Sunday, November 9, 2014

Middle school can be cheesy

Posted By on Sun, Nov 9, 2014 at 9:29 AM

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I had the distinct honor of being a guest presenter in 8th grade chemistry classes at Horizon Middle School last month. The teachers, Mr. Lohr and Mr. Yerger, were in the midst of a two-week "food science" unit and had taught the kids the science of making bread and chocolate. I was invited to teach cheese-making.

Although I've taught over 1,000 people to make various types of cheese, approximately seven 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 schoolers with a lot of energy — I have a new respect for teachers.

I showed the kids a quick Powerpoint 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 lieu 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 four, the kids heated the milk to 180 degrees, added vinegar, watched the precipitate (in this case, the chemical term for curds) form from the milk and vinegar solution, drained the whey and added seasoning.

Drum roll, please... they liked it!

Equally amazing was that 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:

Dear Lindsey,
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.'
Sincerely, J.S.

And here's 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!
I loved the way that you presented and were engaged with the students... all the other labs aren't as cool as this one!

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.

Here are three things I took away from my school-teaching experience:

1. When I was a middle school student, I heard my science teacher's presentation one time each day. It never dawned on me that he had to repeat the exact same class 4 times in a day. The fourth time in four hours that you hear yourself say the same thing is exhausting. My day of teaching brought a new meaning to the words "déjà vu".

2. When you're the teacher, 60 minutes goes really fast.

3. Teaching food science is a really great way to get kids interested in chemistry.

Lindsey is a city girl turned urban farm girl. She and her family are the proud stewards of a few milking goats, a lot of working chickens, an organic garden and a budding orchard. Just around the corner is the city. But she, and her farm, are hidden by the rocks. Follow her on Twitter (@goatcheeselady) and FaceBook (The Goat Cheese Lady) or visit her website (thegoatcheeselady.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Lindsey at: thegoatcheeselady@gmail.com.

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