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Pass the Chocolate

Can you turn a craving for chocolate into a reason for science exploration? You bet!


As "The Sweet Science of Chocolate" video from KQED QUEST shows, there is a lot of science that goes into the production of chocolate. It all begins with the growing of the cocoa tree and the fermentation of cocoa beans. Cocoa trees yield a surprisingly small number of beans per tree per year. A single tree produces enough beans to make roughly 2 pounds of chocolate, which means that a successful chocolate business needs to produce a great product with a low margin of error. The key to success may lie, in part, in understanding the science of chocolate and in applying the engineering design process to come up with solutions and innovations that can streamline and resolve production issues and make an even better product.


Making Connections

There are many ways you can satisfy your chocolate cravings while you explore chemistry and kitchen science. In addition to the critical fermentation stage, chocolatiers also deal with fundamental scientific principles like pH levels and crystallization at various stages of production.

One way to get started (dip a toe in the chocolate?) is to experiment with the science of "tempering" chocolate. Tempering is a critical step in making chocolate and can be the make-or-break step in baking with chocolate or making certain kinds of candies. The Temper, Temper, Temper! The Science of Tempering Chocolate* offers suggestions for developing a "tempering" science project. There is sure to be plenty of taste-testing along the way, so gather some friends to help you savor the sweet rewards of scientific inquiry!


Taking it Further

And if you are interested in chocolate at the level of the cocoa crop, you might dig deeper into the sequencing of the cocoa genome. The Theobroma cacao Matina 1-6 genome sequence was released last year in an effort to help scientists find ways to grow hardier trees and trees more resistant to environmental, fungal, and pest-related risks. While you nibble on your favorite chunk o' chocolate, you might just find a genomics project that you'd enjoy.


In the News

For more information about threats facing cocoa crops, check these recent headlines:



Science Buddies Science Activities

Science Buddies and Autodesk for Student STEM Exploration


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With a smorgasbord of fun, engaging, playful, and puzzling modules available as part of the Hour of Code initiative, kids can experiment with programming basics and sample Javascript, Python, Ruby, and more.

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The Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest gives U.S. secondary public schools a chance to use STEM to help address problems affecting their students and communities--and a chance at a share of $2 million in technology.

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Are the seeds in your watermelon playing hide-and-seek? Can plants grow without soil? The plant world offers a cornucopia of mysteries that are ripe for investigation.

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Science Buddies in Action: For a third grade student with an interest in science and pinewood derby cars, the Maglev Train project combined a fun DIY activity with engaging science.

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With support from Amgen and the Lawrence Hall of Science, high school biology in the Bay Area has gotten a world-class boost of biotechnology. The Amgen Biotechnology Experience gives teachers and students the opportunity to experiment with sophisticated hands-on science...

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The Rosetta spacecraft may help provide information about the formation of the solar system and planet Earth. Students and classes explore comets and space science through hands-on science projects.



Your Science!
What will you explore for your science project this year? What is your favorite classroom science activity? Email us a short (one to three sentences) summary of your science project or teaching tip. You might end up featured in an upcoming Science Buddies newsletter!



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