Where do quesadillas come from? Following lessons on the carbon cycle and calorimetry, sixth-grade scientists studied the resources needed to take food from farm to table. Working in pairs, students selected a dish and identified three ingredients to research and present. “They all have to start with the sun,” said teacher Aaron Murray. “All food must either be grown to feed us or to feed the animals that feed us.”
The assignment included heavy doses of math and geography as students traced the ingredients backward and looked at considerations such as maturity (how long it takes to grow a potato or raise a chicken), water needed to produce the food, fertilizers, pesticides, machinery and electricity, among others.
A big aspect of the journey was transportation - the moving of ingredients to factories and then to market and then, finally home to the table. Graham Auchterlonie and his partner Will Farver chose to research crab meat, rice and avocados, three ingredients in a California roll, and part of their work was calculating the cost of fuel for the fishing boats that bring in crabs.
“The biggest challenge is there’s a lot of math,” said Graham.
Will added, “We’re calculating a lot of averages, which takes time.”
Nia Jakubowski and Katie Bergsieker looked at the energy needed to put a pan of lasagna on the table.
“The research has been hard because of the extra step in finding out about food for the animals since beef is one of our ingredients,” said Nia. They also traced the resources associated with cheese and pasta.
Once the research and math were completed, students put together presentations such as short movies or slideshows to share with their peers and celebrated their success with a buffet featuring the foods they studied. Their next lesson will be to understand the topics of food waste and waste management such as landfill use, recycling, and compost.
Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.