Physical vs Chemical Changes: Pancake Day

April 20, 2011 at 6:21 PM 4 comments

I’m moving chemistry away from bangs and smells and toward stuff that fits with their everyday experience – food science, yum.

It was a wild day and I’ve only just finished fishing melted chocolate chips out of the sinks, I’m tired but see for yourselves the enthusiasm of my normally cool 8th graders – I think they get the difference between physical and chemical changes, plus a nice intro to acid/base reactions.

Here’s the sheet we used: 1 The Pancake Lab Phys Chem changes with the recipies and ‘The Science of Pancakes’ from “Cook’s Illustrated Magazine”

Day 1: Have students sort Concept Construxion cards by chemical vs physical changes, chemical and physical properties. Nice review of conductivity and of density by the way.

Show the beautifully produced 5minute video clip from NBC Learn chemistry series. Then demo the individual parts of the recipe.

Day 2: Pancake day! Think tiny little frying pans over bunsens. Sweet.

I thought about how to manage all the equipment, the fire and burn dangers, the mess and stickiness ahead of time and still had to perfect it over the day. But no one got burned, no one died and the superintendent and the principal visited and I still have my job.  If you want help with how to set up and safety, let me know and we’ll chat.

Here’s some pics for the general idea:

H added chocolate chips, what an idea – kids brought them in by themselves. Next year that’ll make it easier and amazingly delicious.

Making syrup at the syrup station – the stickiest place in the universe by now.

S is inspired by this lab and wants to do more stuff like this at home. She’s a chef of tomorrow, and maybe SC too.

Just deserts. I’m hungry, time for dinner.

Entry filed under: Chemistry topics, Class Management, Food science.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Heather  |  February 8, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    I was looking for a chemistry pancake lab just like this one and I am so glad I found your blog! I want to know a bit more about your setup & safety. Where did you find the tiny pans? It looks like the pan is sitting on wire mesh supported by … something? What is that? Can you please share more pictures of the setup?

    Thanks in advance for explaining this to me.


    • 2. Sue Boudreau  |  February 10, 2013 at 3:03 PM

      Heather, hello, glad this looks useful to you. The tiny pans are from Safeway or any grocery store in their kitchen equipment aisle. The egg pans were very inexpensive. The first year they used bunsen burners with tripods and the wire mesh pads over the top, but it’s unnecessarily dangerous. Because I do other food science labs, I invested in one hotplate per table group – 7 in all at about $11 from Target. Much easier to manage. If you send me your e mail, I’ll be happy to send you more info. btw I have a ‘how to run labs’ sheet in the tab at the top of the blog for CSUEB. Check that out. Basically, keep the consumables at the front so you can control the dispensation and replenish easily between classes. Have the equipment they need in a bucket at each table group so you can quickly check that it’s clean at the end of the lab. Do the theory/thinking part separate from the making and eating pancakes so it’s a calm atmosphere and everyone enjoys it. Including you :-).


  • 3. Chas Harsh  |  August 17, 2014 at 5:03 AM


    I love this lesson and may change plans to teach this week. I am trying to find the specific NBC Learn video clip but there are a bunch in there under Chemistry Now. Love this resource! I would be very grateful if you could send me any additional details that you have in an attachment.


    • 4. Sue Boudreau  |  August 17, 2014 at 7:39 PM

      Sure Chas, let me know your e mail address and I’ll get you anything else I have tomorrow. Sue



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