The Access Excellence Periodic Tableau

Biochemical Placemats

Susan Plati
Brookline High School
Brookline, MA

Type of entry:

Lesson/class activity

Type of Activity:

Target Audience:

Background Information

Abstract of Activity

This is a multisensory lesson in which students work in cooperative groups to classify foods on placemats that are decorated with icons that symbolize, proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids. By touching, smelling, seeing, and tasting the food as they learn about the three groups of biomolecules, the students more quickly gain ownership of the concept of biomolecules and their building blocks. The activity is one that I designed to illustrate multisensory learning. I have used it for 8 years in first year biology classes and have colleagues that have modified it for use in middle school.


Materials needed (for each lab group)


  1. Students are supplied with a tray of various food items: crackers, cheese, potato chips, grapes, apples, meat, butter. At each seat is a "biochemical placemat"

  2. Each group of students is asked to place the foods on the appropriate section of the placement. They should work in groups so they can discuss which foods should be in which group. For example, potato chips have a high fat content because of how they are cooked as well as the carbohydrate content of the potato itself.

  3. The teacher checks each student for accuracy of grouping the foods

  4. Students should be directed to study the symbols on each section of the placemat. These icons represent the molecular composition of each of the food groups illustrated. As students eat the foods in each group they should study the icons and what they symbolize.

    • Protein is composed of amino acids symbolized by triangles

    • Fat is composed of 3 fatty acid molecules and 1 glycerol molecule symbolized by rectangles

    • Carbohydrates are composed of simple sugars symbolized by hexagons

Method of evaluation/assessment

One of my middle school colleagues suggested laminating the placemats and sending them home for the students to do a nutritional study at home.

Extension/reinforcement/additional ideas:

Use icon cutout on the overhead projector to discuss building blocks of biomolecules. Overlay the structural formulas for sugars, glycerol, amino acids, etc. on the icon cut outs.

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