Ice cream in a Bag!

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Biology In Elementary Schools is a Saint Michael's College student project from a course that ran between 2007 and 2010 and fully described in this book chapter. The student-created resources have been preserved here for posterity. Link under 'toolbox' for printer-friendly versions of the exercises. Click on handouts to print full resolution versions. Please see Wikieducator's disclaimer, our safety statement, and the Creative Commons licensing in English and in legalese.

Ice cream in a Bag

Student worthiness

Tried once and proven to work.

Safety Statement

It is important to make sure students do not have allergies for any of the products that are involved in this experiment. Food allergies are a common problem among students so be sure to check before performing this in a classroom.

Primary biological content area covered

Students will make ice cream from scratch while focusing on the Food Guide Pyramid and what constitutes healthy and unhealthy food choices. Also, in doing this experiment states of matter - solids, liquids, and gases will be covered. While making the ice cream, you can ask the students what they expect to happen. Do they expect the ice cream to turn into a solid? Does it begin as a liquid?


Each student will need:

  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 cups crushed ice
  • 4 tablespoons salt
  • 2 quart size Ziploc bags
  • 1 gallon size Ziploc freezer bag
  • Bowl
  • Spoon
  • Large hand towel to keep fingers from getting cold
  • Non-latex gloves (winter gloves would be a good option as well due to the cold temperature of the bag)
  • Large scale copy of The Food Guide Pyramid

  • Other Ingredients that could be used:
    • Syrups to make different flavors (ex. chocolate, strawberry, or mint)
    • Natural ingredients, such as berries (strawberries, raspberries) to add coloring (and flavor)

Shopping List for Teachers:

  • 3, 26oz. containers of salt
  • 1, 1/2 gallons of milk
  • Ziploc freezer bags( Enough for each student to have one).
  • Quart size Ziploc bags(Again, enough for each child to have one).
  • 5 lb bag of granulated sugar
  • 8 oz container of vanilla flavoring
  • Plastic spoons( Enough to ensure each child has one).
  • Non-latex gloves ( A pair for each student)
  • Package of paper (or plastic) bowls (Bowl for each student).
  • Ice Cream/Healthy Choices related literature (optional-see below)


Below is a link to the American Heart Association website where you can find a fun worksheet about "Making Healthy Choices". On this worksheet, students can look at various food options for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. From these options they can choose the foods that they think will be most healthy for them. This is a great worksheet to aid children in thinking about healthy food choices and a proper diet available from The American Heart Association.

A second worksheet about fruits and vegetables is available from the same source. This worksheet asks the students to pick out fruits and vegetables from various other foods groups by coloring them to identify them as either fruits or vegetables. This helps children with developing their ability to identify what foods constitute a fruit and vegetable. A discussion can be centered around fruits and vegetables, starting with fruits and vegetables students are familiar with and then branching out to knew foods that fall in one of the two categories.

The new (2005) food pyramid sponsored by the USDA is linked below. With this activity, teachers can print out the Food Pyramid and use it as a guide to show students the different areas of the food pyramid and ways that they can maintain a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle. Students can also maintain a discussion about where ice cream may fit. Since they are making it from scratch, students will be able to place each ingredient in the appropriate area of the Food Pyramid, as well as use the ingredients to determine whether or not ice cream is a healthy food.

Food Guide Pyramid

Description of activity

Students will make their own portions of ice cream from scratch. Upon completion of the activity, students will hold a discussion focusing on The Food Guide Pyramid, healthy serving sizes, and making daily, healthy food choices. Students can also work on the worksheets concerning fruits and vegetables and healthy food choices. Students will get to taste their creations at the end of the experiment!!!

Lesson plan

  1. Mix 1/2 cup milk,1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1 tablespoon sugar in one of the quart size bags.
  2. Seal tightly, allowing as little air in the bag as possible. (Too much air left inside the bag can cause the bag to break open while shaking and kneading the bag.)
  3. Place filled bag inside an empty quart size bag, again leaving as little air inside as possible and sealing well(double bagging helps to prevent the salt and water from leaking into the milk, vanilla, and sugar).
  4. Put the two bags inside the gallon size bag and fill with ice. Sprinkle salt on top of ice. Again, let all the air escape and seal the bag.
  5. Wrap bag in a towel or wear gloves(it is best to use both the towel and gloves), and constantly shake and knead the bag. Make sure the ice surrounds the cream mixture.
  6. Shake and knead for five to eight minutes, or until mixture freezes, you can see this process as the ice cream becomes more solid.
  7. Once completed, discuss what the healthy and appropriate portion size of ice cream would be to eat(about 1 cup).
  8. Have students measure out the decided-upon portions to eat themselves, students can measure a cup and place it into a paper bowl, cup, etc.
  9. Have students eat their tasty creations!
  10. Discuss where ice cream fits in the Food Guide Pyramid and why.
  11. Discuss whether ice cream would be considered a healthy food or an unhealthy food. Decide if it should be consumed in bulk or in minimal increments.

Tips: Freezer bags work best because they are thicker and prevent leaks. Regular Ziploc bags are acceptable in smaller quart sizes, because they are double-bagged. Also hands become VERY cold during experiment, so it is advised for students to use both a towel and gloves when kneading and shaking the bag!!

Potential pitfalls

  • Ingredients in this activity can be messy if not done in an organized manner. Completing the activity over a cleanable surface is suggested.
  • Hands can get very cold while mixing ingredients. Make sure the bags are wrapped in towels or gloves are worn while mixing.
  • Also, judging by the amount of kneading done in the 5-8 minutes, it might take some students longer than others to complete the ice cream creation process, especially since the students got tired fast or their hands were too cold to continue on. Having a few sets of extra hands when this occurs is extremely helpful. Plan to complete the activity in more than twenty minutes and plan to have a second part of the experiment ready for when the students finish to keep them occupied while they wait for everyone to finish.
  • Students also might not understand the difference between "punching" and "kneading" causing the bag containing the ice and salt to be forced open. The quart size Ziploc bags should not be the type that actually zip up, as they break open rather easily causing a mess.
  • Be sure to squeeze out as much of the air in all three bags as possible. The more contact the ice and salt have on the actual ingredients and the more you continuously knead the ice, the better your results will be.
  • Many times extra salt and ice were added to the quart size Ziploc bag if the ice cream mixture did not show signs of hardening after about eight to ten minutes of kneading. Adding more ice can be extremely helpful as it melts quickly due to all of the human contact.
  • Be sure to have plenty of helpful hands available, as the the kneading process can be long and difficult for younger students. If the ingredients aren't kneaded consistently the experiment will not turn out properly.

Math connections

Students will be required to practice skills needed for measuring while portioning the ingredients. Students will later be discussing healthy portion sizes for their ice cream. Students will will look at nutritional information for ice cream as a means of deciding what portion amounts are acceptable for maintaining a healthy diet. After deciding the proper portion size, students will measure the correct amount of ice cream before eating.

Literature connections

  • Spike and Cubby's Ice cream Island Adventure by Heather Sellers
  • Curious George Goes to an Ice Cream Shop by Margret and H.A. Rey's
  • Showdown at the Food Pyramid by Rex Barron Putnam
  • The Berenstain Bears and Too much Junk Food by Stan & Jan Berenstain Random House
  • Let's Find Out About Ice Cream by Mary E. Reid

Literary activity - Let's Find Out About Ice Cream

Connections to educational standards

Vermont State Standards:

3.5 Students make informed, healthy choices that positively affect the health, safety, and well-being of themselves and others. This is evident when students: hh. Demonstrate how to select a healthy diet that includes the recommended servings from The Food Guide Pyramid.

Vermont Health Grade Expectations:

HE1-2:2 Students will show an understanding of health promotion and disease prevention concepts by: c. Identifying the importance of eating nutrient-rich foods.

Vermont Science Grade Expectations:

S1-2:12 Students demonstrate their understanding of the States of Matter by: Identifying, describing and comparing the states of matter of solids and liquids. Science Concepts: c. Liquids have properties of color, tendency to flow, ability to mix with other liquids, taking up the shape of the container.

Next steps

Extension lessons can include exploring the invention of ice cream and chemical reactions.

Citations and links

  • USDA

Vermont State Standards and Grade Expectations.

Reid, Mary, 1997, Let's Find Out About Ice Cream, Scholastic