupWork 1: Teacher Activity Notes - Orientation Activity

Big Idea: Why Do We Eat?

PLAN

Summary Students discuss possible answers to the question, “Why do we eat?”

Group Size 4 to 5 students

Objectives

Students:

  • identify reasons why humans eat.

Multiple Abilities

  • Making connections between ideas/concepts, logically analyzing the problem, applying previous knowledge (reasoning ability)
  • Explaining clearly and fully, using words precisely (communication skills)

Estimated Time 20-30 minutes (10 minutes in groups and 15-20 minutes for reports and discussion)

Suggested Use

  • This set of activities works well near the end of the unit.

Student Materials

None required

IMPLEMENT

  1. There is neither a student Activity Guide nor an Individual Report for this activity. Have students write their responses on a group data sheet.
  2. Ask each group to brainstorm answers to the question, “Why do we eat?” Although the question seems simple, it has many answers: psychological, physiological, anatomical, cultural, and sociological. For example, physiologically we eat to get energy, building blocks (amino acids), vitamins, and minerals. Each group should write its ideas on a data sheet. Each group should also be prepared to support its answers with reasons and examples.
  3. Ask each group to share its answers to this question with the rest of the class. Write each group's responses on the board, organizing its ideas around the above broad categories.
  4. After completion of this activity, introduce students to the big idea of this unit as well as to the group activities. Make connections among students' responses, the big idea, and the activities' purpose.

Extension Questions

  • A closely related question to “Why do we eat?” is “What do we eat?” What factors determine what a person eats? (Examples range from soil/climate of land to customs to advertisements to personal preferences to nutritional requirements.)
  • What do you hope to learn about the topics of digestion and nutrition as a result of completing these group activities?
  • What are some reasons people don't eat?

ASSESS

Use the group data sheet and discussion to assess if students can:

  • list the psychological, physiological, anatomical, cultural, and sociological reasons why humans eat.

GroupWork 2: Teacher Activity Notes - Food around the World

Big Idea: Why Do We Eat?

PLAN

Summary Students research why people in a particular country eat the kinds of food that they do. Students are asked to explore a wide range of possible influences: environmental, religious, political, economic, and cultural.

Group Size 4 to 5 students

Objectives

Students:

  • identify the different kinds of food eaten by people around the world.
  • describe the factors that influence what people eat.
  • explain a sociocultural answer to the question, “Why do we eat?”

Multiple Abilities

  • Making connections between ideas/concepts, logically analyzing the problem, applying previous knowledge (reasoning ability)
  • Reading comprehension (conventional academic ability)
  • Imagining an experience you have never experienced (creativity)

Estimated Time 50 minutes

Suggested Use

  • This set of activities works well near the end of the unit.

Student Materials

Dietary table, multinational/ethnic cookbooks, an encyclopedia, geography or world history books

IMPLEMENT

  1. Provide a dietary table listing the caloric and nutritional values of foods as well as additional resource materials about the countries described on the Resources. You may need to explain to your students how to use the dietary table as well as how to skim the resource materials for relevant information. Students should consult this dietary table to help determine the nutritional value of the meal.
  2. If your class is ethnically diverse, you might ask students to create their own resources with menus for meals commonly eaten in their culture or country of origin.

Extension Questions

  • How similar to or different from the food you eat is the food eaten in the country you selected to research?
  • Why is it often difficult to explain, in general terms, what people in a particular country eat?
  • Why is it that people around the world can eat different kinds of foods and yet receive adequate vitamins, minerals, and calories?

ASSESS

The group discussion, presentation, and Individual Reports can be used to assess if students can:

  • identify the different kinds of food eaten by people around the world.
  • describe the wide range of social, cultural, geographic, and economic factors that influence what people eat.
  • explain a sociocultural answer to the question, “Why do we eat?”

Background Information

  • Each menu on the Resources was suggested by a person who had lived in that particular town or city. The rest of the information was compiled from nutrition textbooks and cookbooks.
  • Factors that influence the kinds of food eaten include the following: practicality (cost and availability), culture, religion, climate, location (central, inland, etc.), and environment. In our description of each country, we have attempted to include a brief description of one or more of these factors.

Extend the Activity by asking each student to bring in a dish frequently eaten in another country or culture for his or her group and/or the class to sample.

GroupWork 2 Activity Guide: Food around the World (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: Why Do We Eat?

Introduction

What's for dinner? What we eat for dinner is not simply a matter of personal choice. Our family, culture, country, and environment also influence what we eat. In this activity, you will study the kinds of food eaten in another country. You will explore how and why a meal in that country differs from meals in the United States.

Materials

  • Dietary table, multinational/ethnic cookbooks, an encyclopedia, geography or world history books

Procedure

1. In your group, describe a typical meal eaten in your community. The meal can be lunch or dinner, whichever is considered more important. Include beverages and dessert if appropriate. Also, discuss the following question: What factors influence the kinds of food you eat?

2. Examine the Resources. Each Resource describes a meal eaten in another part of the world. Select one of these countries for further investigation.

3. For the country selected, use the Resource and additional resource materials to answer the following questions:

  • Is the meal described on the Resource nutritious? How do you know?
  • What other kinds of food are commonly eaten in this country?
  • What factors influence what food is eaten? (Examples of factors include climate, soil, location, religion, and history.) How do you know?
  • Do you think everyone in this country eats the meal described on the Resource? Explain.
  • What does examination of this menu tell you about eating habits around the world? About your own eating habits?

4. Prepare to share your research on this country with the class. In your presentation, include your answers to the above questions.

GroupWork 2 Resource 1: Food around the World (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: Why Do We Eat?

Eating in Japan

Sachi lives in Kyoto, Japan. For dinner, Sachi might eat the following:

All of the above dishes would be served together perhaps the rice last. For the Japanese, rice is essential to every meal. In fact, it is said that if the rice is ruined, the entire meal is ruined.

As you can see from the menu, a Japanese meal includes several different dishes. Each dish comes on a separate plate. Separate plates are a tradition in Japan. People don't like the tastes of different foods to run together; they like the tastes to be pure and separate.

Some Japanese dishes are regional. They depend on the area's location and weather. Kyoto, for example, is part of the Kansai region on the big island of Japan. Because it is located inland, people in Kyoto eat less fish and more vegetables and tofu than people living on the coast.

GroupWork 2 Resource 2: Food around the World (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: Why Do We Eat?

Eating in Italy

Giorgio lives in a small town called Cascine di Buti in the Toscana region of Italy.

The food on this menu is eaten in courses. Giorgio would eat the soup first, then the salad, the pasta, the chicken, and finally the fruit and cheese.

As in much of Europe, lunch in Italy is the most important meal of the day. In fact, at 12:30 P.M., streets fall silent as people stop their work, schooling, or traveling to have the midday meal. Although this tradition is no longer common in the big cities, it is still found in the smaller towns.

For Italians, there is no such thing as one definitive Italian food. Foods are quite traditional and regional. A cookbook in Italy may be divided into 21 chapters for the 21 regions of Italy. Cooking in the central region of Tuscany combines the flavors of northern and southern Italy. It uses both olive oil and butter and features pasta as well as gnocchi (potato dumplings).

GroupWork 2 Resource 3: Food around the World (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: Why Do We Eat?

Eating in Mexico

José lives in San Juan de Los Lagos, a town in the state of Jalisco in Mexico. The following is a meal José might eat for lunch with his family:

For lunch, José would get a large plate with a little of all the foods described above on it and plenty of corn tortillas. Mexican meals are rarely broken into courses.

In Mexico, lunch is called “la comida.” It is the most important meal of the day-both socially and in terms of the amount and quality of food. Traditionally, la comida comes before the siesta. However, the siesta is becoming a thing of the past because of Mexico's exploding economy.

Mexican cuisine draws from both the ancient Aztec and Spanish cultures. Spanish conquistadors landed in Mexico and conquered the Aztecs in 1519. The Aztecs had a highly developed agriculture. They grew maize (corn), tomatoes, beans, and cocoa, as well as vanilla, chiles, avocados, squash, pineapple, and papaya. The Spanish, on the other hand, introduced sugar cane, daily products, citrus fruits, and pork to Mexico. The exchange of various foods and ways of cooking gave rise to a new cuisine. For example, the Aztecs had a specialty drink of chocolate and chiles. The Spanish sweetened it with sugar, added cinnamon, and left out the chiles. The result was Mexican hot chocolate, which is still popular today.

GroupWork 2 Resource 4: Food around the World (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: Why Do We Eat?

Eating in India

Smita lives in Surat, a town in the state of Gujarat in India. For lunch, Smita might eat the following meal with her family:

Smita would eat all these dishes at once-perhaps with the rice last. She would also eat an assortment of relishes, chutneys, and Indian spicy pickles with her meal.

As early as 2000 B.C., India was home to a flourishing population. Since then, wave after wave of different people have come to India to conquer or to make their homes, resulting in an incredible diversity of cultures, languages, and food.

The wide range of climates in India accounts, in part, for the variety of Indian cuisine. Rice grows well in the wet areas of southern and eastern India, where a meal without rice is very rare. Bread is the staple in the dry north where wheat and barley grow. In coastal areas, fish and seafood are popular and tropical fruits are abundant. In the inland mountains, fruits such as apples, apricots, peaches, and strawberries are grown.

Today, the majority of people in India are vegetarians. Most of them do not eat meat for religious reasons. Vegetarianism is central to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism-religions that believe in nonviolence toward all living creatures.

GroupWork 2 Resource 5: Food around the World (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: Why Do We Eat?

Eating in Nigeria

Nnamdi lives in the rural lands surrounding Enugu, a large city in Nigeria. For a typical dinner on Sunday, Nnamdi might eat the following meal:

Nnamdi eats two meals a day-one at noon and one in the evening. These two meals are basically the same. They are usually made up of a soup or stew served with some sort of starch, such as fufu. In the cities, more and more people are eating three meals a day as is done in the West. Desserts are also more common in the city than they are in rural villages.

In a typical meal, the main dish is placed on individual plates and the starch is served on a communal plate. The diners break off a piece of bread or scoop up a small amount of fufu in their fingers and use it to scoop up some of the food on their plate. The starch cools the heat of the main dish, which can be quite spicy.

People in Nigeria snack all day long. A snack might be a piece of bread, roasted or fried plantains (a type of fruit), or meat on a stick. It is unusual to eat something sweet for a snack.

Nigeria is located along the coast of the South Atlantic Ocean. The land is low and flat. It is hot throughout the year but has both a wet and dry season. The variety of fruits and vegetables found in Nigeria is staggering. Most were brought to Nigeria from Europe or the Middle East. Meat, fish, and poultry are less abundant and therefore more expensive. One reason that soups and stews are such staples is that they make a little meat stretch to feed many people.

GroupWork 2 Individual Report: Food around the World (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: Why Do We Eat?

1. For the country you selected, was the meal described on the Resource nutritious? Explain.

2. In the country you selected, what factors influence what food is eaten? How do you know?

3. Do you think everyone in this country eats the meal described on the Resource? Explain.

4. How does this activity help answer the question, “Why do we eat?”

GroupWork 3: Teacher Activity Notes - Fear of Fat

Big Idea: Why Do We Eat?

PLAN

Summary Students examine the flip side of the “why do we eat” question by exploring why some people don't eat. Students use the information about eating disorders and self-image provided on the Resource and video to analyze, and subsequently redesign, a magazine ad. You will need to locate the video.

Group Size 4 to 5 students

Objectives

Students:

  • identify how society, the media, and fashion influence ideas of body image.
  • identify the causes and effects of eating disorders.
  • explain how compulsive overeating, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia affect the body.

Multiple Abilities

  • Conceiving of an idea for an illustration, generating alternatives (artistic/creative ability)
  • Analyzing an issue, making connections between ideas and concepts (reasoning ability)
  • Understanding information provided verbally

Estimated Time 50 minutes

Suggested Use

  • This set of activities works well near the end of the unit.

Student Materials

Videotape (edited) of Fear of Fat, ads and/or articles taken from assorted magazines, paper and colored pencils, crayons or pens

IMPLEMENT

  1. You might want to introduce this activity by showing students pictures of the “ideal” man or woman in the 16th or 17th century (or even periods during the 20th century) when larger men and women were seen as more attractive. Thinness was a sign of poverty and thus was not considered attractive. This introduces students to the idea that there is no one, true “ideal” body-culture, society, and the media all influence what people think is attractive.
  2. We suggest you tear out ads and/or articles from particular magazines (e.g., Teen, Glamour, Seventeen, or GQ). Place them in a folder labeled with the name of the magazine.
  3. Although the video focuses on dieting, direct students' attention to weight and body image in general. Students who are very thin due to rapid growth during adolescence can feel as self-conscious and unattractive as those who feel they are too fat.
  4. Remind students that some boys experience eating disorders as well. They feel pressure to be big, tall, and muscular in order to fit society's ideal image.
  5. Make sure students redesign an ad rather than simply making an ad against eating disorders. In addition, students should use the data and information given in the video and resource card to make informed changes to the ad.

Extension Questions

  • What messages does your school send to you about eating, being thin, and dieting? How does it send these messages?
  • What makes a person more or less susceptible to believing the messages he or she gets from the surrounding environment such as magazines, media, and fashion? Explain your reasoning.
  • How is being healthy different from being thin?

ASSESS

Use the group product, Individual Report, and group discussion to assess if students can:

  • identify how society, the media, and fashion influence ideas of body image.
  • identify the causes and effects of eating disorders.
  • explain how compulsive overeating, anorexia nervosa, and bulimi a affect the body.

GroupWork 3 Activity Guide: Fear of Fat (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: Why Do We Eat?

Introduction

You only have to turn on the TV or open a magazine to see the ads and articles that cater to people trying to lose weight or “look their best.” Eating well and staying fit is important, but how much is too much? Why do some people become obsessed with their weight and body? Why do they think they're so fat that they must starve themselves? Why do others worry about being too thin?

Materials

  • Videotape (edited) of Fear of Fat, ads and/or articles taken from assorted magazines, paper and colored pencils, crayons, or pens

Procedure

1. Watch the videotape provided and examine the Resource. Then discuss the following questions with your group:

  • What societal and personal factors are responsible for eating disorders and a preoccupation with weight and weight loss?
  • At what point would you start to worry that a friend had crossed the line from dieting to an eating disorder? What would you do?
  • Are boys and girls equally at risk of developing an eating disorder?
  • How do boys and girls compare with respect to how they feel about their bodies? Explain.

2. Analyze magazine ads and/ or articles to see if you find evidence of the societal pressures mentioned in the film.

  • Looking at the ads and articles, what do you think the magazine says to people about the ideal body, weight, and eating?
  • Does the magazine send different messages to women than it does to men?
  • What effect might constant exposure to these magazines and similar media (television, billboards) have on people?

3. As a group, redesign one of the ads in the magazine so that it provides healthy messages to women and men about their bodies. Consider answers to the following questions before beginning:

  • What images will you change?
  • What content will you change?
  • What message do you want to send to your audience?
  • How can you use the information on the Resource and in the video to make informed changes to the ad?

GroupWork 3 Resource: Fear of Fat (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: Why Do We Eat?

Research Findings: Eating Disorders and Self-Image amongst Adolescents in the United States

(Source: National Institute of Mental Health, 1987)

(Source: Gallup, November, 1985)

(Source: Gallup, November, 1985)

GroupWork 3 Individual Report: Fear of Fat (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: Why Do We Eat?

1. What societal pressures does the video say are responsible for eating disorders and a preoccupation with weight and dieting? Do you agree that these societal pressures are common and strong?

2. What personal/psychological factors may lead to eating disorders?

3. Why are males not as often afflicted with eating disorders as females?

4. What would you do if you thought someone you cared for had an eating disorder?

5. How did your magazine ad differ from the original in the magazine?

GroupWork 4: Teacher Activity Notes - Food as Fuel

Big Idea: Why Do We Eat?

PLAN

Summary Students explore the concept of food as energy. They use a calorimeter to determine the energy content of two food items.

Group Size 4 to 5 students

Objectives

Students:

  • define heat energy and calorie (Cal).
  • describe the relationship between energy and calories.
  • explain the importance of food for providing our bodies with energy.
  • identify that different kinds of food contain different amounts of energy.

Multiple Abilities

  • Making connections between ideas/concepts, logically analyzing the problem, solving a problem experimentally, making a hypothesis (reasoning ability)
  • Recording data correctly and clearly, measuring accurately, explaining clearly and fully, observing carefully and accurately (ability to be precise)

Estimated Time 40 minutes

Suggested Use

  • This set of activities works well near the end of the unit.

Student Materials

Ring stand, ring clamp, empty soda can, large paper clips, cork stopper, fireproof pad or aluminum foil, metric ruler, beaker of water, small cup of water, 200-ml graduated cylinder, matches, thermometer, safety goggles and gloves, a can of shell-less peanuts, a bag of miniature marshmallows

IMPLEMENT

If you already have calorimeters, use them. Otherwise, use the information below to build your own.

How to Make a Calorimeter

1. Use a nail to make four small holes spaced evenly apart in the sides of the can near the top. Straighten two paper clips and insert them through the opposing holes. Wrap a rubber band around the ends of the paper clips to hold them in place. The can is now ready to be suspended from a ring clamp. (Note: An aluminum can has been reported to produce better results than similar experiments using glassware.)

2. Set up the calorimeter-ring stand, ring clamp, aluminum can, and fireproof pad or piece of aluminum foil.

3. To make a food platform, bend the outer end of a paper clip straight down so it is at a right angle to the rest of the clip. Insert this end into the cork stopper. Refer to the diagram on the previous page.

4. Place the food platform on the fireproof pad or piece of foil. Adjust the height of the can so that it is close to the platform.

Helpful Hints

  • You may wish to include a whole-class lecture at the beginning of this unit to explain to students what a calorimeter is, how it works, and what it is used for. In this activity, students do not use the calorimeter to calculate the number of calories (Cal) in a given food item; they simply measure the change in water temperature. The curriculum developers felt students would lose the big idea-food is energy-if they conducted the calculations necessary to determine the number of calories.
  • Make sure students burn the peanut or marshmallow completely. They may have to relight the food item one or more times.
  • Give students the can of peanuts and bag of marshmallows so that they can read and discuss the nutritional information on the back. If the labels provide nutritional information only by weight and not by number of peanuts or marshmallows, provide students with a scale to determine number of items per unit of weight.
  • Given the simple nature of this calorimeter with all its possibilities for heat loss, students should still be able to measure about 80% of the energy contained in the peanut or marshmallow. They should also be made aware of the limitations of their experimental setup.

Extension Questions

  • Do you think a piece of chocolate would provide more or less energy than a peanut? A marshmallow? How could you find out? How would you explain differences in energy content among these three food items?
  • Can humans get energy from other sources beside s food? Explain.
  • Why is it unhealthy to eat too few or too many calories?

ASSESS

The group Data Sheet, presentation, Individual Report, and group discussion can be used to assess if students can

  • define heat energy and calorie (Cal).
  • describe the relationship between energy and calories.
  • explain the importance of food for providing our bodies with energy.
  • identify that different kinds of food contain different amounts of energy.

Background Information

  • In foods, energy is stored in the chemical bonds of the food molecules. When those bonds are broken, either through burning or through digestion, energy is released.
  • One calorie (cal) is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius. One calorie (Cal, often used to describe the amount of energy in food) equals 1,000 calories. Food calories (Cal) are also known as kilocalories.
  • One way to determine the energy value of a food item is to burn it and measure the amount of heat energy produced. To determine the number of calories in a food item, the mass of the water (in grams) is multiplied by the change in water temperature (in degrees Celsius). Food calories are then determined by dividing the number of calories by 1,000. The burning of food, however, is rarely done outside of school labs. There are two reasons: (1) not all of the energy released in burning is available to one's body since some of the ingested food is not absorbed, and (2) many foods are difficult, if not impossible, to burn.
  • A second and much more common way of determining the energy value of a food item is to calculate the number of grams of fat, protein, and carbohydrates in it and then to multiply each by its physiologic energy value (the energy available to the human body). The physiologic energy value for a gram of fat is 9.0 calories; for a gram of protein, 4.0 calories; and for a gram of carbohydrates, 4.0 calories.
  • Burning a marshmallow or peanut is very similar to what happens in our own bodies. We simply “burn” the food much, much more slowly so that the energy released can be used by our bodies.

Extend the activity by having students

  • use the following equation to determine the number of calories in a food item they have burned: Number of calories = mass of water (g) change in water temperature (^\circ C). Calories (Cal) = \frac{calories}{1, 000}.
  • burn other food items to compare the amount of energy they release.

GroupWork 4 Activity Guide: Food as Fuel (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: Why Do We Eat?

Introduction

Food is fuel for organisms. Much of the food we eat is broken down by our cells for energy-energy that is then used for growth and repair. In this activity, you will see for yourselves that food contains energy and that different foods contain different amounts.

Materials

  • Ring stand, ring clamp, empty soda can, large paper clips, cork stopper, fireproof pad or aluminum foil, metric ruler, beaker of water, small cup of water, 200 \ ml graduated cylinder, matches, thermometer, safety goggles and gloves, a can of shell-less peanuts, a bag of miniature marshmallows

Procedure

1. What is a calorimeter? Read the Resource to find out.

2. You are now ready to determine the amount of energy present in different kinds of food. Place a peanut on the food platform and set it on fire. Measure the change in temperature of the water in the soda can. Record your data on the Data Sheet.

3. Repeat the test using a fresh peanut and fresh water.

4. Does a marshmallow store more or less energy than a peanut? Repeat steps 2 and 3 to find out.

5. Now, as a team, discuss the following questions:

  • Why burn food in a calorimeter?
  • For a given food item, how is a change in water temperature related to its energy content? According to your experiment, which has more energy: a peanut or a marshmallow?
  • Were your peanuts and marshmallows approximately the same size and mass? How might such differences affect your results?
  • Examine the labels on the peanut and marshmallow packages. Calories are a common way of indicating how much energy a given food product provides. Calculate the number of calories in 1 peanut and 1 marshmallow. Which has more calories? How closely do these findings match your experimental results?

6. Prepare to present and explain your findings to the rest of the class.

GroupWork 4 Resource: Food as Fuel (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: Why Do We Eat?

What Is a Calorimeter?

A calorimeter is often used to determine the amount of energy in a given food item. It measures the amount of heat energy released when a food item is burned. Heat energy released during burning is absorbed by the calorimeter's water. Foods high in calories, like potato chips, release a lot of energy in the form of a large and/or long-lasting flame. They make the water hot. Foods low in calories (Cal), like rice cakes, release much less energy. When lit, they have small and/or short-lived flames. They cause only a small change in water temperature.

How Do You Use a Calorimeter?

  1. Put on safety goggles and gloves.
  2. Pour a measured amount of water (200 \ ml) into the soda can.
  3. Measure the temperature of the water and record it on the data sheet. Take the thermometer out of the can.
  4. Place the food item on the paper clip on the food platform.
  5. Light the food item and place the platform under the soda can. Place the used match in a cup of water.
  6. After the food item is completely burned, remeasure the temperature of the water. Record it on the data sheet.

What Safety Tips Must You Follow?

  • Wear your safety goggles and gloves at all times.
  • Handle the matches with care.
  • Do not touch the can immediately after burning. It may be hot.

GroupWork 4 Individual Report: Food as Fuel (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: Why Do We Eat?

1. Why burn food in a calorimeter?

2. For a peanut or a marshmallow, how is the change in water temperature related to its energy content?

3. According to the food labels, about how many calories (Cal) are in one peanut? One marshmallow? Why is it important to know the number of calories in a particular food item?

4. How does this activity help answer the big idea of the unit, “Why do we eat?”

GroupWork 4 Data Sheet: Food as Fuel (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: Why Do We Eat?

TABLE OF PEANUT TRIALS

Peanut Trial #1 Peanut Trial #2
Grams of Water
Starting Temperature
Finishing Temperature

Average Change in Water Temperature : __________________

TABLE OF MARSHMALLOW TRIALS

Marshmallow Trial #1 Marshmallow Trial #2
Grams of Water
Starting Temperature
Finishing Temperature

Average Change in Water Temperature: ___________________

GroupWork 5: Teacher Activity Notes - Energy as Calories

Big Idea: Why Do We Eat?

PLAN

Summary Students explore the concept of food as energy. They determine the number of calories in different kinds of foods and discuss how the human body uses food for energy.

Group Size 4 to 5 students

Objectives

Students:

  • identify the amounts of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates and the number of calories in a given amount of food.
  • describe the relationship among food, calories, and energy.
  • explain how and why the human body uses food for energy.

Multiple Abilities

  • Conceiving of an idea for a song (creative ability)
  • Making connections between ideas/concepts, considering as many solutions as possible (reasoning ability)
  • Explaining clearly and fully, using words precisely (communication skills)

Estimated Time 40 minutes

Suggested Use

  • This set of activities works well near the end of the unit.

Student Materials

Packaged foods, audiotapes, and tape recorder

IMPLEMENT

  • Before beginning this activity, encourage students to bring in tapes and/ or lyrics by popular artists. Students may want to listen to these tapes to help them write and/or present their song.
  • Provide students with a wide variety of packaged foods with clearly marked food labels. If you wish to include unprocessed foods (apples, lettuce, whole beans, etc.) in the food collection, include a dietary table as well.
  • Make sure students connect the composition of a given food (amounts of protein, fats, and carbohydrates) to its number of calories and to the amount of energy it provides.

Extension Questions

  • Why does a gram of fat have more calories than a gram of protein or carbohydrate?
  • What are empty calories? (Alcohol, for example, has empty calories.)
  • If a bag of potato chips has the same number of calories as two apples, why eat the apples instead of the chips?
  • Why is it helpful and important to read food labels?
  • Do nonfat foods have calories? Explain.

ASSESS

Use the group discussion, presentation, and Individual Reports to assess if students can

  • identify the amounts of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates and the number of calories in a given amount of food.
  • describe the relationship among food, calories, and energy.
  • explain how and why the human body uses food for energy.

Background Information

  • Kilocalories are sometimes referred to as calories (abbreviated with a capital C). There are 1,000 calorie s in one kilocalorie or Cal. Food is measured in calories (Cal).
  • Protein s and carbohydrates contain approximately 4 calories per gram, while fats contain approximately 9 calories per gram. Alcohol, on average, yields about 7 calories per gram.

Extend the activity by asking students to research the recommended caloric intake for people of their size, age, and sex. Why are these recommendations given? Have the recommendations changed over time (from the 1950s to the present)? Why or why not?

GroupWork 5 Activity Guide: Energy as Calories (Student Reproducible)

Big Idea: Why Do We Eat?

Introduction

Food is fuel for our bodies. The amount of fuel, or energy, found in food is measured in calories (Cal). Different kinds of food provide our bodies with different amounts of energy. Our bodies use the energy to make new molecules, in other words, to maintain our bodies and to allow us to grow.

Materials

  • Packaged foods, audiotapes, and tape recorder

Procedure

1. The movie producer, Spark Dee, has asked your team to write the lyrics to the theme song for his upcoming film Fuel. The film examines the subject of nutrition and targets adolescents. Before writing this song, research the relationship among food, calories, and energy. To do so, examine the nutrition labels of the foods provided and your student text. Discuss the following questions:

  • Which foods are high in calories? Low in calories?
  • How is the number of calories in a given food related to th

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6 , 7 , 8

Date Created:

Feb 23, 2012

Last Modified:

Apr 29, 2014
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