53 Miles per Burrito
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Creative Commons License
53 Miles Per Burrito by Mike Wierusz, 2014 Allen Distinguished Educator is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Project Overview

Students answer the question, “Can I ride 53 miles on a bike from the energy of a single burrito?” They must define their variables, collect and analyze their data, and present their results. By the end of this project, students should have all the information they need to design a burrito that would provide them with the exact caloric content necessary to ride 53 miles.

Mike Wierusz

School: Inglemoor High School

Type of School: Public - District

Location: Kenmore, WA

Population: 160

Demographic: 33% minority students

% Free/reduced lunch program: 18%

Learning Outcomes

This project integrates environmental science, engineering, math, energy, design, physics and social studies concepts and meets learning standards from 4th to 12th grade. Students will learn how to define problem variables, make a plan for solving the problem, collect and analyze relevant data and make a technical presentation of their results.

Download the open-source Project Plan Materials to view a complete list of standards and learning outcomes addressed in this project.

How Mike Does It

  • Grade: 12th
  • Timing: Mike teaches this project in one week
  • Subjects: Mike covers concepts from engineering, design, physics, environmental science, social studies, entrepreneurship, and technology and emphasizes a focus on sustainable transportation
  • Materials: In Mike's class, students collect data by riding a stationary bike and each group of students builds a burrito at the end of the project with enough calories to fuel 53 miles on a bicycle
  • Project Steps: In Mike's class, students use critical thinking and high level math and science concepts such as converting watts to joules to calories

How You Can Do It

  • Grade: 4th-12th grades
  • Timing: You could teach this project in one or two weeks
  • Subjects: You could adapt this project to emphasize concepts that relate closest to your current or ongoing curriculum such as data collection and analysis, science, math or social studies
  • Materials: Your students could research average data points online rather than generating and collecting their own data by riding a stationary bike and you can build one burrito together as a class at the end of the project rather than have students build their own in groups
  • Project Steps: Depending on the grade level of your students, you could simplify the math and science concepts or work through the problems together as a class
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Comments (20)
Avatar
Shawn Griffith
7/5/2017 9:42:25 AM

Teacher from Broken Arrow, OK
When I found this project, it appeared to adaptable for a variety of grade levels. I found this appealing because I teach so many levels and wanted as many students to benefit as possible. The largest challenge that I faced was trying to implement the project too late in the school year and at too large a scale.

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Marcella Six
6/14/2017 10:45:59 AM

Teacher from Central Point, OR
I implemented this project in a five week mini nutrition elective. This class was a very small group of 9th graders that were, for the most part, already familiar with some aspects of nutrition labels and energy requirements. I adapted the project to align with running ten miles instead of biking 53 miles as we have a large local community centered ten mile running race that happened to be around the same time as the project. I liked the technology piece of the project as I feel like many of my students were unfamiliar with using a program like Google Sheets prior to this project. We were able to use that program to log, calculate, and analyze our data which was very useful.

I really like reading some of the adaptations that other teachers made- such as burning the peanut to calculate (and observe) energy in food! When I do this project again I think I would like to add an element similar to that.

Great project!

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Kathryn Vogler
6/1/2017 12:23:19 PM

Teacher from Colfax, WA
I teach a diverse group of 45-7th graders in a small, rural eastern Washington school. We just finished the Burrito project with great success. I adapted the project to their abilities, providing daily guidance for the exploration. The project took 10 days, from introduction to poster presentation. The Burrito party was the celebration.
These students had no previous investigative lab experience, nor were they familiar with food labels or Calories. This project fit in well with the life science curriculum, helping make the connection between cellular energy and energy needed to ride a bicycle.
I made some adaptations including exploring energy, calories, and Calories. (Students burned a peanut and heated water.) This was great!
We used simple Calorie trackers attached to waistbands for students to wear while riding a bike for 10 minutes. Some students timed themselves riding a bike for a fixed distance. All the data were used after much discussion of data reliability.
Students worked in their previously established small groups to analyze data and later, construct their presentation posters. The discussions were rich and there was great problem solving. Students used the data provided to convert Calories/minute x minutes/mile = Calories/mile. The comment I heard was "This was not has hard as I thought!" Students did some great investigative work when determining what foods and quantities should go into the burrito. There was great math being done; some fairly sophisticated conversion problems. The students not only developed investigative and problem solving skills while working on this project, but also improved their communication skills. I was so pleased the cooperation within the groups, and between the groups. This was a great cross-curricular project.

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Jenny Burns
8/19/2016 2:47:54 PM

Allen Distinguished Educators Moderator
Hi Michael,

I agree, this would be an excellent project for a food science class. What grade are your students and when would you plan to teach this lesson?

This lesson could either serve as an interesting ice-breaker at the beginning of the school year to introduce calories, or it could work well later in the year for students to build upon ideas they've already learned.

- Jenny

Avatar
Michael Tetwiler
8/19/2016 11:52:11 AM

Teacher from Orofino, ID
I am about to teach food science for the first time this year. I believe the 53 Miles per Burrito would be an excellent DIY project for this class.

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Carolyn Sturges
8/2/2016 8:31:47 PM

Teacher from West Richland, WA
I just started conversations with everyone I could think of. I didn't run across anyone who wasn't supportive of the project.

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Jenny Burns
7/25/2016 11:06:32 AM

Allen Distinguished Educators Moderator
Hi Carolyn,

I’m glad everyone enjoyed the project! Thanks for your feedback on the noise level of the trainers. Setting the the trainers up outside the classroom sounds like a good idea in the future.

It’s great to know that your school’s food service has offered to get in on the fun, and that the bike club and trainer has offered their services for free! Do you have any tips or insight to share about how you made the connections you made with these organizations?

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Carolyn Sturges
7/20/2016 5:13:32 PM

Teacher from West Richland, WA
Every person in our classroom enjoyed this project. One word of wisdom is that the "trainers" that I borrowed from our local cycling club were really loud, and next time I will find a way to set them up outside the classroom. Other than that, this project was a great success, and I hope to do it every year. I used the grant money this time, but next year our school's food service has offered to get in on the fun and display their tasty burrito making skills, and a local bike club and trainer in town has offered their services for free. That leaves the cost of the t-shirts, but I don't think t-shirts are absolutely essential to this project. Thanks so much for getting us started--good project!

Avatar
Jenny Burns
5/2/2016 9:13:44 AM

Allen Distinguished Educators Moderator
Hi Elizabeth, thanks for sharing feedback about adapting and implementing this project in your class! Your Fitbit adaptation is a really creative and I like the way you really emphasized the P.E. element of this project. I’m curious to know how this lesson impacted your students’ perspective on nutrition, calories and exercise overall.

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Elizabeth Stevenson
5/1/2016 10:38:56 AM

Teacher from Chicago , IL
I taught this lesson to my 4th grade class. I have a very diverse classroom and over 80% of my students are English Language Learners. In order to break down the concept, we first started with how different exercises burn different amounts of calories. Since I didn't have access to a stationary bike, we used fitbits to measure calories burned by jumping rope, walking, and climbing stairs. My students hypothesized about which exercise would burn the most calories. They had a great time collecting data! They were very eager to see how many calories they had burned. Once we had completed that portion of the experiment, we then looked at the calories in a school lunch. My students calculated how much of each food they would need in order to walk, climb stairs, or jump rope for 20 minutes. This project was great for aligning math, science, health, and physical fitness!

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Jenny Burns
3/18/2016 4:13:19 PM

Allen Distinguished Educators Moderator
Annamarie,

It is so great to hear that your students enjoyed this project! My favorite part of your feedback is that “They thought I was going to make one of them bike 53 miles for data! I kept insisting that was not the case…” It's also lovely to hear how excited the parents and administrators at your school were! Sorry to hear that the stationary bikes, what company or brand did you use?

I am excited to see pictures and hear more about your project.

Avatar
Annamarie Wyland
3/11/2016 9:06:58 AM

Teacher from Washington, PA
My students had a pretty good time completing this lesson. I worked with 3 different groups; one an inclusion class and 2 learning support classes. At first my students were nervous about the project. They thought I was going to make one of them bike 53 miles for data! I kept insisting that was not the case; so they were relieved when we completed the project and the farthest anyone biked was 5 miles, because they wanted to. They were also nervous about the math involved; for some of my groups I completed a lot of the conversions and calculations because they were overwhelmed. Now that we have completed the work my students are very excited they are going to have a Burrito Party prior to our Spring Break. I did not receive much feedback from the parents of my students, but the feedback from parents in the community and my co-workers with children was positive. Everyone was excited I had applied and received the grant. Parents enjoy when their children come home talking about something good at school. My administrators were nothing but supportive. They granted me access to everything I needed including the gym and computer labs whenever I needed it. They met with me on multiple occasions to see how it was going and to see our progress. They are also allowing me to plan the Burrito Party during school hours and giving the participating students permission to miss their last period class to be able to attend. Overall the changes/accommodation/modifications I created worked really well for my students. They need a lot of support and that is what I gave them. I also added an extension activity where the students could design a breakfast burrito with the calories needed and for the really advanced students they could plan a 53 mile route. No one elected to complete planning the route as an extension. One thing that I would do differently would be to use different stationary bikes. I do not believe the ones we used were very accurate and we had trouble finding the information we needed about the bikes to convert rpms to mph. I also told my students to make sure they were keeping a pace they thought they could maintain for 53 miles; our pace was much slower than the expected 15 mph making our results higher. Finally when presenting the project I would chunk the sections more and not let the students preview what came next because all their focus went to the next step and not the step we were currently working on. Overall I would say this was a great experience and I would like to use it with future classes, but am nervous because now everyone might expect a burrito when they complete the project!

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Jenny Burns
2/3/2016 8:54:05 AM

Allen Distinguished Educators Moderator
Hi Carolyn!

I'm so happy to hear your students enjoyed this project! I like your take adding quinoa, kale and tofu to the discussion. We look forward to pictures and hearing more about your project :)

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Jenny Burns
2/2/2016 9:11:30 AM

Allen Distinguished Educators Moderator
Hi Karen! I sent you an email with links to more resources! Please feel free to reach out with additional questions at jennyb@vulcan.com :)

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Carolyn Sturges
2/2/2016 5:14:29 AM

Teacher from West Richland, WA
My students had a great time with this project. It was a great opportunity to collaborate with our community, and we all really loved the question. We went some unusual places with this project-- learning about some less familiar healthy choices that could be included in a burrito (quinoa, kale and tofu) to figuring out how much energy it would take to drive a car or fly an airplane 53 miles. We also had a visitor with an antique "penny-farthing" bicycle come to visit our classroom. The whole project really was a lot of fun, and I will totally do it again next year.

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Karen Sheff
1/23/2016 8:50:02 PM

Teacher from Kailua Kona, HI
Where can I obtain any template for excel or data points for age and weight; for bike data; and outline or notes on questions to ask, as well as data to collect? Mike mentions a power point being available. Where can this be accessed?
I am currently discussing collaboration with the modeling Math teacher and P.E.
The more lesson plans and information, the more expedient for us to scaffold further lessons, such as analyzing different routes to bike 53 miles and comparing and contrasting a vegetarian/tofu burrito and a chicken burrito for the task of biking 53 miles.

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Karen Sheff
1/20/2016 1:45:24 AM

Teacher from Kailua Kona, HI
Aloha Jenny,
As this is my first time working with ADE, I would appreciate some guidance. How do I access any lesson plans on how to present this amazing lesson? If not then I'll likely partner with the Math or the Physics teacher and work this so that my culinary students have more exposure to physics and/or Marh which all the students can thereafter have a tangible culinary experience in my class.
I'd like to explore the possibility of scaffolding this into a compare and contrast outcome, highlighting the culinary curriculum to drive the students into the math. For example, prepare two nutritionally different types of burritos; one with tofu and another with chicken, and after identifying the caloric count, calculate the miles one would be able to burn. Any guidance is most appreciated. Thank you, Karen

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Jenny Burns
12/3/2015 10:14:35 AM

Allen Distinguished Educators Moderator
Hi Karen,

This would be an excellent cross-collaboration opportunity, and very fitting for a culinary program and P.E. Can you share more about your ideas to adapt this project to fit your class environment?

Avatar
Karen Sheff
12/3/2015 1:56:15 AM

Teacher from Kailua Kona, HI
I would like to follow this lesson as a cross collaboration with my Culinary Program and the Physical Education line. At some point, I might collaborate with the Physics classes, depending on core class time constraints.

Avatar
Jenny Burns
11/18/2015 1:56:19 PM

Allen Distinguished Educators Moderator
This project is educationally delicious... :) How are teachers planning on adapting this project to their own classrooms??

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