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New class teaches the science behind food

Godwin Heights — “OK chefs, you have about 20 minutes left,” said high school science teacher Georgie Blake.

The announcement caused a little panic among the We Bare Bears and Two Cubs cooking group, and sent senior Julio Cruzado Bosque to check the temperature of the milk his group was heating to make yogurt.

“It’s not quite there,” he told the others, announcing the temperature at around 107 degrees. It needed to be 180 degrees, then cooled to about 115 degrees before they could mix in the yogurt starter.

The students are part of the high school’s new Food Science class, where they gain a basic understanding of the biology, chemistry and engineering processes that contribute to making the food people eat, Blake said. 

“The class is designed around a lot of cooking techniques and principles,” she said, “We take a look at why and how molecules react when we do certain things, like add water or eggs to flour.”

Confidence Through Cooking

The semester class has six units: emulsion, fermentation, baking, molecules of food, pasta and vegetables. As they learn the cooking concepts, class members test what they have learned by preparing different dishes, Blake said.

Earlier this year, students learned how mixing egg yolk with lemon juice, oil and mustard makes mayonnaise, which is an emulsion: the mixture of two or more liquids that do not mix naturally. Mayonnaise is a permanent emulsion, as the mixture does not separate, whereas a simple vinaigrette of oil and vinegar, which separates after mixing, is a temporary emulsion.

The students were heavy handed when adding spices to the dressings, which created overpowering flavor profiles, Blake said. 

“All of the dressings were awful,” said senior Diego Revolorio-Servellon. As in, inedible.

Mistakes are part of the learning process, Blake said, which helps students understand the chemistry behind the process.

Blake, a first-year biology teacher, said she was excited when administrators offered her the opportunity to teach the class, which was started last spring. Food Science is part of the school’s new elective offerings. Blake said she reworked the curriculum to make lessons align more with students’ interests.

“It gives them the opportunity to have made something in a kitchen setting,” she said, adding that the goal is to develop their confidence while fostering their curiosity and creativity. “As students increase their confidence and skills in the kitchen, they become more creative and hands-on in the process.”

Bringing Lessons Home

During a recent lesson, students learned about fermentation, a process through which microorganisms like yeast and bacteria convert carbohydrates such as sugar and starch into alcohol or acids. A few weeks earlier, the students had learned how yeast fermentation creates carbon dioxide, causing bread to rise. The group made pretzels, which was popular with the students.

Now they are studying how bacteria converts into lactic acid, which causes milk to sour, a process used to make yogurt. The students warmed milk to 180 degrees and then let it cool to about 115 degrees. Once cooled, the students added a yogurt starter. They had the choice to let the yogurt sit in a warmer for four, eight or 24 hours. 

Junior Brianna Botello said she thought the longer the yogurt sat in the warmer, the thicker it would get. The next day, as students looked over their finished product, they noticed some texture differences.

As for taste, “It tastes like yogurt,” said junior Antonia Boie.

“The class does teach you science behind the food, and the why,” said sophomore Marely Aguilar-Rizo, adding she had enjoyed the class that has given her a chance to meet other people in the school while cooking.

Diego said he has made some of the recipes at home, such as bagels and homemade pasta.

“I enjoyed making the pasta because you got to play with the dough, shape it and have spaghetti when it was done,” he said.

Read more from Godwin Heights: 
Academy gives high-schoolers classroom teaching experience
Decision Day celebrates seniors’ next steps

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


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