Organic vs Non-organic Food?
The ‘Set’ for Taste Testing
Will you use organic farming methods when you grow food?? Is it worth the hassle? The cost? The taste?
The majority of the class moved to the ‘organic’ side of the room. They said they liked ‘natural’ food best, that it tasted better, that it was ‘healthier’. Kids on the non-organic side said they didn’t think it was worth the cost, it was a lot of fuss about nothing much. So we were set for a Mythbusters-style taste-test comparison. After actually watching an episode of Mythbusters and looking for signs of good science (a nice little break in the frantic pace of labs in 7th and 8th grade classes :-))
We started with me doing a terrible job of a taste test between Sunburst candy and a cheap, bigger, different flavor chew candy and letting them jeer and mock – self-righteousness, so enjoyable! Took the opportunity to show them the basic equipment we’d have for them to use.
Of course, they would NEVER bias their results by telling the person which produce they were tasting, they’d definitely control the size of the piece and compare apples with apples, carrots with carrots, strawberries with strawberries and grapes with grapes. BTW, we used these kinds of produce because they are the easiest to manage and obtain in both organic and non-organic, directly comparable forms.
We used ‘industrial’ organic from the store, rather than local, farmer’s market produce where the tastes are more likely to be distinct. Mostly because this is the realistic choice faced by busy parents and frankly busy teachers trying to resource the lab!)
Helping kids make their own data tables:
Then I asked what they were going to record and did exactly the data table they suggested on the camera – liked it/didn’t ‘t’ chart. So would that do it? Could you tell what the results meant? Um, no. So we went through a few iterations until we got a simple data table for recording hash marks in.
They planned their experiment – making a hypothesis in an If… then… because… format. The experimental variable, the responding variable and the variables they would be controlling. (Variables are all called different things in different texts. Frustrating. These seem to be the most intuitive for kids though.) They worked in tables of 4, including themselves in the taste test because, in the end, that’s how they will make their decision.
Very fun and tasty. All part of our nepharious plans to make eating healthy COOL.
What did we find?
Putting class results together is always a management challenge. I did it by having them move 3 signs posted around the room “Prefered Organic”, “Couldn’t tell the difference” and “Preferred Non-Organic” for their OWN preferences for each type of produce we tested.
Numbers came out at 2:1 in favor of organic. I was genuinely surprised. Industrial organic means mass produced organic but still with early picking, refrigeration and long transit. So I’m wondering about their methodology… More on Monday!