27 February 2009

Fast Blueberry Muffins (at least they would have been if we had remembered to turn on the oven)

What changes, we wondered, would we notice after heating (or cooking) something.  Or at least that is our excuse for indulging in a little ‘therapeutic’ baking on a Friday afternoon.

Our ingredients list had been thoughtfully divided into ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ things.  The dry things were flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.  The wet things were oil, egg and milk.  Solids and liquids.

Take 1 1/2 cups of flour.  Dump it into a bowl.


Scoop up 3/4 of a cup of sugar and add that to the flour.

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Carefully measure 1/2 a teaspoon of salt.


Add that to the bowl along with 2 teaspoons of baking powder.


That’s the solids taken care of.

Now the next stage required us to read the directions…..however, in her excitement (and mild panic at the fast-approaching end of the school day) yours truly did not even particularly notice that there were directions.  So we just measured out and added our liquids:

1/3 of a cup of vegetable oil…..


One egg…..


and a 1/3 of a cup of milk…..


These we stirred…..


before adding one cup of fresh blueberries.

blueberry muffins

Now scoop spoonfuls of the mixture into paper cases.

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Stand back to admire your work (as well as notice what the mixture looks like before it makes it to the oven). 


A quick glance at the watch (phew; 20 minutes to go – and 20 minutes needed to bake them).  Gallop down the stairs, skither round the door of the ‘kitchen’ and carefully open up the oven. 

Which is cold.  Certainly not the 180 degrees centigrade needed for baking muffins.  Oh dear.

While we wait (a tad longer than we had anticipated) let’s recap what our uncooked muffin mixture looked like.  What was it like?

  • yellow
  • sticky

And after baking?  What do we expect it to look like then?

  • brownish
  • dry
  • maybe higher

Good news.  Not too much after the official end of school, children were to be seen carefully clutching (fingertips only – they are rather hot!) sweet-smelling just-cooked muffins.  I am not sure how many of them made it all the way home before being greedily devoured, but for the record, this is what they looked like.

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Brownish, no longer sticky, definitely higher.  And in addition to the children, I and Mrs Williams and Raamy’s dad and Ryoma’s mum and Evie’s mum (goodness; Evie isn’t even in our class!) can all vouch for the fact that they were (definitely were!) quite, quite delicious.

And they really are, as long as you remember to turn on the oven, Fast Blueberry Muffins.

PS Now, although it quite clearly mattered that we omitted to pay attention to step one (turn on the oven), it didn’t seem to matter that we skipped out step three of the directions (which, for the record was ‘Put the oil, the egg and the milk into a jug; gently mix and pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients).

What’s it like – mud?

What’s it like – mud?

‘Sticky,’  says Amelia.

‘Flexible,’ adds Aabis.

‘Dirty,’ says Meghna.

‘Breakable,’ Shahrbano tells us.

Eh?  Time to organise our thinking a bit.

When it is dry mud is breakable and hard.  When it is wet mud is soft and flexible.

Have you ever played that game called ‘Stuck-in-the-mud’?  You know the one I mean; where once you are caught, you have to stand still as if you are stuck in the mud until someone releases you?  Have you ever thought why we call it that?

Picture the scene.  You are out on a soggy day; wellie-clad feet sploshing through the muddy puddles.  The mud is deliciously dirty; wet, soft, sticky, dirty mud.

You stop for a rest perhaps.  What’s it like now – mud?  Dry, hard, solid.  Oh dear - you’re stuck fast…..

I have a much tastier version of ‘Stuck-in-the-mud’ for you to play.  First of all you need to get some water boiling.


While it is heating, have a little look at some chocolate.  What’s it like – chocolate?

  • cool
  • hard
  • dull
  • solid
  • a bit like dry mud really!

And what do you think will happen when we heat it?  How will it change?  What’s it like now – chocolate?


  • warm
  • soft
  • shiny
  • liquid

To play the game you need your very own warm, chocolaty puddle.


And some Gummi-bear players.


Now you have to ‘trap’ the bears in the ‘mud’.  They need to be stuck fast.

Push them in…..








Keep your eye on that chocolate.  What’s it like now?  Still…..

  • warm
  • soft
  • shiny
  • liquid

So how will we get the teddies to stick?  How can we make soft, shiny, liquid, chocolate change so that is hard, solid and dull again?

Owen thinks, ‘we should freeze it.  Put it in the freezer.’

‘Put it outside where it is cold,’ suggests Aabis.

‘Yes, put it outside,’ Martin agrees.

Well yes, we could.  But what about the chocolate before we melted it?  What was it like when we opened the packet?  Is chocolate usually cool, hard, dull and solid when we buy and eat it?  Or is it a warm, soft, shiny liquid?

So, if we leave our chocolaty bear-trap puddles in the classroom do you think the chocolate will go back to how it was before we heated it?  Hard, solid - and dull?


Well, did our bears get stuck fast in our puddles?  Inside the classroom - at room temperature?  Carefully lift the foil up and see…..


26 February 2009

What’s it like – clay?

Clay is a natural material. It is dug out of the ground.  It’s a bit like dark, sticky mud; the type that grabs onto your wellies and doesn’t let go!


When it is damp and cool, clay is soft and easy to use.  It can be pushed…..










and pressed…..


into any shape.


But hang on; what happens after you have been handling it for a while? 



As you use it, the heat from your hands begins to make the clay dry out, which makes it much harder and difficult to use.  You may even have to wet your hands a bit. 

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That’s odd; quite the opposite from plasticine, which needs to be warm when you use it.

But clay is meant to go hard eventually; that’s what makes it such a useful material.  Clay is changed into pottery by heat.  Why not pay us a visit and take a look at the way in which the heat of the classroom has changed our soft, cool, damp clay? 

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How are the things we made different from the ‘pottery’ you see here?


How to make jelly

As well as investigating how things change, we have been learning about different ‘genres’ or types of writing.  For example, how to write instructions.  Like how to make jelly.  Step by step.

This is what we actually did.

  • open a packet of (solid) green jelly
  • put the jelly into a jug
  • boil some water
  • pour that into the jug with the jelly
  • stir until it has dissolved
  • add some cold water so you have 500mls in all
  • pour the (liquid) jelly into two bowls
  • put them into a cold place to set (or turn back into a solid)

I wonder if jelly-making would work using our instructions rather than the ones written on the packet…..Why not come to the classroom and take a look at what we wrote?  Indeed, why not try out our instructions the next time you make jelly?

Anyway, jelly safely made and set (quite perfectly solid yet still satisfyingly wobbly)…..


the next step was to try to answer one of our questions; namely….

  • Can we turn solid jelly back into a liquid again?

This would involve doing two things.  Firstly taking a taste.



And as you enjoy the cool, sweet, lime flavour, think to yourself, ‘is the jelly in my (warm) mouth a solid or a liquid?’  And I think we are all agreed that unless we loved it so much that we just gulped it down in one wobbly spoonful (!) it melted into a warm sweet lime-flavoured liquid.  Mmmmm.

Next step. 

Leave the second bowl of solid jelly in a warm classroom over night – and see what happens.  A quick survey reveals that two children (Shahrbano and Martin) think it will ‘stay solid’; Quentin, Aabis, Owen, Thomas, Tommy, Shani, Dylan, Sharukh and Harrison think ‘it will turn back into a liquid’.  The rest of the class remain unsure.  Which is OK.

Because as we are fond of saying in Class 2i, there is only one way to find out…..

By the following afternoon, Thursday being a decidedly warm day, our solid jelly had turned back into a liquid.


Now; I wonder what would happen if we put it back into a cold place again?  Can you keep on turning jelly from a solid to a liquid and back again for ever?

PS  Remember our Jelly Race?  And how Harry Hot Water had managed to melt a jelly cube in around 4 minutes…..


but that poor old Katie Cold Water didn’t see to have got anywhere?


Well, even after giving her an extra long weekend to work at it, she still hadn’t got anywhere.  It would seem that in order to melt or dissolve a jelly cube, water needs to be hot not cold.

25 February 2009

Meringues maybe

When we made ice cream we cracked eggs and separated the yellow yolk from the ‘white’ or albumen.


Remember how we whisked the ‘white’?  Let’s take another look.  What is happening when you whisk something?  What are you doing to it?  Look closely; what do you see?


‘B u b b l e s !’  Yes, whisking puts bubbles in and the stretchy, sticky egg ‘white’ traps them.


The more you whisk…..


the more bubbles get trapped…..


until it has changed from a clear slippery liquid…..


to something that looks quite different.


‘mashed potato’


‘cotton wool’

Will those bubbles stay there forever?  Let’s look again after 15 minutes.  What do you see?


Ah ha; there is some liquid that seems to have ‘leaked out’ of the foam.  Now put your ear really close to the foam.  What do you hear?  A kind of fizzy hissing noise; bubbles popping perhaps?

Do you think that if we leave it in the classroom overnight, all the liquid ‘white’ will have leaked back out; that all the bubbles will have popped?  Will it have gone back to how it was before we did all that whisking?


Perhaps unsurprisingly, the heat of the classroom has had the effect of a cool oven; it has dried the white foam until now it is hard; it breaks into powder when you touch it.  The once-liquid part has also dried to a crisp transparent film a bit like when glue dries.

Maybe we have invented a new low-energy way of making meringues…..now where’s the (whipped) cream?