National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix


FoodMASTER Middle: Sugar

Grade Level(s)

6 - 8

Estimated Time

Three 1-hour activities


Students will learn the concept of simple carbohydrates (sugar) in the diet and their role in providing energy to the body, compare saturated sugar solutions, and evaluate the sugar content of common beverages and sugar consumption within their own diet.


Interest Approach

  • Surprising Sugar student handout, 1 copy per student

Lab 1, per group of 4-5 students:

  • Sugar Solutions student handout, 1 per student
  • Sweet Saccharide lab sheet, 1 per student
  • Safety goggles
  • Apron (optional)
  • 4-8 Glucose Test Strips
  • 4 Labeled plastic cups containing:
    • Control (1/4 cup water)
    • Unknown Sample A (1/4 cup apple juice)
    • Unknown Sample B (1/4 cup grape juice)
    • Unknown Sample C (1/4 cup water and yellow food color)
  • Kitchen timer or stopwatch
  • Glucose Color Chart
  • Paper towel or napkin

Lab 2:

Teacher Materials for Demonstration:

  • Safety goggles
  • Apron (optional)
  • 100mL water
  • 500g white sugar
  • 1 Triple beam balance
  • 1 Large Spoon
  • 1 Hot plate or double burner
  • 6 Styrofoam cups to hold heated solution
  • 1 Small or medium pot
  • 1 Container for massing sugar

Student Lab Materials, per group of 4-5 students:

  • Safety googles
  • Aprons (optional)
  • 1 - 9 oz. plastic cup
  • 1 250mL beaker with 125-150mL water
  • 1 - 100mL graduated cylinder
  • 1 small bag sugar (25g)
  • 1 plastic spoon and knife
  • 1 paper plate
  • 1 medium bowl (diameter = 7.5-9”)
  • 1 hand juicer
  • 1 triple beam balance
  • 4 or 5 oranges
  • 6, 2-4 oz. Styrofoam cups (tasting)

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)


added sugars: sugars such as sucrose (table sugar), corn syrups, and artificial sweeteners that are added to food to increase sweetness

carbohydrate: an organic compound that is the main source of energy for the body; composed of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen atoms

fructose: a monosaccharide found in honey and fruits

glucose: a basic sugar molecule (monosaccharide) from which carbohydrate units are composed

natural sugars: sugars that are naturally found in carbohydrate foods, such as fruits, starch, pure honey, etc.

saturated solution: a solution containing the largest concentration of the dissolved material attainable under normal conditions of pressure and temperature

solute: a substance that is dissolved in a solvent

solution: a homogenous mixture in which one substance is dissolved in another

solvent: a substance, ordinarily a liquid, in which other materials are dissolved to form a solution

sucrose: table sugar; a disaccharide containing one molecule of glucose and one molecule of fructose

super-saturated solution: an unstable state in which the concentration exceeds the saturated level; achieved by dissolving a solvent at a high temperature, then allowing the solution to cool slowly

Did you know? (Ag Facts)

  • While sugar cane must be grown in tropical or subtropical climates, sugar beets can be grown in much colder temperate climates.1
  • Sugar beets produce sugar for human consumption as well as a by-product (sugarbeet pulp) used for livestock feed.2
  • The average American eats 61 pounds of refined sugar each year, including 25 pounds of candy.3

Background Agricultural Connections

FoodMASTER (Food, Math and Science Teaching Enhancement Resource) is a compilation of programs aimed at using food as a tool to teach mathematics and science. For more information see the Background & Introduction to FoodMASTER. This lesson is one in a series of lessons designed for middle school. 

Weights & Measures        Fruits                  Milk                    Sugar                   Protein             
Food Safety Vegetables Cheese Fats & Oils Eggs
Energy Balance Grains Yogurt     

Sugar is a type of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are macronutrients that our bodies need. They can be classified as either simple or complex. Complex carbohydrates are starches like bread and rice. Sugar, however, is a simple carbohydrate (made of one or two sugars). There are many types of sugar. For example, there are three types of sugar that can be found in fruit juice. They are fructose, glucose, and sucrose. They are nutritionally similar, providing 4 calories/gram. Fructose can be found in honey and fruit. Glucose is the primary simple sugar our bodies use for energy. Sucrose is table sugar (white sugar) and is created by linking fructose and glucose. Once in our bodies, these sugars work to supply us with energy. Grape juice has a 1:1 ratio of fructose to glucose and contains less fructose than other juices. Apple juice has a 2:1 ratio of fructose to glucose, making this juice lower in glucose. Juice that contains sucrose on the ingredient list contains added sugar along with the natural sugars present in fruit. Natural sugars are those already present in food.In order for our bodies to use carbohydrates for energy, they must be broken down into glucose. Glucose is the primary source of fuel for our body. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that transports glucose from the blood to our cells. If our bodies do not produce enough insulin, there will be too much glucose in our blood, leading to serious health problems such as diabetes. Diabetes is a disease in which the body is unable to produce insulin. Type I diabetes occurs when a person does not produce insulin at all, while Type II diabetes occurs when someone develops insulin resistance. Insulin resistance results in a diminished ability to respond to insulin causing the pancreas to produce more insulin. This will eventually overwork the pancreas and prevent it from producing enough insulin.

The solubility of a substance is defined as the amount of solute that will dissolve in a solvent. A solute is the substance that dissolves in a liquid. A solvent is the liquid that dissolves the solute. For example, in a sugar water solution, the sugar (solute – substance present in least amount) will dissolve in water (solvent – substance present in larger amount). Sugar solubility in water increases when temperature increases. The heated water molecules move faster, allowing the sugar to more readily fit between the water molecules. For example, if you add table sugar to tea that has already cooled, the sugar will collect at the bottom of the glass. This happens because the molecules in the cold tea are not moving as quickly as the hot tea, preventing the sugar from readily dissolving. The result is a tea that will taste less sweet until you reach the bottom, where all the sugar has collected. Since heat makes sugar more soluble, we should be aware of foods containing sugar that have been heated during preparation (e.g. some sweetened beverages and candy). It is important to be aware of the types of sugar in these products. For example, naturally sweetened orange juice will be a better choice when compared to another with added sugar. Naturally sweetened products contain only the sugar found in the product and do not have added sugar.

Interest Approach – Engagement

  1. Display the pictures of the sugar beet and sugar cane plant. Ask students, "What are these plants?" Allow students to make their guesses and potentially identify the plants. Inform students that sucrose (sugar) is found in the stems of sugarcane and the root of sugar beets. It is then processed into the sugar that is used to sweeten many foods in our diet.
    • If time allows, show students the videos included below in the Enriching Activities to see how sugarcane and sugar beets are grown, harvested, and processed into table sugar.
  2. Give each student one copy of the Surprising Sugar student handout. This activity can be completed in class or as homework. Students will need to find food labels for: a) softdrink, b) juice, and c) another drink of their choice. They can find these labels in the grocery store, on USDA’s nutrient database, or by using the labels provided. Answers to the worksheet can be found in the attached teacher key. In Part B of the worksheet instruct students to keep a log of how often they drink sweetened beverages over seven days. If time is a factor, instruct students to recall their intake over the previous seven days. Students should consider all forms of sweetened beverages (e.g. soft drinks, sweetened tea). If completed in-class, allow students to work in small groups on the worksheet to further explore the topic and respond to questions.


Lab 1: Sweet Saccharide

Teacher Preparation:

  1. Review information found in the Background Agricultural Connections section of the lesson, lesson Procedures, and the attached Essential Files.
  2. Prepare lab materials for each group. Each group will need three unknown samples and a control. Label each cup as “Sample A”, “Sample B”, “Sample C”, or “Control”.
  3. For each sample, pour ¼ cup of liquid (juice or water) into a clear, plastic cup.
    • Water = Control
    • Unknown Sample A = Apple (100%) Juice
    • Unknown Sample B = White Grape (100%) Juice
    • Unknown Sample C = Water mixed with 1/2 Tbsp. sugar. Color the sugar water yellow using food coloring. The color should be similar to the apple juice.
      • To ensure glucose concentrations can be properly measured during the lab, do not purchase diet or sugar free juices.
      • Timesaver: Prepared samples may be reused for other classes.


  1. Distribute lab materials. It is recommended that materials are organized into stations for easier distribution. Students should be arranged in small groups of 4-5. Each group should receive the lab supplies outlined in the Materials section as well as 1 copy of the Sweet Saccharide lab sheet and one copy of the Sugar Solutions student handout.
  2. Ask students to read Sugar Solutions and complete the "Think About It" questions for this lab investigation.
  3. Before beginning the lab investigation:
    1. Require students to wash their hands.
    2. Emphasize the importance of practicing good food safety behaviors by not consuming substances used as part of the lab investigation.
  4. Launch the lab by showing students the Sweet Saccharide video lab demonstration. The video will demonstrate procedures students will follow during the lab, including directions on how to accurately read the glucose strips. The glucose strips must be read at exactly 30 seconds.
  5. Instruct students to observe and make a prediction about their unknown substances. Before testing unknown samples, students should practice obtaining consistent results using the control (water) sample. Students should find the following results:
    • Control Sample (Water): The water sample will produce a negative test for glucose.
    • Unknown Sample A (Apple Juice): Apple juice will be positive for glucose. The apple juice will produce a color that is slightly less brown than grape, however both will produce a positive test for glucose (dark brown color on strip). When identifying samples, students should conclude Sample A is apple juice because the strips detected a glucose level smaller than sample B. The data in Table C indicates the % of glucose in Apple Juice is between samples B and C.
    • Unknown Sample B (Grape Juice): Grape juice will be positive for glucose. The concentration of glucose will prove to be higher compared to the other samples. When identifying samples, students should conclude Sample B is grape juice because the strips detected the largest glucose concentration. Looking at the data in Table C, Grape Juice has the largest % glucose.
    • Unknown Sample C (Sugar Water): The sugar water should produce a negative test for glucose because it consists primarily of sucrose. The amount of glucose present is too small to be detected by the testing strip. An enzyme (sucrase) would have to be introduced in order to break sucrose down into its components (glucose and fructose). It is important to note that the test results will be identical to the control. This should indicate to students that the sample contains little to no glucose. When identifying samples, students should conclude Sample C is sugar water because the strips did not detect glucose and the data in Table C indicates the sample has the smallest % glucose.
  6. Allow students to work in small groups to finish the Sweet Saccharide lab sheet to further explore the topic and respond to lab questions.
  7. Follow-up with a class discussion about dietary carbohydrates, the role they play in providing energy to the body, and the consequences of consuming too many “empty calories.” See Enriching Activities for ideas on how to further extend this lab.

Lab 2: Super Solutions

Teacher Preparation:

  1. Review information found in the Background Agricultural Connections section of the lesson, lesson Procedures, and the attached Essential Files.
  2. Prepare materials for the teacher demonstration and for each group. 
  3. The teacher demonstration will show students a heated (supersaturated) solution. After saturating the solution, you will divide the liquid among 6 (1 per group) Styrofoam cups. The solution will be very hot. It is important to allow cooling time before students observe the solution. Students will need to observe the solution starting with conclusion question #2.
  4. Each group will need 100mL water in a graduated cylinder or other container, and 1 bag containing 25g of white sugar. Keep extra sugar on hand during the lab investigation. Some groups may need additional sugar when creating their saturated solutions.
  5. If needed, identify 2-3 students to help with the teacher demonstration (e.g. measuring, recording data on board).
  6. Students may need to be taught or reminded how to use a triple beam balance, including how to mass granular solids. General directions are provided for students in their procedure.
    • Timesavers: To save time pre-measure the 500g of sugar needed in the demonstration. Separate the sugar into two plastic bags containing 250g each. If time is a limitation, use the demonstration video in place of the in-class teacher-led demonstration. Provide students with the data below after your class has viewed the video. 


  1. Consider having your students research common solutions in everyday living (particularly those we consume) prior to beginning the lab investigation.
  2. Distribute lab materials. It is recommended that materials are organized into stations for easier distribution. Students should be arranged in small groups of 4-5. Each group should receive the lab supplies outlined in the Materials section as well as 1 copy of the Super Solutions lab sheet.
  3. If students did not complete Lab 1, ask students to read the Sugar Solutions student handout and complete the focus questions.
  4. Before beginning the lab investigation:
    1. Require students to wash their hands.
    2. Emphasize the importance of practicing good food safety behaviors by not consuming substances used as part of the lab investigation.
    3. In this investigation, students should be allowed to taste their final product as part of the lab investigation.
  5. Begin the student lab investigation by asking students to make a prediction about which solution will contain the greatest concentration of sugar.
  6. Launch the teacher demonstration. The demonstration will show students how to create a heated (super-saturated) solution. Write data (grams of sugar needed to saturate the solution) on the board for students to record. Follow instructions below for teacher demonstration:
    1. On high heat, quickly heat 100mL of water.
    2. While the water heats, measure out 250 grams of sugar.
    3. Once the water is hot (simmering, but not boiling), begin adding sugar 50-100 grams at a time. Allow the sugar to dissolve before adding more sugar.
    4. Continue heating the solution and adding sugar, until additional sugar will not dissolve. If you have to add additional sugar beyond the initial 250 grams, measure and add sugar in 50-gram increments.
    5. Record the specific amounts of water (mL) and sugar (grams) needed to create the super-saturated solution. Students should record the amount of carbohydrate (sugar) needed to create a super-saturated heated solution in Table A.
    6. Divide the hot solution into separate Styrofoam cups (1 per group of students) and set aside, allowing each to cool for later observation.
  7. Launch the student portion of the lab investigation. Start by showing the Super Solutions Lab 2 demonstration video. Students should find that the heated sugar solution (super-saturated) had the greatest amount of sugar in it, followed by the cold solution (saturated), and regular solution (fresh orange juice).
    • Solution: At the end of the lab, students will make freshly squeezed orange juice. The natural sugar in the orange juice is a solution. Solutions consist of two or more substances. The orange juice is not fully saturated with sugar particles. They are different from colloids and emulsions. Colloids are solutions with particles dispersed throughout. Emulsions are a suspension of two substances that do not mix together.
    • Saturated Solution: The cold solution represents a saturated solution. A saturated solution is created when a maximum amount of solute (sugar in this case) is dissolved into another substance (solvent). Environmental conditions (e.g. temperature) can result in changes to solubility.
    • Super-saturated Solution: The heated solution represents a super-saturated solution. Generally, the higher the temperature, the greater the solubility of a solid in a liquid (e.g. sugar in water). Super-saturated solutions have been forced to dissolve a greater amount of solute than it is normally capable of holding. This type of solution is unstable. Agitation (e.g. insertion of a wooden skewer) will cause the formation of crystals.
  8. Allow students to work in small groups on the Super Solutions lab sheet to further explore the topic and respond to lab questions.
  9. Follow-up with a class discussion about solutions commonly found in real life (e.g. soft drinks, sweet tea, simple syrup), and the relevance to overall health and energy balance. See Enriching Activities for ideas on how to further extend this lesson.

Concept Elaboration and Evaluation

After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts

  • Sugar (sucrose) is extracted from the sugarcane and the sugar beet plants.
  • Many common drinks such as soda pop and juice contain high levels of sugar.
  • Some food products are naturally sweetened, meaning they contain sucrose, fructose, or glucose. Other foods have added sugar
  • The solubility of a substance is the amount of solute that will dissolve in a solvent.

Essential Links

Enriching Activities

  • Have your students bring in other types of foods to test, such as energy drinks, fruit juices, fresh fruit and/or processed foods (soft drinks, salad dressings etc.). In groups, students should cover each of the Nutrition Facts Labels with colored paper and tape. Once labels are covered, instruct students to order the food items from least to most sugar content based on their findings.

  • Repeat the investigation with salt to determine solubility differences between the substances.

  • Teach students about crystallization and solutions that are saturated beyond the solvents capacity by making “crystal rocks.” After allowing the super-saturated solution to cool, place a wooden skewer or thread into the solution. You should begin to see crystallization within 5 hours. If you fail to see crystals, you may need to further saturate your solution with additional sugar.

  • Have students bring in Nutrition Facts labels from their favorite sweetened beverage (see Investigating Your Health). Compare the sugar content and ingredients. Be sure to point out the sources of sugar (i.e. natural versus added sugars).

Suggested Companion Resources

Agricultural Literacy Outcomes

Food, Health, and Lifestyle

  • Evaluate food labels to determine food sources that meet nutritional needs (T3.6-8.b)
  • Explain the benefits and disadvantages of food processing (T3.6-8.e)
  • Identify sources of agricultural products that provide food, fuel, clothing, shelter, medical, and other non-food products for their community, state, and/or nation (T3.6-8.i)

Education Content Standards


MS-LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

  • MS-LS1-7
    Develop a model to describe how food is rearranged through chemical reactions forming new molecules that support growth and/or release energy as this matter moves through an organism.

MS-PS1: Matter and Its Interactions

  • MS-PS1-2
    Analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred.

Common Core Connections

Reading: Anchor Standards

    Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
    Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
    Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
    Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
    Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards

    Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Language: Anchor Standards

    Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Writing: Anchor Standards

    Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
    Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
    Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


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