Enzymes are important in our body and in everyday life. This resource provides an engaging introduction to enzymes through questioning and animations to allow students to appreciate the significance of enzymes in the breakdown of food molecules.

Theory behind the hook

The hook makes links to students’ prior knowledge by using an everyday example of enzymes used in baby food. In this way students will be able to relate to the topic being introduced.

How this hook works

The beginning of the hook compares baby food to breast milk and questions are utilised to allow students to think about the constituents in breast milk that are necessary for babies. It is explained that breast milk and baby food contain enzymes. The action of enzyme is illustrated using an animation of an enzyme (pacman) breaking down a food molecule into smaller constituents. This will assist students in visualising the action of enzymes in the breakdown of food. It is explained that amylase is an enzyme that breaks down starch. Amylase is produced in the mouth and breaks down long chains of carbohydrates (starch) into smaller sugar units (e.g. maltose), a process known as chemical digestion.

The concluding question probes students to think of other examples of enzymes in everyday life. An image of biological washing powder appears. It can be explained to students that biological washing powder contains enzymes that break down stains on our clothes. Biological washing powder works better than non-biological products as it contains enzymes which are artificially created to break down stains and dirt during the washing cycle. A non-biological washing powder does not contain these enzymes. This discussion will allow students to appreciate that enzymes are used in everyday products and work in a similar manner to the action of enzymes in the human body. The teacher could refer to the animation and explain that the amylase (pacman) breaks down the starch into smaller sugar units known as maltose. Students could carry out an experiment to compare the action of biological and non-biological washing powders using starch agar.

Questions & Answers

  • List everyday examples of enzyme uses?
    Baby food/milk, manufacture of fruit juices, biological washing powder to break down biological deposits, cleaning products, brewing of alcohol (amylase removes starch ‘hazes’ to produce bright clear beer).
  • An enzyme is a catalyst. Explain the term catalyst.
    A catalyst speeds up a chemical reaction without itself being used up in the reaction.
  • Name the enzyme that breaks down starch.
  • What is produced when amylase breaks down starch?
    Product = Maltose.
  • What is the process of breaking down starch using enzymes known as?
    Chemical digestion.

Cross Curricular Links

Links can be made to Junior Certificate Home Economics in which the digestive system is covered in the biology section.


Students could carry out a survey of different enzymes in everyday life and graph their findings according to different categories e.g. industry, food, cleaning products.