A favorite classroom activity around Thanksgiving is to make butter and enjoy it on warm bread. It’s the perfect activity to do when dressed up like Pilgrims and while learning about the voyage of the Mayflower or the history of Thanksgiving. This activity is best for young age groups from Kindergarten to Second Grade. It’s also best done with a class of around 20-25 students to spread out the work .
Making butter is also a great way to start a discussion about fats and oils in nutrition.
- Jar with lid
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 Bowls
- Pour heavy whipping cream into the jar and secure tightly with lid. We recommend Mason jars with a handle to prevent dropping the jar for small hands. You can also give each child a small amount of cream in a baby food jar, so each child will end up with a teaspoon of butter.
- Have each student shake the jar vigorously as long as her or she can. After the students get tired, have them pass the jar to the next student in your class.
- Shake vigorously for around twenty minutes or until large solid chunks form.
- Pour off the remaining liquid into one bowl.
- Serve the butter, mixed with a little bit of salt if desired, in the other bowl.
Fats and Oils Nutrition Lesson with Butter
- Butter (see above for butter making activity)
- Plastic spoons
- Apples, sliced
- Brown paper bags
- Nutrition labels
- Students will learn about fats and oils, how to identify them, and how they play a role in healthy nutrition
- Explain to students what fats and oils are and ask students for examples of fats and oils we eat (butter, cooking oils, etc). Explain how many grams of fats and oils we should have daily and how to look for the information on a nutrition label.
- Distribute a piece of brown paper bag to each student, as well as an apple slice and a very small amount of butter on the back of a spoon.
- Ask students to rub the apple slice and the butter on the paper bag. Make sure that students wipe off any large globs of butter from the paper bag.
- Ask students to think about what might happen once the paper bags dry.
- While bags are drying, distribute nutrition labels to groups of students and ask them to put them in order of fat content. Ask them to identify items that have a high amount of fat that should be a sometime treat and healthy options.
- Once bags have dried, ask students to compare the apple spot and the butter spot. The apple spot is gone because there are no fats in the apple. The butter spot, however, is a grease stain that is more translucent. Ask students to hold it up to the light to see the difference.
- Discuss with students their observations about their expected outcomes, the different nutrition labels, and how to eat a healthy diet.
Older students could do some research on the most current understanding of health and fats. For example, new research on the fats in dairy products suggest that they have health benefits. Whatever conclusion you draw, make sure that it’s clear that there are healthy fats as well as unhealthy fats.
- The history, culture, and composition of butter
- Harvard info on healthy fats
- Healthy Fats lesson
- Interactive explanation of lipids
- Interactive quiz “Face The Fats” from the American Heart Association
- Sugars and Fats by Mari Schuh
Science Experiments You Can Eat by Vicki Cobb