Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Candy Cane Chemistry

Jo Ann Parsons


Students in this laboratory activity work cooperatively to produce a desired product, make observations, and examine the effect of heat on bonding forces. They complete a written handout relating the effect of heat on bonding and have lots of fun.


The student knows that the vast diversity of properties of materials is primarily due to variations in the forces that hold molecules together.


-Measuring cups and spoons
-Cooking pots
-Cookie sheets
-Candy thermometers
-Stirring spoons
-Dish soap and a lot of hot water for clean up.
-Digital camera

-Cooking Ingredients
-Corn Starch
-Flavorings ( provide vanilla and allow the students to bring in any other flavorings)
-Food coloring
-Cream of tartar
-Handout of recipe, Lab procedures, and assessment criteria


1. Schedule a date for the lab with the Home Economics teacher. If classrooms are to be switched, be sure the lab room is set up to meet the needs of the visiting teacher. Be sure students in both classes are aware of the switch and remind them the day prior to the lab. Check the number of cooking stations in the lab. It is best to put one group to a station, but it is possible to have 2 groups cooking on the same stove. Sufficient counter space for the students is needed.
2. Buy all materials and have them in the cooking lab. Have materials in a central area of the cooking lab.
3. Practice making the candy canes before you try it in class!


Safety: Students must take care not to burn themselves in this lab. The candy solution is extremely hot and most students are anxious to taste their product. Emphasize that they are not to taste the candy until it has been cut into individual pieces and cooled.
It is vital that students do not pick the candy up too soon. They must also be sure to butter their hands before picking up the candy or it will stick to their skin and burn them. There is a point when the candy is still very warm, and workable, but not hot enough to burn. This is when they must roll, cut and work the candy into a shape. This process will give students a newfound respect for candy making.

Your students will be very interested in this activity. It has become a holiday tradition that my students look forward to experiencing.

The student objectives and activity assessment standards are clearly stated on the lab handout which students are to read as homework prior to lab.

This activity relates to previous knowledge on bonding. Students have studied molecules and covalent bonds. This activity works well to introduce the relationship between heat and the breaking and reforming of bonds. This activity relates to student’s knowledge of previously covered topics such as sucrose being a covalently bonded molecule and the characteristics of chemical change. Vocabulary previously covered: viscosity.

Students are actively engaged in learning by carefully measuring, organizing and cooperatively conducting this hands-on activity. They share observations and work together to effectively complete the multi-step process within a specified time period.

Briefly review safety procedures before the students start and warn them that their product will provide proof of their ability to work successfully as a group to complete the process and present a clean work area upon completion.
They are free to decide how to accomplish the task at hand. It is very important to circulate around the room and continually engage the students in learning and assessment. Ask questions about the process and assess their ability to organize and follow procedure by questioning their methods. Use this opportunity to initiate critical thinking skills by asking “What” and “Why” questions about the process.

Photograph students only after their lab stations are clean.


Students are assessed by their performances during the activity and by the quality of their products. Before leaving the lab students in each group must present their candy canes to the teacher and be photographed holding their products. (I use a digital camera and post the photos in the room by the next day.) This is used to verify the successful completion of the candy cane making process. If students do not follow the specified instructions, their product will not resemble a candy cane. For example taffy or crumbled up candy pieces are products of poor heating or improper measurement.

The photos are also used to initiate discussion on the following day. Students write an organized summary of their observations and the effect of heat on molecular bonds. Extra credit is given if a student can find a resource related to this activity and bring it in within 7 days of the lab. (For example: web sites or articles)


Homework and class discussions the next day will serve to extend Thermodynamics concepts such as heats of formation and heats of reactions. Bond strengths and their relation to the above will also be discussed.
Students must understand covalent bonding and be familiar with measurement methods.
They must understand the relationship between heat, temperature and energy.
Vocabulary cover prior to lab: Viscous

Attached Files

Lab handout for student procedure.     File Extension: pdf

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