I had the distinct honor of being a guest presenter in the 8th grade Chemistry classes at Horizon Middle School last October. The teachers, Mr. Lohr and Mr. Yerger, were in the midst of a 2 week “food science” unit and had thus far taught the kids the science of making bread and chocolate. I was invited to teach cheese making. Although I’ve taught over 1000 people to make various types of cheese, approximately 7 of them have been middle school aged – until now. The marathon day of teaching 8th grade cheese making included somewhere in the vicinity of 250 students. Yikes. That’s a lot of middle school aged people with a lot of energy. I have a new respect for teachers.
Here are three things I took away from the experience:
- I have never been a school teacher. The only time I had been in a classroom was when I was a student. As the student, I heard the teacher’s presentation one time that day. That was it. It never dawned on me that the teacher had to make the same presentation 4 times that day, repeating herself every hour. My day of teaching brought a new meaning to the words “deja vu”.
- When you’re the teacher, 60 minutes goes really fast.
- Teaching food science is a really great way to get kids interested in chemistry.
I showed the kids a quick power point with pictures of our farm: the chickens, the goats, the bees, the garden, the milking process and the cheese making process and explained that, due to the lateness of the season, the goats were producing very little milk. In leiu of farm fresh raw goat milk we used pasteurized grocery store cow’s milk, and in typical Chemistry class fashion, we used Bunsen burners, beakers and well used miniature pots.
In groups of 4, the kids heated the milk to 180 degrees, added vinegar, watched the precipitate (in this case, the chemical term for curds) form from the solution (ie the milk and vinegar), drained the whey and added seasoning. And (drumroll please)…they liked it!
Equally as amazing, they sent me thank you letters hand written on college rule paper (not typed or texted or Facebooked or tweeted) and mailed through the good ol’ United States Postal System. Further proof that the youth of today still know some of the “old fashioned” ways. One of the writers even showed quite a talent for using puns:
Thank you for showing us how to make cheese. Personally, I thought it was a ‘cheesy’ choice at first, but I enjoyed it. I enjoyed watching the slideshow about your background, it was ‘udderly’ entertaining. When you showed us how to get just the curds, I thought ‘no whey!’ You decided to ‘goat’ around and help us, rather than standing there. You gave us the ability to experiment with the ‘raw’ lab. You were ‘curd-ious’ and kind. Thank you for coming, you are now one of the ‘flock.’
And here is a compilation of a few other notes…
This has been one of my favorite labs his school year, so far…I’ll definitely be making some cheese at home!…It’s interesting how you add the milk and the vinegar together and it separates…I loved the way that you presented and were engaged with the students…all the other labs aren’t as cool as this one!…I’ll be going home tonight to show my family I can make cheese!
And to wrap up the experience, I’ll close with a joke, “curd-esy” of one of the students:
Q: What do you call cheese that isn’t yours?
A: Nacho Cheese.
– The Goat Cheese Lady