A great way to teach elementary-age students about the earth's geology is to create edible maps, volcanoes, mountains, islands or other landforms. As students build their models, they can imagine how the landforms might originally have been created as they consider what items to include to make it authentic. Cakes form the basis of numerous landforms; cookie dough can be shaped into mountains; green coloured coconut and parsley make great vegetation; blue jello is perfect for water; and candy, gummy creatures, marshmallows, coloured frosting and sprinkles can be used in many ways to add detail to edible landform models.
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Making State Maps
Using peanut butter cookie dough, make a map of your state map on a baking tray or cardboard covered with waxed paper. Spread some cookie dough on your base and press the dough into the shape of your state. Smooth out the surface. Additional dough can be added and shaped to make hills or mountains. Use blue frosting or pieces of a fruit roll-up to mark rivers and lakes. If your state has lots of vegetation or wooded areas, press on some green dyed coconut and make trees from pretzel sticks and green gumdrops -- parsley works, too, but is not quite as tasty.
Large Bodies of Water
Blue jello is perfect for making bodies of water. Make the jello according to package instructions and pour it into a rectangular baking dish. If you want to add fish or other sea creatures, gently drop these into the jello before it sets. To use the jello as the basis for additional landforms like small islands or icebergs, allow the jello to set until firm. Islands made from peanut butter or rice crisps cereal dough can be formed and placed gently on top of the jello. For icebergs, use white frosting, marshmallow cream or a chilled whipped topping on top of the jello.
Bake a Cake, Make a Mountain
Many edible landform projects use baked cakes as their base, giving you many options in terms of colour and texture -- chocolate cakes are obvious choices for soil, butter pecan or spice cake looks like desert or prairielands and carrot cake can be used to make the clay-based formations of the Southwest. A cake with different coloured layers can represent the earth's layers -- use M&Ms and rock candy in some of the layers as rocks and fossils. A cake with a deep gouge through the centre becomes the Grand Canyon; prop up your cake and use blue fruit roll-ups or frosting to make a waterfall; cover it with pretzel and gumdrop trees to be a forest.
Volcano models are always a favourite choice for edible landforms projects. The area surrounding the volcano can be made of blue jello water or cookie dough land. Make the actual volcano from a firm substance that will hold its shape -- the stiffer cookie doughs are good choices for this, as are cakes made in a Bundt-style pan. Carefully make an indentation in the top to be the volcano's cone. Use coloured frosting, fruit roll-ups or red liquorice strips draped down from the cone to represent hot lava. Dark chocolate frosting can be spread out farther down to portray the solidified lava.
Health and Safety Considerations
If you are going to use any foodstuffs containing peanuts or peanut butter, be sure no one in the class has nut allergies. Many of the projects will end up as snacks for their creators, so it is best to make the models from foods that do not require refrigeration, especially if they will be displayed for a period of time in the classroom or at a science fair. Finally, the landforms made of shaped cookie dough should not be eaten. Since the dough has not been baked and likely was made using raw eggs, students could become ill from consuming it.
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