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Chemistry gets a bad rap. Seriously. In the typical American high school, people who are good in chemistry are often looked as outcasts or weird. There seems to be a very strong bias against chemistry and the sciences in general.
If you think it’s bad enough that people look at you funny if you are really good at chemistry and physics, wait until they hear that you are a math wiz. A lot of this is due to the fact that most people are not educated properly in chemistry or the sciences. These subjects were often taught to them in a very dry, boring and lifeless way.
Accordingly, they develop a resistance to it. It really isn’t very surprising when you get something presented to you in a very boring and even irritating way and for you to later on develop a very strong dislike for that subject matter.
On top of all this discouragement, let’s be honest-the sciences and math aren’t exactly depicted as particularly ‘sexy’ by mass media. In movie after movie, kids who are great at math and science are often depicted as nerds or ‘weird.’ Who would be excited about learning math or science when being known to be a wiz in these subjects might lead to you getting bullied or laughed at by your classmates? Is it really that big of a mystery why the US has been struggling with STEM subjects for many years now? The worst part? It’s not about brain power. When it comes to a neuron for neuron brain power comparison between the US and other countries, the US is able to hold it’s own. Instead, it’s all about attitude.
Intellectually speaking, you’re able to eat this subject up stuff up. You’re able to make sense of the concepts. You’re able to relate to it. It doesn’t intimidate you, it doesn’t scare you. Intellectually speaking, you’re able to handle it.
The problem is one of attitude
You start associating chemistry, math, sciences, and other similar subjects with being dictated to or being bored to tears. You associate it with being a nerd or weirdo. You don’t want to be a social outcast. You don’t want to be bullied. You don’t want to be made to feel like you don’t belong. These are, after all, quite big concerns in high school
If you don’t want your kids to develop this negative attitude, which can hamper them later on in life as they select potential careers, you might want to break them in slowly by baking with them. Believe it or not, you can teach your kids a lot about chemistry by baking with them.
Organic Chemistry is the Name of the Game
So what kind of science is involved when you bake a crusty home-made loaf of bread with the best bread maker? Actually, a lot of it is organic chemistry. When bread rises, it increases in volume primarily because the dough is filled with gas. This gas is carbon.
How does this carbon get there? Well, when you mix the bread machine ingredients in front of your kids, you should make a big deal when you add the yeast. You should tell your kids that yeast are living organisms. They might be hard to see with the naked eye, but they are alive. They move very quickly and there are lots of them in one yeast packet.
When you put yeast in contact with milk and sugar, watch out. Those live organisms, and there are millions of them in every yeast packet, starts to digest the sugar and other biochemical compounds in the milk in your recipe.
The yeast then starts producing carbon dioxide. Their digestive process changes the chemical composition of the sugar and produces CO2 as a result. When yeast has been mixed into flour to produce a dough, the carbon dioxide being produced by the yeast increases the size of the dough.
Make a big deal about how yeast digests sugar. Explain to them the consequences of this carbon dioxide generation. Tell them that such bacterial, yeast, or organic reactions actually play a big role in producing everything from bread to vinegar to wine to beer to kimchi. Get your kids excited because the more you do this, the less intimidated they would get about engineering, science and mathematics.
Eventually, they would have a good time with those concepts and still remain socially well adjusted. This is a great way to open your kids’ minds to fields that involve the sciences, math and other normally very challenging subjects.
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