Today we began our Unit 6 Capstone project, called Of Spice and Men. The goal of the project is to measure the human preference for the tastes of different plants and compare it to each plant’s germ-killing effects.
The essential question behind the experiment is one that baffled scientists for centuries. Why do we enjoy the tastes of mint, cinnamon, and other herbs & spices, when they offer little nutritional benefit? It wasn’t until fairly recently, after scientists began experimenting with germs, microscopes, agar plates and the like, that this question was answered. In fact, those same tools have helped unravel mysteries about nutrition, helped cure polio, and even helped Fleming discover penicillin.
This week, students will be growing germs on agar plates and testing how different plants affect the germs’ growth. With the above tools, we should be able unravel the mystery behind spices. But first, we needed to measure the “human preference” for these plants. We did this using a simple classroom survey at the end of class, where students smelled eight different spices and rated how they thought each one would taste, on a scale from 1 to 5. No surprise here; cinnamon had the highest rating.