A few friends have inquired why Livia chose to study yeast for her science experiment, because clearly most people don’t ponder the how’s and why’s of yeast. What’s worse is that “yeast” is typically followed by “infection” and that’s pretty gross to the average mind. No, Livia chose the topic based purely on the fact that she could use a balloon in her experiment. Yeast, when fed with sugar and kept warm and moist, produces carbon dioxide as a by-product. To test this fact, you can do what we did: add yeast and sugar to a bottle with a balloon placed over the bottle’s mouth, place bottle in a bowl of warm water, and 20 minutes later the balloon will be inflated. Cool!
In addition to the balloon experiment, our science experiment book gave instructions for bread-making. Again, you give the yeast the right conditions for growth (food, warmth and moisture—Livia could tell you all this) and it’ll produce carbon dioxide. The elastic dough traps the gas, which essentially creates little bubbles, which causes the dough to rise. Again, pretty cool! What gave me a bit of pause was the instructions for making the dough. They were very hands-on, as in, the child mixed and kneaded the ingredients entirely by hand. Perfect for Liv and pretty messy for the kitchen. Have I mentioned Livia likes to eat flour and puff out clouds like a dragon? Who wouldn’t really? Making bread is also a lengthy process. After the dough was kneaded it was left alone to rise. By the time we could make rolls with it, we were off to another activity and I placed the dough bowl in the refrigerator to be dealt with the next day. Perhaps this is why Livia told her first science fair judge, who asked how long the bread took to make, that she really didn’t know—her mommy did that part. The bread was a side experiment, not Livia’s main feature, and I bet our young judge wasn’t aware of the in’s and out’s of bread-making either.
In the end, despite the flour that dominated my kitchen for a brief time, I loved watching Livia in her element. Up to her elbows in ingredients, absorbing new concepts, sharing this learning with others. In the process of literally forcing her to write observations on her display board, I was reminded that for some kids, the experiment will always be the fun part and writing it down isn’t as interesting. Liv came home with a shiny red ribbon for her efforts though. And that’s something to be proud of.