While not exactly making science “easy as pie” to learn, educators at Holy Family Catholic School in Hillcrest Heights, Maryland, have cooked up a way to make learning science more appetizing.

The Prince George’s County school is using cooking and learning about food as an engaging way to educate students in a program called “Science: The Culinary Way.”

“Science: The Culinary Way” is a fifth- through eighth-grade science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) project devised by Holy Family’s STEM coordinator, Patricia Cooper.

The school’s middle school students are conducting research on the history of pancakes around the world, planning recipes, completing mathematical conversions of ingredients and integrating technology.

“Each student was assigned a different country and had to research what types of pancakes they eat there,” Cooper explained. “This way, we teach the students that science is everywhere – from the technology they use to just plain eating.”

Part of the “Science: The Culinary Way” project is to have students attend live presentations from various chefs in the metropolitan area.

On Feb. 5, Capuchin Brother Andrew Corriente, a friar studying at Capuchin College in Washington, visited the school to demonstrate the relationship between science and baking.

Brother Andrew Corriente whips cream, explaining to Holy Family students how baking is related to science. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

Last month, Brother Andrew was crowned the champion on ABC’s “The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition.” The program featured 10 amateur bakers who competed in a series of challenges in which they must produce outstanding baked goods. Contestants were eliminated one by one until a champion was selected.

After explaining that as a Capuchin friar, he lives in a community, prays, serves the poor and is preparing to become a priest, Brother Andrew noted that baking is similar, but different from his religious vocation.

“Both (a religious vocation and preparing food) are about love and nourishment, but in baking and cooking, we add the transfer of heat and other things to that,” he explained. “When you bake you have to think about air, heat, fat, protein content, liquid content and other things.”

As an example, he explained the science of making whipped cream with air being added to the fats in cream to fundamentally change its composition. After demonstrating how the cream is changed due to air, time and temperature, he challenged the students to make their own whipped cream.

Brother Andrew explained to students how different scientific factors impact the baking process. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

“This outstanding cross-curricular project assists the students in developing deeper connections with science content, enhancing their creative spirits and making real world applications,” Cooper said.

Kevin Wilkinson, a middle school teacher at Holy Family Catholic School, said Brother Andrew’s visit to the school “not only helps students see science used in real world experiences, they also get to see someone who serves God in his vocation who also takes time to cook and to come to our school to teach.”

“They get to see priests are real people who do all kinds of things,” Wilkinson added.

When asked about the tattoo on his arm, Brother Andrew told students that the Franciscan cross symbolized his calling to bring Christ to the world. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

Holy Family Catholic School principal Michelle Taylor said, “‘Science: The Culinary Way’ is a great example of our engaging STEM curriculum. Our middle school teachers collaborated to create an outstanding multi-disciplined learning experience for our students.”

Kelly Branaman, associate superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Washington, said, “It was wonderful to see Brother Andrew share his own kitchen chemistry lesson by making whipped cream with the students. He is a natural teacher at heart and gave the students very valuable lessons today in science, faith (and) perseverance.”  

The students will continue learning about the relationship between science and cooking throughout the month of February. On “Shrove Tuesday,” Feb. 25, they will present their projects in a pancake competition.