Two Kent State researchers think cooking may be a good recipe for teaching children about science.

They have been awarded a three-year, $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to see if their culinary strategy works.

Bradley Morris and John Dunlosky have teamed up to help parents use cooking — which scientists note is chemistry — as a way to engage their children in conversations about science.

“One of the big barriers to science is that people think ‘I don’t know a lot about science, so how am I going to teach my kids about it?’ ” Dunlosky said in a KSU news release issued Thursday. “Food is a good context because people eat or prepare food all the time.”

For the NSF-funded project to test their ideas, the two researchers will work with the Cincinnati Museum Center and a Cincinnati area soup kitchen called La Soupe.

While the project will involve families of all income levels, it will focus on reaching out to families with “food insecurity” and those living in “food deserts," according to the news release.

Food-insecure households are those that lack consistent access to adequate, nutritious food, the United States Department of Agriculture says.

Food deserts, the American Nutrition Association says, are low-income communities without ready access to healthy and affordable food.

At the Cincinnati museum, families will find demonstration carts where a trained cook will put together a simple dish — such as macaroni and cheese or pancakes — and get the children asking “why, what and how” questions about the process.

“The recipe might even fail,” Morris said. “Say the pancakes don’t rise or the mac ’n’ cheese looks horrible, and you’d say, ‘Well, this is because the mac ’n’ cheese needs an emulsifier,’ and they’d ask, ‘What’s an emulsifier, and how does that work?’ ’’

Morris and Dunlosky are co-directors of the Science of Learning and Education Center at Kent State. Morris is a professor of educational psychology in the university's College of Education, Health and Human Services, and Dunlosky is a professor of psychological sciences in the university's College of Arts and Sciences.

 

Reach Katie Byard at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com.