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Food in the Science Classroom for the Purpose of Learning

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Francesca Blanco Francesca Blanco 405 Points

I recently came across an activity where a spinal cord was represented using candy.

I can only imagine how excited the students must feel while completing this project, but I am wondering if it truly led to a better understanding of the material for the students? At the very least, it's a memorable experience!


Yakira Cochran Yakira 210 Points

I would agree with you entirely about both wondering if the students were truly given a better understanding of the topic through the use of candy to demonstrate the concept in addition to it being quite memorable. 

This reminds me of a lesson I taught last year during my practicum at a middle school. My Cooperating Teacher had suggested that we use Oreos with various levels of cream scraped off to represent the different phases of the moon as a form of formative assessment. Students were told that they could eat their Oreos after they’d shown either me or their teacher all the phases of the moon in the correct order and direction and then uploaded a picture of them to a specific photo sharing website. Overall, it seemed to go well, with the majority of students easily creating and arranging the phases. 

However, there were times where students would become a bit impatient and eat their Oreos before we had approved their model. Or they’d begin to wolf them down before the taking a picture of them. In addition, some students did their best to rush through the activity in order to get to their Oreos faster. 

Gabe Kraljevic Gabe Kraljevic 4564 Points

Hello Francesca,

Reflecting on activities like this is something we should all do with everything we contemplate using with students.  You asked the most important question: will this activity lead to a better understanding for your students? 

The answer can be found in what your goal was for using the activity in the first place.  If you just wanted students to understand the layout of the spine and spinal cord then perhaps arranging candy in a pattern that mimics this anatomy might work.  But, if you need them to understand how the form and function of the spine work together then I believe a physical model like this could be accomplished with clay or some other more durable and inedible material.

The other way to approach this model-building is to have students brainstorm conceptual models.  How could you represent the spinal cord by its purpose?  If students get the idea that nerves are how organisms transfer information and control their bodies using signals they may decide to represent a spinal cord using bundles of wires.

I was well-known for handing out goodies to students – but I refrained from using candy or other foods for hands-on activities primarily because students will eat some.  Are their hands, the containers and all work surfaces hygienic?  What would students do with morsels that fall on the floor?  What kind of mess will you be left with after the activity? Or, what about students who can't eat those treats - do you need to provide an alternative so they feel they aren't missing out?

Save the candy for treats.  Use something else for models.

Hope this helps!


Jennifer Toy Jennifer Toy 735 Points

Of course! Students always love the idea of food in class! I really like your idea of using candy to represent the spinal cord. I did an activity last year that my 8th graders really enjoyed. They used red vines for the backbone of DNA and toothpicks attached to different colored marshmellows to represent the 4 different types of nitrogen bases in DNA. I think it was not until then, that many of them could really grasp the structure of DNA. 

Elizabeth Contreras Elizabeth Contreras 385 Points

Hello Francesca,

I personally think this is a great activity! By having students work on this activity, you can literally target 4 different learning styles. Having students create a visual representation of the spinal cord and labeling the different parts you want your students to learn helps your visual, kinesthetic, and the reader/writers. Now if you finish this activity with a verbal review of the spinal cord covering the parts, location, and function, you target the auditory learner. Personally, if I was a student and I knew we were learning about something creating a representation with candy, I would be super excited! This activity not only targets different learning styles but hooks the students into your lesson raising their interest in the subject. Lastly, like you said, it creates a memorable experience. With this you will know that the next time they eat the same candy used during the activity, they will think about what they did during your class.

Tamika Akins Tamika Akins 1170 Points


In my prek class we use eggs and submerge the in three different jars (vinegar, coke, and water). The vinegar dissolves the shell, leaving the egg in tact surrounded by the thin white film beneath the shell, the coke stains the shell, and the water has no effect on the shell. This activity is used during dental week to show the children how different things they eat and drink effects the teeth.

Igdalia Gonzalez Igdalia Gonzalez 130 Points

Food might make it easier to understand the topic, such as when I helped my teacher with the lesson of the phases of the moon using Oreo cookies. It got messy but we had all the students carve out the moon phases. 

Brittany Alao Brittany Alao 580 Points

When I have done activities with food in my class, it is important that you have planned everything to the letter. Give clear expectations for the assignment and what the purpose its. Otherwise, some will see it as just a time to have fun and eat in class. Definitely have a written activity to go along with it. 


Nicole Orta Nicole Orta 1015 Points

I love the idea of using food as a method to learn. It is a very memorable experience for the children, and it is a fun way to represent the topic at hand. However, as a teacher it is important to note every child's allergy prior to any experiments with food. Also, as mentioned by others, children become impatient with candy and yummy food during explanations (and I don't blame them!). It usually depends on the students' ages and abilities for a teacher to decide whether using food is 'worth it' or not. For me, it almost always is worth it! 

Ryan Slusser Ryan Slusser 1720 Points

I agree that food is 'worth it.' Students always learn more when an activity is fun. On the topic of impatience, one of my professors recommends that you always bring extra food or candy that the students can eat while they work so they don't eat their materials. 

Nicole Orta Nicole Orta 1015 Points

I love the idea of using food as a method to learn. It is a very memorable experience for the children, and it is a fun way to represent the topic at hand. However, as a teacher it is important to note every child's allergy prior to any experiments with food. Also, as mentioned by others, children become impatient with candy and yummy food during explanations (and I don't blame them!). It usually depends on the students' ages and abilities for a teacher to decide whether using food is 'worth it' or not. For me, it almost always is worth it! 

Deirdre Dunbar Deirdre Dunbar 90 Points

I have talked to a teacher that was using a cake to represent the cell. She said it went over well in her class. She ended up making the cakes herself. While I think that the use of food might get the students attention, I do not like the use of food for models, especially in the age of Covid-19. The first thing I was taught as a student is that food does not belong in the laboratory because it is easily contaminated with substances that you are working with. The second thing I was taught is that food does not belong in the classroom because it attracts bugs. The school system has relaxed many of these rules in the last couple of years because breakfast has been brought into the classroom. Personally, I do not want to be constantly removing food items and trash cans full of uneaten food from my classroom so using food as a way to make a model is out for me. I like the idea of a student using writing and coloring devices to draw or represent their concept of science models.


Anna Rood Anna Rood 325 Points

Anna Rood here, I think using food as a way to learn is a great idea! Not only will it satisfy children's stomachs, but I think it could be used as a classroom management prompt. Ensure students that if they do the activities and focus during the lesson, they can have fun and eat the food! I love the idea of using candy as a spinal cord. It seems like it could be difficult for the elementary level, but I would have to see it first before trying it! The oreo idea is also very cool, I have heard to f this before and thought about how fun it would be for students to do this! One idea I have with using food is through a lesson for pollination. All you need is cups, petals to place around the rims of the cups, and Cheetos! what students do and understand from this lesson is to put their hands in the cup and touch the Cheetos. The results are that the Cheeto dust sticks to children's fingers, just like flowers pollen does to bees. It is a short activity, but something fun to do! I saw a question that was asked up above about what kind of mess would be left after these activities, and personally, I would plan for the worse and expect the worse. If you do not want to clean up any messes, I wouldn't bring food into your classroom. Children make mistakes just as adults do, so accidents will happen. Plan for the worse with any project, especially food. Activities like this could help students gain respect for their classrooms too! Thank you!

Carolina Acanda Carolina Acanda 605 Points

Hi! I think using food in the classroom for educational purposes can truly help the students learn the content. The students can relate the science concepts with the candy or snacks that they see every day. I remember many of the science projects that my science teachers would do in our class involving food - and I still remember the terms learned. It is all about connections! To kids, science may seem unreal unless it relates to them, and this can be done with snacks!


Dayvonna Gill Dayvonna Gill 510 Points

I feel like this would definitley be beneficial for teahing students about the spinal cord. I think it would be better for students in middle school instead of elementary students because little kids get distracted easily and would attempt to eat the candy. But doing a science topic in this manner is definitley interesting!

Annette Cruz Annette Cruz 485 Points

I think using food for the sake of learning science is a great way to get students excited. It is definitely something I would consider using because it can create kinesthetic learning experiences. Students get engaged because it's food (what student doesn't like food) and it offers a great manipulative at moving parts. However, because it is food, I think there would be a lot of planning for the lesson because there are a lot of factors to consider. For example, using food can equate to big messes in the classroom if not utilized properly. I think once there is a clear idea of what to use the food for, then there can be a great opportunity for learning experiences!

Emily Cooper Emily Cooper 563 Points

Francesca Blanco, 

Pre-service teacher here! I do agree that using candy as an implementation with science is a great way for student to be engaged and retain information. Using candy is great for the students who need hands on experiences to process the material. Other than creating boundaries with food allergeis and setting expectations, I think its a great way to involve all students! 

Karissa Patrick Karissa Patrick 590 Points

I would consider myself a huge supporter of the use of food to help students learn. Year to year, classroom demographics change, therefore not all lessons are going to be culturally, physically, and/or mentally appropriate. However, food is rather universal. Students are typically always going to be eager to work with food. For the areas included in STEM, food is especially useful in helping students represent molecules, atoms, particles, states of matter, counting, and so many other concepts. While you do have to ensure there are no food allergies in your room, the use of food in the classroom is an age-old tradition that has been proven effective time and time again.

Stephanie Iven Stephanie Iven 591 Points

I love the idea of food to use as a learning tool!!!  In January, we used m&ms to explain how natural selection changes in response to the environment.  The students loved it!!!

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