STEM Popsicles

9th graders in Dr. Hunt's Health and Human Biology class had a delicious project assignment! 

When preparing for her Scientific Literacy, Health & Human Biology class at the start of this school year, Heather Hunt was looking for a creative project with a STEM/STEAM focus.  In scrolling through a list of potential projects, one project, in particular, stuck out to her: The Popsicle Project.

If you walked by Science Lab A during one of Dr. Hunt’s classes this fall, you found students excitedly working in teams, pouring over books and notes.  Their goal was to create a healthy and appealing popsicle, but the road map to the end was not clearly identified for students. As a team, they would need to define what healthy meant, create their healthy recipes, and define roles and responsibilities within their group in order to create their product.  

Students enlisted the help of an outside nutritionist to answer their first big question: “What is 'healthy'? How do you define 'healthy'? How do you make healthy?” After finding the “holy grail” answer of keeping their ingredient list to five ingredients or less, the student-scientists pondered what they wanted their popsicles to taste like, how they would create that taste, and how they would market their popsicles and test their popsicles to their peers.

This project took the process of creating, executing, and explaining the results of a scientific lab to a new level.  As upperclassmen, many of these students will work on projects with department chair Laurie Doss. In those classes, students are expected to build large project boards that outlined their process and demonstrated results.  The Popsicle Project required our freshmen to learn how to speak to adults, how to conduct an interview, how to explain their process, and how to execute their plans. 

It also taught them how to think critically.  While this project was intended to last only the fall term, the students asked for a second round.  In working through the first round, students understood that while they did well in their process, they saw many areas of improvement.  Since reflecting on their work, they’ve become more organized and learned new skills. In their first round at the kitchen in the Skiff House kitchen, many students had first time experiences in cutting fruit, figuring out proportions, using a blender, or washing dishes.  Their first round of taste-testing has made way to a new process of creating and writing invitations, deciding a taste-testing group, and taking the time to better understand their results. They look forward to round two in the winter term.

The students in the Scientific Literacy, Health & Human Biology class were not the only ones to benefit from this learning process. In reflecting on the process, Dr. Hunt said it was overwhelming at first.  While she often gives her classes creative license in-class projects and work, letting go and moving into a facilitator role was slightly daunting.  She believes now it was entirely worth it. Dr. Hunt recognized her students enjoyed the learning experience more, and though she didn’t have a perfect road map to the end of every class, she found she was able to weave everything they needed to know within their journey to the perfect popsicle.  

For the students, this initially simple Popsicle project became not just a journey of science, but also entrepreneurship.  While eating strawberries and tasting pineapple, these students learned what it means to build something new from the ground up.  They learned to research, product test, and work on their marketing skills. But they also built something that is at the very core of Marvelwood: building community. If you watched them at work now, it’s hard to fathom that four months ago, these students sat in Dr. Hunt’s class for the first time not only new to the class but new to each other and new to the school.  They have done great work together in a short amount of time!  

See the taste test on YouTube