Burritos Creatively Fuel STEM Classroom Project

By Annamarie Wyland, high school teacher in Waynesburg, PA, and Jenny Burns, Community Coordinator for Allen Distinguished Educators
July 5, 2016

Award-winning project replicated with DIY Guide grant from Allen Distinguished Educators 

DIY Guide grants ensure adoption of ADE-created classroom projects and practices across a diverse range of schools – engaging student of all backgrounds.
Annamarie-Wyland.jpg“I am always looking for exciting, new, hands-on activities to complete with my students and I know that food is a great motivator. The 53 Miles per Burrito project was a perfect combination of both,” explained Annamarie Wyland, a special education high school teacher and DIY Guide grantee from Allen Distinguished Educators. “My students were interested and excited once they understood no one had to actually bike 53 miles.” Wyland is one of 28 teachers to receive a DIY Guide grant from the ADE program in winter of 2016

In this project, 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. The main goal of this engineering and entrepreneurship project, developed by 2014 ADE awardee Mike Wierusz, is to learn how to define problem variables, make a plan for solving the problem, and collect and analyze relevant data. Download materials for this project. 

Teachers are encouraged to creatively adjust the projects to suit the unique needs of their students and classroom environments. 

Learn how Annamarie modified and adapted this project:

How Mike Does It

  • School: Inglemoor High School 
  • Type of School: Public - District 
  • Location: Kenmore, WA 
  • School Population: 160 
  • Demographic: 33% minority students 
  • % Free/reduced lunch program: 18%
  • Grade: 11th & 12th
  • Timing: one week
  • Subjects: environmental science, social studies, math, entrepreneurship, technology, and sustainability
  • Materials: stationary bicycles, computers, ingredients to make burritos 
  • Project Steps: Students first consider the data necessary to answer the prompt, then they collect data by riding a stationary bike, finally they use critical thinking and high level math and science concepts such as converting watts to joules to calories. 

Watch Mike’s interactive guided tour and download his complete project materials.

How Annamarie Did It

  • School: Waynesburg Central High School
  • Type of School: Public - District
  • Location: Waynesburg, PA
  • School Population: 579
  • Demographic: 3% minority students
  • % Free/reduced lunch program: 38%
  • Grade: 9th - 11th
  • Timing: one week
  • Subjects: social studies, geography, nutrition, science
  • Materials: stationary bicycles, workbooks/pencils, ingredients to make burritos
  • Project Steps: Students first consider the data necessary to answer the prompt with guides from differentiated workbooks, then they collect data by riding a stationary bike, finally, with assistance from the teacher, they determine the calories needed to travel to a nearby town (nearly 53 miles).

More details will be available soon.


Featured project adaptations by Annamarie: “Implementing this project went really well. My administrators were very supportive and helped me with anything I needed along the way. I met a few times with the principal to keep him updated,” said Wyland.

Student work from Mike's class

Students in Mike's class use stationary bikes to measure the distance and calories burned on a bicycle. Visit the 53 Miles per Burrito page to learn more.

Student Work from Annamarie's class

Student determines what they know and what they need to know to ascertain if they can travel to Morgantown, WV and back with the calories from one burrito. 
“I would love to do this project again with other classes.” said Wyland. “Word spread quickly that we were participating in a 53 miles per burrito project and that we got to eat burritos. I know if I present this to my students next year the first question they will ask is do we get burritos like they did last year? Perhaps I will use some variation of this project that will be more affordable. I’m leaning towards pizza.”

The ADE program was developed by Paul G. Allen based on his belief that innovation is a key driver in improving learning opportunities for young people. “To be innovative in education teachers must never stop observing, questioning, and experimenting,” said Wyland. “They must bring these actions and ideas to the classroom, so that our students never stop learning.” 

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