Digestive Enzymes

October 6, 2011 in Protein

Catalyzed by the help of university students Genevieve Collett (Master Art Education, Concordia U.) and Tanya Godina (M.Sc., U. Montréal) the Molecules of Life Project (MLP) had its Montréal debut with the “Proteins of Life” in Mrs Shuster’s third grade class at École F.A.C.E. School on Monday, the 21st of January 2008.

Gen and Tanya led a discussion that covered nutrition, digestion and the featured proteins of life, the “digestive enzymes”.

After presenting laboratory safety, Tanya helped a student volunteer perform the starch iodine test in which an iodine / potassium iodide solution in water was added to a ground up cracker in water producing a dark blue-black solution which garnered everyone’s attention.  In contrast, in a second flask into which the students added their own salivary juices to the cracker water mix, only a pale yellow color was produced by the iodine solution.  A discussion followed in which the digestion of carbohydrates into simpler sugars in the mouth was discussed and the enzyme salivary amylase, which breaks starch (a polysaccharide) down to maltose (a disaccharide) was introduced.

Focusing on nutrition, Gen asked the students to draw pictures of their favorite foods which they later sorted into the four food groups (grains, fruits and vegetables, meats, and dairy).

Packaging materials from various foods were then distributed and the students were asked to read the Nutrition Facts and to separate the foods into two groups: those that had more carbohydrates and those which contained more protein.

Tanya and Gen then led the students through the digestive system from the mouth into the stomach, where another enzyme, pepsin, helps to break proteins up into their building blocks called amino acids.  Then into the small intestine where the amino acids, sugars and other nutrients are absorbed, and into the large intestine in which water is absorbed, before the remaining waste is excreted.

Behaving like digestive enzymes, the students were asked to cut up their food pictures into squares if the food contained more proteins or triangles if the food contained more carbohydrate.  With the pieces, and others supplied for water, the students then made mosaics, representative of healthy cells fed a balanced nutritional diet.

WIth six more proteins scheduled this year, we thanked team digestive enzyme for a well balanced meal of MLP creativity at FACE.


For more information see:

Starch Iodine Test: www.elmhurst.edu/~chm/vchembook/548starchiodine.html

The digestive system: http://faculty.clintoncc.suny.edu/faculty/michael.gregory/files/Bio%20102/Bio%20102%20lectures/Digestive%20System/digestive%20system.htm

The Four Food Groups: www.jewishveg.com/schwartz/ffgroups.html




October 6, 2011 in Protein

On Monday, February 11th, 2008, the students in Mrs Shuster’s third grade class at École F.A.C.E. School were infected by the presentation by university students Jesse Trubiano (BFA Art Education, Concordia U.) and David Sabatino (PhD. McGill ’07, PDF, U. Montréal), as they learned about antibodies the “Protein of Life” in our third Molecules of Life Project (MLP) in Montreal.

Jesse and David introduced us first to antigens (i.e. germs, bacteria and pollen) as they presented the immune system and explained the importance of washing our hands before eating.

To demonstrate how quickly germs spread in the absence of hygiene, David guided two volunteers in experiments using sets of agar plates (Petri dishes containing the essential nutrients required to culture bacteria). One student washed carefully her hands before touching the plate labeled “clean”. The other student shook hands with 5 other students before touching the plate labeled “infected”. The plates were covered and stored in a dark warm place for the class to examine over the span of a week, to see what happens.


To illustrate the spread of germs and the importance of immunity to help prevent infection, the students were next given envelopes containing colored cards and asked to trade cards with one another for 2 minutes. Although most students were instructed that they could not refuse a trade, those students having a white “immunity” card were told that they could refuse exchanges of the white card. Once the time had elapsed, the children returned to their desks, examined their cards and those with a red card were asked to go to the back of the room, because they were infected with a cold germ. Those who also possessed a white card were told they could sit back down because they had immunity. The rest were asked to act out the symptoms of a cold until given purple “medicine” cards to cure their illness.



Jesse and David then distributed the “Immune System Comic Book featuring Antibodies” and the students were guided through the immune system as they took turns around the classroom reading about antigens, B-cells, antibodies and white blood cells, as well as the importance of vaccinations and hygiene.

Antibodies were presented as the guard dogs of the immune system.

Finally, as the students colored in the comic book, we discussed the Y-shape of antibodies and how the arms of the Y serve to specifically recognize different germs.


Mimicking antibodies all raised their arms in a Y shape to thank team antibody for an important MLP lesson on what it takes to stay safe from infectious germs.



For reviews of the immune system see: www.emc.maricopa.edu/faculty/farabee/biobk/BioBookIMMUN.html



For an animation on how the immune system works: www.doereport.com/generateexhibit.php?ID=15529&ExhibitKeywordsRaw=&TL=1&A=



October 6, 2011 in Protein

On Thursday, March 20th, 2008, the students in Mrs Shuster’s third grade class at École F.A.C.E. School were stuck on “albumin” as university students Christina Thomson (MFA Art Education, Concordia U.) and William Bechara (B.Sc., U. Montréal) presented our sixth Molecules of Life Project (MLP) in Montreal.

Christina and William discussed how like the school bus, albumin can serve as a molecule bus for transporting nutrients, metals, fats and other compounds by way of the blood through the body. Showing a poster to describe the structure and function of albumin, they mentioned how albumin is sticky and can serve like a sponge to absorb different molecules.

As a prelude to an experiment to discuss “solubility”, the students were asked to place “X” marks or check marks on another poster which reviewed laboratory safety practices.

In proper laboratory safety attire, the students performed an experiment to model how albumin can help bring molecules into water and make them “soluble”. First iodine was added to water and remained “insoluble”, sitting like a rock in the bottom of the flask. Then a white powder (the amino acid cysteine) was added to the flask, and within seconds the iodine and powder both went into the water solution which became clear.

Asking students to attach pictures to another set of posters, Christina and William reviewed albumin’s uses in medicine, cooking and art. For example, Doctor’s use albumin to make band-aids stick to skin and to help medicine go into solution. Cooks use the cohesive properties of egg white albumin to make angel-food cake and soufflés.



Moreover, painters such as Sandro Botticelli used egg albumin to make tempera paint pigments more water soluble and more sticky when painting pictures such as “The Birth of Venus” and “La Primavera”.


Inspired by Botticelli and the Easter Bunny, the students used tempera paints to color their own egg shape canvases.



Finally, we discussed the fact that allergies of different foods (i.e., eggs, peanuts, wheat, and milk) may be due to their different forms of albumin.

We thanked Christina and William for today’s MLP presentation which the students sponged-up like albumin.


For more information on albumin see:


On the structure of albumin:


For details on the things that albumin binds to go to:


For the Botticelli project see:


On albumin and food allergies see: