My junior high classes rotate every six weeks which doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to cover all the material that I need or want to. Because of this, I find myself trying to piggyback multiple concepts and standards into a lesson or activity. So when I teach about how to calculate unit prices and read package labels, both ingredient lists and nutrition facts, it makes sense to combine the two into a hands-on hot cocoa mix taste testing lab. Not only does it get the students into the kitchen, but it ties back to everything we covered so far in the rotation, helping them to review the concepts previously learned. In the lab students determine which product they think tastes the best and then in the follow-up students use the product labels to compare everything from unit price to ingredients to nutrition. Do students know their brands like they think they do? Can they determine the healthiest brand for their dollars? This lesson helps them find out!
- Ask students to list as many brands of hot cocoa mixes as they can and write them on the board.
- Inform students that they will be having a taste testing lab to compare different brands of hot cocoa mixes to determine which they believe is the best tasting. Then they will also calculate unit prices to determine which is the best deal. Is the best tasting always the best deal? We will find out.
- Demonstrate how to calculate unit prices with this formula: Price divided by unit (oz. lb. number)
- 3 Different Brands of Hot Cocoa Mixes (more if classes are larger)
- Ziploc Bags
- Hot Beverage Cups (disposable), lettered by kitchen
- Calculators (optional)
- I use 3 mixes, but you can use more depending on your class size. I like to remove the mixes from their original containers and place them in Large Ziploc bags labeled by letters only.
- Before students participate in the lab, we discuss the criteria they will be evaluating the brands on which include: Flavor, Smooth/Creamy Texture, Chocolaty Smell, and Color.
- I provide students with a ballot that they will use to keep track of their ratings and reasons. They will identify the mix by it’s letter and give each a rating from 1 yucky to 10 yummy and describe each mix for flavor (rich chocolate taste or chemical/powder aftertaste), smooth/creamy texture (thick & creamy or thin & watery), smell (rich chocolaty smell or weak & bland smell) and finally color (deep, dark brown color or muddy, gray color).
- Have kettles of hot water ready to go and add the appropriate amount of mix to each cup.Determine the amount of mix to add based on the product and include this information on the labeled Ziploc bag. It’s usually around 2-3 tablespoons.
- Following the taste test, students will be given the opportunity to try to guess the brand of their favorite.
- Tally the results (I do this based on their ballots) and then survey the class for their guesses for the brands sampled. I give them the official results. This is always a fun reveal as students swear they know their brands and are usually surprised when their guesses are wrong. We then continue with the follow-up portion of the lesson/lab.
- After the taste test, students will receive a copy(*) of the products which include the price, size of the container, the ingredients list and the nutrition facts label. Students work their way through the comparison worksheet using that information. *We have a school portal so I post my product information there so I can conserve both paper and ink.
- Conclude by having students complete an exit slip explaining why it’s important to compare brands, unit prices, ingredient lists, and nutrition facts when buying products.
- Extension Option: You could also include a homemade hot cocoa version that you make up ahead of time or students prepare as a lab follow-up to compare the homemade version to the pre-made mixes for taste and cost.
- Note: Starbuck’s can be a bit on the pricey side so I am always on the lookout for sales and will purchase at reduced prices, in bulk when I find them. My classes are also on the small side so they last for a couple of rotations. Students are often willing to chip in especially if they know they get to be in the kitchens. You can also do similar comparisons with other foods/beverages.
- Hot Cocoa Mixes Taste Test Ballot (PDF)
- Hot Cocoa Mix Comparison Worksheet (PDF)
- Hot Cocoa Mixes Information (PDF)
- Photo courtesy of Stockimages from FreeDigitalPhotos