Lighting snacks on fire! Your students' eyes will pop with excitement! This is a fun lab to incorporate during a unit on energy because students will learn about the concept of a food Calorie as a measure of the amount of energy released during the digestion and metabolism of food. They will use a 'classroom-grade' calorimeter made of a soda can to make a determination of food Calories in some common snack foods. The fun part is that to release the heat from the foods, you light them on fire! Students will practice reading a thermometer, making precise measurements using a graduated cylinder, and review lab safety. They will learn that the instrument of a calorimeter is used to measure the amount of heat energy released from food as it is burned, and they will use a 'classroom-grade' calorimeter made of a soda can to make a determination of food Calories in some common snack foods.
Students read and highlight background information on the vocabulary needed for the lab. They also answer a Pre-Lab problem that will help them with the (very basic) math that is needed to calculate the Calorie content of the food snacks.
You will need the following equipment for each student group of 3-4 students: a ringstand, a ring clamp, a stirring rod, 2 empty soda cans, a rubber stopper with a hole in it, a large paperclip, tongs. You will also need to supply at least 3 different food snack pieces (cheese puffs, Doritos, Ritz crackers, cashew nuts, marshmallows, etc.) that the students will use for the lab.
This lab supports NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas MS-LS1-7 (Within individual organisms, food moves through a series of chemical reactions in which it is broken down and rearranged to form new molecules, to support growth, or to release energy.), PS3.A (Temperature is a measure of the average kinetic energy of particles of matter. The relationship between the temperature and the total energy of a system depends on the types, states, and amounts of matter present.), and PS3.B (Energy is spontaneously transferred out of hotter regions or objects and into colder ones). After performing the lab and calculating the number of Calories in the snack pieces, the students will have to think about why their 'homemade' calorimeter is very inefficient...this allows them to contemplate the heat loss in an open system. They will draw a design for a better, more efficient calorimeter. A link to a great extension article on food scientists and Calorie-measurement is included.
Teacher notes are included, as well as an answer key for the highlighting section and Pre-Lab problem.
Thanks for looking!