Saturday, April 14, 2018

A book that combines cooking and science experiments!

The Kitchen Science Cookbook by Dr Michelle Dickinson (Nanogirl Labs)

The name 'Nanogirl' started popping up around the country and in my ignorance I thought she was a visiting scientist. I've obviously had my head in the sand because Dr Michelle Dickinson - Nanogirl - has been making waves in this country for quite some time. Dr Michelle Dickinson has a PhD in Biomedical and Materials Engineering and is the founder and director of Nanogirl Labs. This is her second book, her first 'No. 8 Recharged' is a curated collection of 202 world changing innovations from New Zealand in a 210-page book.

Michelle has made it her life mission to make science and engineering accessible for all. She has carried out this goal with television appearances, live Theatre Science Shows, a science comedy podcast "Stupid Questions for Scientists" and science communication videos. For her work she has been awarded a Member of New Zealand Order of Merit, winner of the 2016 Women of Influence Award for science and innovation, the 2015 Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award, the Prime Ministers Science Media Communication Prize and the 2014 New Zealand Association of Scientists Science Communicators Award in 2014.

After one of her Nanogirl live shows a parent talked to Michelle, saying she wished she could teach her children science experiments in the kitchen but didn't have the confidence to do it. Then she offered Michelle one of her home-baked muffins. It set a light off in Michelle's head - perhaps there's a need for a kitchen science cookbook.  She promoted the idea on Kickstarter and received $85,000 in funding; well-over what she had hoped to raise.

Michelle must have plowed just about all those funds into the book because it is a huge, hardback book of 180 pages on good quality paper with hundreds of photographs throughout the book. She's retailing it for $50 but you're definitely getting your money's worth and proceeds from sale, will no doubt go into publishing the next book showcasing more experiments for the kitchen. Also, for every book you buy online (see link below) they will donate a copy to a community, school or family that would not otherwise have the opportunity to explore science in this way.

Michelle has ordered the book into the following experiments: colourful, construction, edible, electricity, motion, pressure, reaction, sound, surfactant - 168 in all! Michelle has picked experiments that use ingredients that most homes will have in their pantry. Safety first, Michelle gives seven basic kitchen science rules - to keep safe and therefore enjoy all the recipes in the book. She also encourages children to keep notes, like all scientists.

Each experiment takes up two foolscap pages; one full coloured picture on one side, and the instructions on the other side. The first experiment tells you how to make coloured flowers using a pair of scissors, jars, white flowers, food colouring and water only. At the end are ways to explore further. For example, for the above experiment she encourages you cut the stem length-ways down the middle to examine if there is any food colouring inside the stem or test what affects the transpiration rate of flowers by placing them in different places.

Wow, I think every Primary and Kindergarten school should buy this book for their science curriculum. Quite a few parents will want it at home to engage their bored children during the holidays and weekends too.  An excellent educational resource!

RRP $50 + P&P (ships worldwide). Available in good book stores or buy here.

Reviewed by Maria Gill

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