Macromolecules - BIG MACromolecules

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An excellent way to engage your students when teaching them about macromolecules is to look at the different food groups and relate it to what they eat. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats take on a whole new level of interest when you bring food into the mix...especially when it involves a Big Mac.

If you haven’t done this practical before or you’re a little rusty there’s a link below to the reagents required and how to do each test:

https://www.thoughtco.com/simple-chemical-tests-for-food-4122218

These tests can be done using basic household items that students will have no doubt seen before:

  • Pasta, rice or potato for starch
  • Honey for glucose
  • Egg whites for protein
  • Oil for lipid

Tips which make this practical easier:

  • Use electric kettles to heat the water for Benedict’s solution; it’s so much faster!
  • Have a set of reagents and food samples for each group, and laminated instruction cards (one wipe with a damp sponge, and they can be reused!)
  • A strainer in the sink means that any solid food doesn’t block the drain – win!

Once your students are familiar with the basic tests for each reagent, you can then make things a little bit interesting.

Method One: What’s in a Big Mac?

Bring a Big Mac to class; this action alone will make your students curious about what you’re doing. Cut it up roughly and place it into a blender, with enough water to turn it into a thick liquid (I find porridge consistency is usually about right). At this point even your most disengaged student will be interested; because let’s be honest, who puts a Big Mac in the blender? Once you have made your ‘Big Mac Smoothie’ and your students have hypothesized about what it contains, allow them to carry out the food tests again.

Method Two: Be a CSI!

Another fun way to use food testing is to have several unlabelled bottles of food (I find using liquefied foods best as it makes identifying them a bit more challenging). From here, your students can identify the mystery samples using the tests and then compare them to data sheets for different foods. You can also be a bit sneaky with this one and combine two food groups. For example, using high-fat milk is good as it will test positive for both fat and protein.

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