Anybody can teach science: Milk tasting

Teach science with milk—it’s that easy!

You don’t need all the answers to teach science—you simply need an inquisitive mind and be willing to carry out an investigation. You can teach science, even when you don’t know diddly-squat! The following is a simple experiment you can try with milk. The purpose is not to teach specific content, but to teach the process of science: asking questions and discovering answers. This activity is to encourage young people to try to figure things out for themselves rather than just read an answer on the internet or in a book.

Milk tasting

This activity can be done in 20 minutes or multiple days, depending on the interest and questions the youth have. Materials needed are lots of disposable or reusable cups, blindfolds (optional), paper, pencils and different types of milk. Choose some from the following, and try to get an amount so each member of your group can have a taste without a lot of leftover waste: whole milk, 2 percent milk, 1 percent milk, skim milk, reconstituted powdered milk, organic milk, lactose-free milk, evaporated milk, goat milk, soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, half-and-half, heavy cream, shelf-stable milk, hemp milk, hazelnut milk, flax milk, oat milk, cashew milk.

Use Science and Engineering Practices to engage youth in the experiment. These are connected to in-school science standards that all children must meet.

  • Asking questions and defining problems
  • Developing and using models
  • Planning and carrying out investigation
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Using mathematics and computational thinking
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions
  • Engaging in argument from evidence
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Asking questions and defining problems

Do different types of milk taste differently? Do you think you can tell the difference between different types of milk? What are the different things that affect milk taste? Is the texture the same thing as taste? Do you think certain groups of people might prefer one type of milk or another? Are some people better tasters? Do males like different kinds of milk than females? Do adults like different types of milk than youth?

Planning and carrying out investigations

Hide or modify each milk container so participants can’t see the label. Label each milk with a letter (A, B, C, etc.) Let participants guess what each kind of milk is on a piece of paper (if they cannot write, they might need help). Have them swirl the milk in their mouth.

Do different parts of the tongue taste the milk differently? Does the different milk smell differently? Does the milk feel differently on your mouth and tongue? Does the milk have a different appearance in the glass? If you swirl it around, does it leave some of the milk on the side of the glass?

After everyone has had a chance to guess the types of milk, ask each person to put in a vote with their name on it in front of the milk they like the best. Note: Be aware of food allergies or sensitivities. You may also want to have a “spit bucket” in case kids really don’t like a certain type of milk.

Analyzing and interpreting data

Were some people better at guessing the milk types than others? Why might some people be more accurate? Do the people who guessed better have tongues that look different? Is there a method to measure tasting ability? Which milk was the favorite?

Using mathematics and computational thinking

Can you graph the accuracy? Were males or females more accurate in their tasting ability? Were youth or adults more accurate? Did some groups like one kind of milk better than another?

Engaging in argument from evidence

If you were going to recommend to milk processors to produce more of a certain kind of milk, what would it be and why? Are certain kinds of milk healthier than others? Why or why not? Are any types of milk better for the environment? Why or why not?

Related questions to explore

  • Do you think you could tell what breed of dairy cow the milk came from by taste?
  • Why do we milk mostly cows in the United States? Are other types animals used in other parts of the world for milk? How might their milk taste different?
  • Are there any mammals whose milk is never used for human consumption? Why? Would you drink cat milk if it was offered to you?
  • If someone was particularly good at determining milk types by taste, what career types might that be good for?

This experiment could be recreated with different kinds of eggs, apple cider, poultry and water (tap versus bottled water brands) or name-brand versus generic versus home grown vegetables.

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