Monday, December 10, 2007

The science behind gingerbread houses

Are you planning to make a gingerbread house this holiday season? Before you mix up that first batch of dough, think about the wonderful ways that building a house can teach science.

Whether you make your dough from scratch or make your gingerbread using a boxed mix, you measure out your ingredients and mix them together prior to baking. Following a recipe is similar to how a scientist follows steps when conducting an experiment. Failure to follow the steps correctly can lead to a failed experiment or, in this case, poor building material!

Before you make your house, you must plan your design carefully. A friend of mine used to map her designs out on graph paper to ensure that they were built to scale. Make sure that all of your walls will be the same height. Good planning and measuring of your design is critical to gingerbread house success. You don’t want your house to lean to one side.

Next, you must execute your plan by cutting out the pieces of gingerbread and carefully constructing the house. Are your walls load-bearing? Will they support the roof? One year, I built a lovely gingerbread house and then tried to attach a roof that was heavily coated in gumdrops. The walls of my house buckled under the weight. I had to admit, gumdrop shingles proved to be a poor design choice. I should have gone with a lighter candy.

Finally, you need to recover from any setbacks and keep going when things go wrong. This lesson in tenacity is always helpful for scientific study (when things often go awry). The year that my roof caved in, I decided that my house had an open-air design and really didn’t need a roof anyway!

Check out these great tips on Building a Gingerbread House from veteran home-builder Bob Vila’s crew.

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