post is brought to you by Nicky Waller, one of our advisory teachers who works
across the North East of England.
As we approach the festive season, we are
undoubtedly looking forward to indulging in our favourite food and drink
associated with this time of year. But, have you ever stopped to wonder why
certain foods are associated with winter celebrations? Let’s think about the
mince pie – a popular sweet treat found on many December shopping lists . . .
are of English origin, believed to have been made to
celebrate Jesus. They were traditionally oblong in shape to represent the
manger that Jesus slept in as a baby and it was said to be good luck if you ate
one mince pie each
day during the Twelve days of Christmas.
The ingredients of a mince pie are traceable to the
13th century. Returning European crusaders brought with them Middle Eastern recipes containing meats, fruits,
nuts and spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Like Christmas puddings, mince
pies were originally filled with actual meat, such as partridge, pheasant,
rabbit, pigeon and hare.
Over time, the meat was
eliminated and they became the small sweet pie we now know. The ingredients today
may still be encased in suet, which is mutton or beef fat, however, the pastry
is now typically made using butter and you can also find vegan alternatives.
CIEC’s Kitchen Concoctions publication
includes the activity: What’s in a mince
pie? to enable children to develop their understanding of mixtures and
types of change, more specifically to understand
that some mixtures are permanently changed into new things and others can be
separated back to the original ingredients. Giving children a real mince pie to
‘deconstruct’ is a great way for them to explore and learn about this.
Top tip: Interspersing
probing questions with practical activity works well for this activity:
your pie just one thing or a mixture of things? cut a mince pie in half to reveal the
pastry and the mincemeat filling, thus showing that it is made up of a mixture
of at least two separate things.
the mixture of pastry and mincemeat be separated? this can be done easily by scooping the
mincemeat out with a spoon onto a paper towel or plate.
the pastry just one thing or a mixture of things? challenge children to separate the ingredients
in pastry and discuss how they have been changed permanently with heat during
the mincemeat just one thing or a mixture of things? separate the ingredients of mincemeat into
separate piles on the paper towel or plate using cocktail sticks. A hand lens might
also be useful.
Top tip: it helps to give
children a large spoon of mincemeat from an additional jar rather than the pie
itself as there does not tend to be much filling in individual pies these days!
You could photocopy the list of ingredients as a secondary source of
information to help children to identify what they have found.
This activity is easy to resource and uses
consumables that can be disposed of safely when completed. It is engaging for
children to carry out individually or in pairs whilst working safely, facing
forwards in the classroom.
Top tip: Jars of
mincemeat can be bought from supermarkets all year round so you do not need to
wait until December to try this activity. If you are struggling to find actual mince
pies, you could bake them yourself, using CIEC’s accompanying activity: Baking mince pies.
separating mixtures and different types of change links perfectly with the National
Curriculum for England statutory requirement for the Year 5 ‘Properties and
Changes of Materials’ topic in science which states that pupils should:
- use knowledge of solids, liquids and gases to decide
how mixtures might be separated.
- explain that some changes result in the formation
of new materials, and this kind of change is not usually reversible.
are many opportunities for children to work scientifically, such as reporting
and presenting findings from enquiries in oral and written forms.
Full safety guidance is provided in the detailed teacher notes which can
be found with the free resource Kitchen Concoctions. Additional COVID-secure
advice can be found in the document CLEAPSS Practical Activities
in a Bubble which urges schools to return to delivering a broad, balanced and full curriculum, especially for practical subjects like science, D&T, and art. This
means getting back to doing hands-on activities, investigations and enquiries. Remember that using equipment is allowed because it’s
essential for delivering the curriculum and to support learning in practical
This is a lovely activity to share with families so we have produced an IndusTRY AT HOME resource that you can share. Why don't you put a link on your school website?