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Food, Fun and Science!

The University of Idaho Extension Washington County held the second session of a two-part series entitled Food, Fun and Science on Thursday November 19.  The series was open to Washington County youth 8-12 years old and was held in the UI Extension kitchen/classroom.  Six youth attended both hands-on classes taught by UI Extension Educator, Mary Ridout and staff, Michelle Tate and Stephanie Butterfield. 

The first session held in October focused on apples.  Youth learned a little about the different varieties of apples grown in our area, including some differences in their appearance, taste, texture, usage and availability.  Apple spoilage was also investigated.  Youth were able to explore decomposing apples under magnification as well as some other mold and fungus specimens.   The benefit of this “spoilage” and how it can be used to make other foods that we enjoy, like bread and cheese, was also explored.  From spoilage, we moved on to preservation.  Each attendee learned about the benefits of dehydrating apples by peeling, coring, slicing, and placing their apples into a dehydrator and then snacking on dried apples.  They also tried a recipe called “zapped apples” which is apples cooked in the microwave with a bit of butter and brown sugar.  The final recipe of the afternoon also incorporated dried apples—a homemade granola bar made with a variety of other dried fruits and nuts.  Youth were able to take home a granola bar and book of recipes to recreate at home. 

Pumpkins starred in our November class.  Students learned a variety of interesting facts about pumpkins.  They determined that pumpkins and most other squash will float by testing them in a pool of water in the back yard of the UI Extension Office.  After floating their pumpkins, youth were treated to a short video of a pumpkin regatta where 500 to 1,000-pound pumpkins are hollowed out and paddled across a lake.  Several of the youth noted that pumpkins appear to make a very tippy boat!  A pumpkin and a squash were then cut open for the youth so they could see the internal structure.  Students were able to look at the seeds under magnification to see all of the parts that could potentially become plants, and then were able to look at some pumpkin seedlings under magnification as well.  Extension Educator, Mary Ridout led the youth in examining a rotting pumpkin, and they revisited the discussion of spoilage from the first class.  Cooking and snacking were next on the list for the youth.  They cleaned the insides out of one of the pumpkins they had cut out earlier and toasted their own pumpkin seeds and prepared the pumpkin flesh to be baked.  They also tested recipes for pumpkin-cream cheese quesadillas, pumpkin butter and two kinds of pumpkin pancakes.  Each child had an active role in cooking—reading recipes, measuring, stirring, flipping items on the griddle and of course, taste-testing.  They left the class with these recipes to add to their apple collection from the previous class. 

Hand hygiene and food safety were important components of both classes.  Children discussed how and when they should wash their hands and demonstrated often.  They also discussed preventing cross-contamination of foods and kitchen items and which foods needed to be kept refrigerated.  Each class had multiple hands-on science lessons where youth learned that a better understanding of the science involved in food and cooking can lead to better nutrition, food safety and cooking results.  They also learned that they can make foods for themselves that can be tasty, nutritious and economical.  Many of the students tried a new food for the first time as well!

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