Do kids go for the cream first or bite the whole cookie? Elementary students at a California school are having some fun and learning about the scientific method at the same time. They are compiling and analyzing data to prove their hypothesis about how most students eat Oreo cookies. The budding analysts invite other schools to join the project by completing an online survey during the next two weeks. The students' next project: Is red is the most common color for Starburst candies?
It is our belief that more than 50 percent of students will BITE an Oreo Cookie!
That is the hypothesis students at Crossroads Christian School in Corona, California, want to prove. Staff at the K-8 school launched Oreo Page -- Online Project to collect data about how children eat the cream-filled chocolate cookies. according to Jennifer Wagner, more than 4,200 students have responded, including kids from two schools in Canada and one in Australia. Wagner is the school technology coordinator and oversees the project. Other schools still have time to participate in the student survey; the Crossroads kids will accept responses until November 17.
Teachers whose students took part in the project knew the hypothesis. Those teachers were asked not to tell their students, however, until after the kids completed the survey. So far, the Crossroads hypothesis seems to be incorrect; about 35 percent of students twist the cookies open to eat the middle first, and 37 percent bite their Oreos, Wagner told Education World.
Survey participants could choose from Bite, Nibble, Break (twist open), Whole, or Other to describe their manner of Oreo consumption. Running tallies of the survey responses, a pie chart with the percentages, and a map of the participating states are posted on the Web site.
In some cases, whole schools took part; in others, individual classes completed surveys, Wagner said. At one school, sixth graders observed how first graders ate their Oreos and recorded the data.
In addition to using the scientific method of testing a hypothesis, Crossroads students have gained experience collecting, analyzing, and presenting data, according to Wagner. They use the Internet and computer programs to update graphs and charts and create certificates for students who participated.
"We covered so many technical skills," Wagner said. "Students don't realize they are learning about spreadsheets and databases. There also has been interaction with other schools."
For Terry Lamberson, who teaches second grade at Lacy Elementary School, in rural Hopkinsville, Kentucky, the Oreo project was a chance to supplement a lesson on marketing and expand students' knowledge of the Internet.
"We had been doing a lot of economic studies -- talking about producing and marketing products," Lamberson told Education World. "We talked about why a company would say something to make people buy a product."
All 350 students at the K-5 Lacy school participated in the survey -- biting the Oreo was their top choice. Lamberson said she read about the project on the Internet and distributed information to other teachers in the school.
Lamberson also showed her students how she sent the data from their school to Crossroads over the Internet, which many of the students had not seen before. "It added a lot to their use of the computer," she said.
While still wrapping up the Oreo study, Wagner is already planning the next large survey, which is scheduled for January. The students will test the hypothesis that there are more red Starbursts than any other color in packages of original-flavor Starbursts. The project begins January 12 and will last six weeks, said Wagner.
The Starburst study, though, will be a little different; students will have full responsibility for running it, Wagner said. A fourth-grade class will monitor results and maintain a database. Wagner will keep the Web site updated.
Teachers interested in signing on for the Starburst project can register by sending Wagner e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, beginning November 20.
Although students will soon shift their focus to Starbursts, they aren't abandoning Oreos. Next year, they plan to ask a new question about the popular cookie: Are you a dunker or not?
Ellen R. Delisio
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