We’ve all built spaghetti towers, used rice in jars to demonstrate friction, made plastic from milk and grown mould on bread – but is it time to think again about experiments that essentially waste food?
The 16th of October 2023 is World Food Day (and the first day of Biology Week too) and as is often the case much on the focus will be on food waste and sustainability of supporting the global population. Every year about 1/3 of the world’s food is wasted (The World Counts), much of it thrown away by retailers and consumers when it is still perfectly good to eat.
That got me thinking about my own food waste, both at home and in the science classes I teach, and how I could find ways to reduce what I was wasting. At home a simple audit over a couple of weeks revealed family habits that could be changed to cut down on what was thrown away. At school I pledged to stop using food in experiments and instead look for more sustainable, and ultimately more cost effective, alternatives.
My spaghetti towers, with mini marshmallow connectors, are now reusable toothpicks with sticky tack connectors. There are lots of better, more relevant ways to demonstrate friction than the rice in a jar experiment and I have found several alternative chemical reactions to use instead of wasting milk. I have even started making my own agar plates at home (Agar plates) to use in place of bread and found that timelapse videos of mould growing are just as effective, and a lot safer, than doing it in the classroom.
I am not suggesting that we stop using food altogether in primary school science, but that we do think about how we are using it, talk to our classes about food waste, and be conscious of any food waste we are producing.
At My Science Club we have deliberately avoided activities that waste, food and we test all of our activities to ensure they are as sustainable as possible.
We’d love to hear from you about the things you and your clubbers get up to so don’t forget to tag us in your posts this week. If you are a member, you can enter our brand-new monthly competition by sending sharing on any of our social media channels what your club are up to and a chance to win a free credit to exchange for a whole pack of 6 sessions of your choice!
Bryony and Paul
Founders and creators of My Science Club