Welcome to Kitchen Classroom, where America’s Test Kitchen Kids is sharing a weekly set of kid-tested and kid-approved recipes, hands-on experiments, and activities paired with suggestions for how to bring learning to life in the kitchen.
For this week’s Kitchen Classroom, we’re bringing the Kitchen STEAM Lab into your home! In Eat With Your Ears, kids and their grown-ups will explore how sound affects the taste of bittersweet chocolate. After completing the experiment, guide kids through the questions in Take It Further about the connection between music and emotions.
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Kitchen STEAM Lab: Eat With Your Ears
In this experiment, kids and grown-ups can put their senses (specifically taste and hearing) to the test to learn whether sound can affect our perception of how bittersweet chocolate tastes. Kids can try the experiment on their own or together with family and friends (because who can refuse playing around with music and chocolate?!) — just be sure to find a quiet place without any distracting sounds, or have each tester listen via their own set of headphones. It is important to use bittersweet chocolate in this activity; milk chocolate will not work.
What You’ll Need:
2 bite-size pieces bittersweet chocolate per person
1 glass of water per person
1 pair headphones per person
1 sheet Eat with Your Ears notes page (see experiment page) or blank sheet of paper
1 pen or pencil per person
Listen to song #1 (/www.americastestkitchen.com/kids/activities/eat-with-your-ears) through your headphones while you eat a piece of the chocolate. Take your time: Close your eyes, chew slowly, and breathe in and out through your nose. Focus on the chocolate flavor. Jot down your observations about how sweet and bitter the chocolate tastes on the Eat with Your Ears notes page or a blank piece of paper (see the ratings table below for an example).
It’s very important to listen to the music through your headphones so you’re not distracted by other sounds. Try to make sure you’re in a quiet area, too. Since we’re testing whether particular sounds affect how the chocolate tastes, we want to stop other distracting sounds from sneaking in. And since this experiment is about our senses of hearing and taste, we want to prevent other senses, such as sight, from getting involved — that’s why we suggest closing your eyes.
Take a sip of water and count to 20. This gives your tastebuds a break.
Listen to song #2 (https://www.americastestkitchen.com/kids/activities/eat-with-your-ears) through your headphones while you eat your second piece of chocolate. Take your time: Close your eyes, chew slowly, and breathe in and out through your nose. Focus on the chocolate flavor. Jot down your observations about how sweet and bitter this piece of chocolate tastes.
Did the flavor of the chocolate change as you listened to the different pieces of music? How so? Did it taste sweeter or more bitter depending on the music?
Engineering & Design (Executing Fair Tests, Analyzing and Interpreting Data):
Kids will organize and/or participate in a test to learn if music affects our perception of a food’s taste. Afterward, they will learn about the differences between sweet and bitter tastes, and how your senses — particularly hearing in this activity — can influence the flavor of food (check out the “Food for Thought” section). Kids will also learn about what categorizes some dark chocolate as bittersweet.
Before starting the experiment, ask kids to make a prediction: Do they think listening to two different pieces of music will change how two identical pieces of chocolate will taste? If so, how will the chocolate taste different? Why do they think that is?
While conducting the experiment, explain to kids that it is important to follow the steps closely to make sure that the results are accurate. First, have kids listen to the music with headphones on, in a quiet area, so they won’t be distracted by other sounds. We also suggest having kids close their eyes, so they can focus on the two senses at hand — taste and hearing.
After listening to the first of the two songs, have kids drink a sip of water and count to 20 to give their tastebuds a break. Before moving on to the second piece of music, ask kids to jot down their observations on how sweet or bitter the chocolate tasted. You can print out our Eat with Your Ears notes page, or just use a plain sheet of paper. After they have repeated the experiment with the second music clip, have them once again write down their observations.
Once kids have finished their testing, ask them to share their thoughts and observations:
Did they notice a difference in taste from one song to the other?
Did one piece of music make the chocolate taste more bitter? Sweeter?
Were your predictions correct?
Did the results surprise you?
Take It Further
English Language Arts (Speaking & Listening):
Now that kids have finished their experiment (and enjoyed some delicious chocolate!), lead them through some guided questions about how food and music are often connected with our feelings and emotions. Here are a few suggestions to get the conversation started:
How did these pieces of music make you feel? Do you think those feelings had an effect on how you perceived the taste of the chocolate?
In what ways do you connect music with feelings? Do you have different music you like to listen to when you’re happy or sad or even angry?
Are there certain comfort foods that you like to eat when you’re feeling a bit down? Do you have any favorite meals that you think of as celebration food or restaurants you associate with special, happy occasions?