We’re always looking for ways to add some fun into our learning. So, when we were making gingerbread cookies over the holidays, I thought, why not incorporate some geography into our cookie baking, and a little bit of climate science while we’re at it? Thus, the idea of cookie continents in milk oceans was born! Katie would map out the continents on our cookie dough and cut it out, and then she would put them in their proper place in the world! We would also map where some of her favorite countries are located on our gingerbread continents! We could talk about how the continents look like a puzzle, and bring in plate tectonics and shifting continental plates! We would include some ocean currents and polar ice caps while we’re at it, and look at how, with the melting of Earth’s polar ice caps, we could see an impact of erosion from rising seas!
But first, we needed to find a good gingerbread recipe!
GINGERBREAD COOKIE RECIPE
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened (not melted)
3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp grated lemon peel
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Additional Materials for continental cookie plates:
Large glass baking dish (or large flat baking tray)
Blue food coloring
In a big bowl, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in the molasses, egg, vanilla, and lemon peel. In a separate bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Gradually beat dry mix into the wet mix.
Divide the dough in half and shape into discs. Wrap it in saran wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out your dough to approximately 1/4″ thickness. Then, cut your shapes!
Bake for 7-9 minutes, then cool for at least 15 minutes before continuing with the experiment.
Once you roll out your dough, it’s time to start cutting out your continent cookies! We used a Robinson Map for our continents. You can find a decent outline with a google search for blank maps, but here’s the one we used, from the online map resource, Here and There.
We cut out our map shapes and then pressed them directly onto the cookie dough. We used toothpicks to lightly scrape our outlines. Then we used a sharp knife to cut them out, trying to keep as much detail in our continents as possible.
Once we had our oceans, it was time to add the polar ice caps! This was fascinating, as we could immediately see some of the currents of cold water as it melted off the caps and entered into our oceans.
Now, all we had to do was wait. The goal of our experiment here would be to showcase what would happen as the polar ice caps melted into the oceans. If the waters rose, would there be an effect on the continents? Would we be able to notice any differences as the cold fresh waters entered our currents?
We could also see more of the cold blue water entering into our ocean. In fact, it didn’t take long for our polar ice caps to melt in these warm temperatures!
It was so cool to see the icy blue water spread out into our oceans. It was a very real reminder of the currents that can be disrupted on our planet, with the addition of such large amounts of cold water entering the ocean’s circulation. Perhaps the coolest part though, was watching how the cooler waters grew into a current of its own before taking over and blending in with the ocean at large.
This was such a great way to bring a sense of fun and creativity into our lessons on geography and geology! It also proved to be an excellent way to look at erosion, global warming, melting polar ice caps, flooding, the formation of wetlands, and it provided a clear example of what cold fresh water entering the currents of the ocean could do in the years to come.