Culminating Lesson: The Next Cooking Star!

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SWBAT create a video that discusses how concepts of chemistry relate to the preparation of a meal.

Big Idea

Students have spent a great deal of time learning about the chemistry of cooking. This 2 week, project-based lesson will serve as a culminating activity which will allow students to show what they know.

Day 1: Engage

20 minutes

I start the lesson and activate interest by playing the Kid Snippets: Cooking Show video:

After watching, I ask the students how many of them have ever watched a cooking show similar to this on television. I have the class brainstorm a list of cooking shows or competitions they have seen or heard of. Some ideas may include:

  • Top Chef
  • Chopped
  • America's Test Kitchen
  • BBQ Pitmasters
  • Kitchen Nightmatres
  • Cut Throat Kitchen
  • Iron Chef
  • Next Food Network Star
  • Kitchen Confidential
  • Master Chef
  • Cake Boss

After compiling a list of ideas, I allow the students about 10 minutes to browse clips of these shows online and compile a list of the similarities they share, as well as what might make them so popular. After watching several clips of cooking shows and making observations about them, we share as a class, Round Robin style. Each student shares on quality that most of the shows have in common, or that makes them popular to a wide range of audiences.

Next, I ask the students, based on their knowledge of cooking and science, if they feel as though they might be able to create a show like one of these. Most will say yes, as they are excited with the prospect of creating a show. Some may seem more hesitant, either because they are not yet sure of the expectations or because don't like being on camera, which is okay. As we get further into the details, students will receive clear directions and expectations, and will realize that not everyone will be in front of the camera. I explain to the students that they will get the opportunity to work in groups to create their own cooking show, not only to teach us how to prepare a dish, but also to explain the science behind the cooking.

Day 1: Explore

20 minutes

Before we start this, however, I want the students to start thinking about what concepts of science should be addressed. In order to build a conceptual idea of the materials they should be including, I pass out the Chemistry Cooking Quiz and have students complete it independently. This gives me a good idea of what students have retained so far, and will help me to form heterogeneous groups for the project (see reflection).

Day 1: Explain

20 minutes

After completing the quiz, we go over the answers as a class, referring to the different lessons we have covered which address each concept. I find that relating the questions and answers back to the lessons provides some relevance and allows students to make connections, which solidifies scientific concepts. With each question, I ask questions to deepen understanding and to allow students to apply their learning to other situations, such as:

Question #4:

Denaturation of proteins can be caused by:
a. adding heat
b. beating/whipping
c. adding acids or alkalies (such as vinegar or baking soda)
d. all of the above

  • When did we learn about the denaturation of proteins? (making eggs)
  • What is denaturation? (the breaking apart and rebonding of the amino acids in the proteins, causes food to harden)
  • Which way did we denature proteins when we made our eggs? (adding heat)
  • What other foods might have the same reaction as the eggs? (cooking meat)
  • When might we see proteins be denatured by beating or whipping? (meringue)


By allowing students to consider other foods that may have the same reaction, it prepares them for analyzing the chemical processes that may take place in the food they choose to prepare for their video.

Before ending today's class, I ask students to consider a few foods they might like to prepare for their own cooking show. For homework, I have them write down a list of foods, as well as some of the concepts from the quiz that might apply to the foods they have chosen. We will share these ideas after groups are formed the following day.

Days 2-8: Elaborate

60 minutes

By the time the students have arrived to class, I have already gone over their quizzes and formed appropriate student groups of 3. When students arrive I pass out copies of the Project Guide on several different shades of colored paper. Students are tasked with finding classmates who have the same color paper. These will be their crew members for the cooking show. Once they find their partners, they will sit together at the same tables, as the majority of the class period will be devoted to crew planning.

We go over the Project Guide and Rubric, and I explain the project expectations and processes. I answer any immediate questions that arise as we read through the guide. I prompt the students to think about the videos they viewed the day before and to consider how they might want to implement some of the styles into their own shows.

For the next several days, students will be working in their groups to complete the following*, using the Project Guide and Rubric for support:

  • research and select a dish to prepare
  • research and apply the scientific concepts to the recipe
  • writing a script (a short sample has been included in the project guide)**
  • collecting props and creating a set
  • rehearsing the show
  • recording the video***
  • editing the video and adding technical enhancements (graphics, background music, credits, etc)

You can use the example - Amelie's Video - below (from one of my students) as an anchor project for your class. Have them point out the strengths and refinements, comparing it to the project guide and rubric. Not only does it provide them with a sample, but it also helps them to determine how to best meet the expectations of the assignment and demonstrate learning. (I have purposely chosen one that was not terribly high or low in terms of quality, so that there would be both positive and negative aspects to identify and discuss.)

*Because each student group will be working at their own pace and will be deep in discussion the room will be very active and loud. Some teachers don't mind the "productive chaos", but others find it very distracting. If you are one of the latter, this can be easily alleviated by requiring this portion of the lesson to be completed outside of class as a homework assignment. I prefer to have students work on the bulk of the project in class so that I can answer questions and assess their progress along the way. If students are veering off course or having difficulty, I would rather know that earlier and be able to intervene before the final project is due. This part of the process is really based on the style and preferences of the classroom teacher.

**If you teach in a departmentalized setting, is is very beneficial to consult the ELA or writing teacher for additional support with the script. This could come if the form of writing guides or notes to share with the students, mini-lessons in ELA class, shared responsibility in the overall project, or even a co-teaching scenario.  This allows for additional support for you, the science teacher, as well as an integrated approach to learning.

**Due to space limitations and safety concerns, I require the actual filming and cooking be completed at home under parent supervision. I require a parent to make a "cameo appearance" in the video as proof of supervision.

Days 9-10: Evaluate

60 minutes

Students will now present their cooking shows! Using the Class Tools Fruit Machine, I enter all of the groups' names, and randomly select one group at a time to present their shows. If students have chosen to bring a sample of their food, they may share it during/after they present, provided a detailed ingredient list has been provided beforehand. Students in the audience will get the opportunity to ask questions following each presentation. I assess the knowledge demonstrated and the overall quality of each video using the Cooking Show Rubric I developed on the Rubistar website.