Egg-Spolartion for Breakfast
Science lessons during breakfast? Absolutely! These are all suggestions for how you can “spin” a simple egg preparation into a playful learning event. There are a number of ideas here. Pick and choose, don’t try them all at one time. Spread suggestions out over several breakfasts, or repeat as needed. Repetition is the basis for retaining information. Just make sure your child is engaged (and not so hungry that she will scream if you ask another question). Think five minutes today, and five more tomorrow. Knowledge accumulates over time, so revisit questions or concepts or add slight variations.
Before you dive into this or any of the activities, be sure to familiarize yourself with the Guiding Curiosity approach, designed specifically for parents! You can find this information on the “What is Guiding Curiosity” page. Please read beyond the first page as there is more, or specific information about asking questions, encouraging comparisons and experimentation.
What do you think happens when you boil/cook an egg?
Related questions: How do you open or crack an egg? Can an egg go from a liquid to a solid? Where do eggs go after they are eaten? Where do eggs come from? How many are in a dozen? What other ways can you cook eggs?
Invite your child to examine eggs before and after they are cooked. Describe the shells. Note the color of the shells. Ask more questions: Do eggs come in different colors? Do the shells vary in shape or smoothness? What does a shell feel like? Do they have a smell?
Suggest that your child cracks an egg (or eggs) open and observe and describe the white and the yolk. More questions: What does she see, feel, smell (better to not taste raw egg)? If she cracked more than one egg, ask: Do yolks vary in color or consistency? Do the shells differ in thickness or brittleness? Are egg whites always clear?
If a hand lens or magnifying glass is available, look at egg yolks and whites. Ask her to describe what she sees. Alternatively, she can draw what she sees.
If eggs have different colored shells, do the yolks or whites differ?
Compare the shapes of eggs, are they the same? (Hint: It might help to have eggs of different sizes (medium, large, jumbo) to answer this question, but we would not expect you to buy different cartons of eggs for this purpose. If you buy eggs from a farmer’s market, you may have more variation in size and color).
Compare a hard boiled egg with a poached or scrambled egg and note visual differences, as well as how they feel, smell, and taste.
If you have recipes on index cards, invite your child to categorize them in terms of the number of eggs listed as part of ingredients, or if the eggs are mixed or folded into a batter. (Hint: This would require that your child can read, but with a younger child you could read from lists of recipe ingredients and discuss the variations).
Find pictures of various foods cooked with eggs, cut these out and suggest that your child classifies them. Leave the classification scheme up to your child, but if she can’t decide here are some suggestions: the recipe uses a lot of eggs, one, or none; the recipe uses the whole egg or just the whites, the recipe results in something your child likes to eat or not. You can also use the simple prompt of how are the foods similar or different?
Find pictures of various breeds of chickens and the color of the eggs they produce. These can be categorized in terms of the color of the feathers, size, or other variations in the chicken’s physical appearances.
Determine the circumference or the height of an egg. Invite your child to use a tape measure or ruler for this purpose, or invent measurements. Can your child wrap his thumb and pointing finger around the egg and do they touch? Or measure with a piece of string wrapped around the middle of the egg. How does this compare with the height of the egg measured with the same string? Is the egg as fat as it is tall?
If you have a kitchen thermometer, what is the temperature of the water a boiled egg is cooked in? How about the water in which a poached egg is cooked?
If you have a kitchen scale, how much does an egg weigh? How much does the shell weigh when the yolk and white are removed? If you separate the white from the yolk you could weigh those to see if there is a difference. Do all eggs in a carton weigh the same?
Perhaps your child has a balance scale. Does an egg weigh more than a banana, ½ cup of water, a spatula, two-quarters? Even without a balance scale, ask your child to hold an egg in one hand and the banana (or other objects) in the other hand. Ask which is heavier or lighter.
The following experiments involve cooking. Young children can help with cracking eggs, beating them, measuring and wiping up afterwards. Perhaps older children can help with the cooking when heat is involved, but use your best judgment about their maturity and readiness.
All children can see the before and after effects, thus they can think about the results of cooking an egg. Ask that they make predictions about what will happen. While the outcomes of these experiments can inform us of the effects of heat on liquids, or proteins, the life cycles of chickens, or transference of energy, etc., the first lessons are in designing and conducting experiments.
Try boiling an egg for 3 minutes. Cook another egg for 4 minutes, one for 5 minutes, one for six minutes, etc. Note the differences in whites and yolks depending on the time elapsed. How does the timing of cooking change the egg?
If you do not want to cook several eggs at once, try this experiment across several days, making notes of what the cooked egg looks, tastes and feels like and the time it was cooked. Take pictures on your phone for comparative purposes.
Give your child a hard-boiled and a fresh egg. See if he can determine which is which without cracking them open. Experiments that could answer this question include spinning, weighing, and shaking them. Which experiment works best?
Try poaching eggs for varying amounts of time and compare results. With both poached and boiled eggs, the effects of heating water to boiling, bubbles, or liquid to gas (steam) phase transitions are all points of additional discussion.
Extend experiments to fried eggs. If your child likes scrambled eggs, try cooking scrambled whites only, and compare to scrambled yolks only…versus what the whole egg scrambled together looks and tastes like.
Cook scrambled eggs with or without a fat added. That is, make one batch of scrambled egg with just egg (maybe salt and pepper). Make another batch adding dairy (or milk with some fat). With the added fat the eggs should be fluffier. (Hint: Recipes for scrambled eggs usually call for adding a dairy. The fat in the dairy makes a difference in terms of how the protein in the egg cooks (the fat coats the protein and prevents it from over-coagulating, plus the liquid adds steam). The eggs cooked without a fat should be tougher. Cooking changes the egg, but adding another element alters that process.)
Try adding salt before or after you cook scrambled eggs (you could split a batch). Salt weakens the protein bonds during cooking making the eggs with salt added before cooking more tender.
Cook batches of scrambled eggs that are beaten lightly versus beaten with a lot of energy (you can time the amount of beating). (Hint: Over beaten eggs over-coagulate.)
Whip egg whites separately. Predict what change will take place? (A meringue cookie or lemon meringue pie may be a good recipe to start to follow at this point).
Vary the temperature when cooking scrambled or fried eggs. Is the result better with low and slow or high heat?
Try boiling eggs with a teaspoon of vinegar and any of the following materials added to the pot. The more material added, the more intense the color: Tea/Coffee, grape juice, fruits (blueberries, orange or lemon peel, cranberries), and vegetables (red cabbage, beets, red onion skin). What happens and why? Save the colored shells for art projects.
Take a careful look at an egg, noting the qualities of the shell. (Hint: egg shells are made of calcium carbonate, which is broken down by an acid). Place that egg in a clear container and cover it with vinegar. Check the egg periodically, but leave for at least 24 hours. Take the egg out of the vinegar and dry it off. Look closely, feel the egg, smell it. What happened or what is different? Did your child see any bubbles and what does he thinks those mean? (Hint: Try this with a chicken bone. Wait longer, but observe before, during and after the bone has been in the vinegar)
Ahh, the age-old question. Where do eggs come from, or which came first, the chicken or the egg? Good luck finding an answer, but encourage your child to develop an argument and support it.
Invite your child to elaborate on where an egg fits into the life cycle of a bird. Find photographs or illustrations of the eggs of other birds. How are they alike or different and why?
If you have access, try cooking an ostrich or emu egg. Ostrich eggs can be shipped and are still edible – great fun but you will need a lot of people to consume what you make! I have seen goose eggs at farmers’ markets. These too might provide a nice variation.
Although this post was about poultry eggs, consider other eggs we tend to eat. Sushi anyone?
Explore with your child the nutritional value of an egg? How does eating eggs help us on a day-to-day basis or help us grow and stay healthy? Can they make us sick (look up Salmonella or allergies to eggs) or what can we do to avoid becoming sick if eating eggs? Discuss the sell-by dates on egg cartons and what that means.
Look up how proteins change when eggs cook?
Ask friends and family members what their favorite egg recipes are. Create a bar chart based on those responses.
Make a batch of deviled eggs and share (you could use the eggs from the experiment involving coloring the shells).
Look up the use of eggs in developing vaccines.
Glossary: Don’t be afraid to use the language of science. Consider the following words:
Boiling Phase transitions: liquids to gas, liquids to solids
Sodium Chloride (kitchen salt)