This article is a follow up to part 1 in this series on teaching kids about yeast and fermentation with food projects. This science subject is a great way to introduce kids to food processing and preservation techniques used in history. And, as we’ve seen, it can also teach lots of other scientific subjects that introduce not just concepts, but science vocabulary.
For part 2, we’re going to focus on teaching kids about dairy fermentation. Here goes!
Teach kids about dairy fermentation with homemade kefir
Kefir has begun showing up on grocery store shelves next to the yogurt products. It may seem intimidating if you don’t know what it is. It’s basically another type of fermented milk (or other base) product, but with a different, and higher set of probiotics. According to this article on kefir vs. yogurt, it’s not that you want to replace one with the other, but instead, use both for health (in case you were wondering).
Kefir, though, is an easier dairy fermentation science experiment to do with kids, since it multiplies really fast, and can change its multiplication rate based on its environment quite easily. You can make kefir within 24 hours. And, you can observe growth changes based on how much fat is in the milk you’re using. With temperature changes, you can also see how long-lasting kefir grains ‘hibernate’ – another science topic to bring up with kids.
Here is a recipe to try (with more on the subject):
Kefir also brings up some lessons on health and remedies (and how they work on the human body), since it’s praised for its ‘miracle’ properties.
Try more dairy fermentation science with a yogurt recipe
Yogurt is also fermented milk, but is made differently. And, there are different types of yogurt, such as greek yogurt and balkan yogurt.
This science lesson for kids can teach how the careful balance of yeast cultures to their environment can affect the final food product output they’re making.
Here is an article that explains this more thoroughly:
Scientific American has an article about the science concepts to teach with yogurt making here:
Also see this food science article, which explains whether yogurt is a solid or a liquid (hint: it’s actually a “colloid”). The article also brings up more scientific terminology to teach kids when making yogurt:
Want to go vegan? Here is a recipe for creating cultured coconut milk ‘yogurt’, which can teach kids that milk is not necessary for fermentation of this kind! So what do the bacteria thrive on? Discuss that with your class!
Teach kids the history and multi-faceted science of cheese making
This one might be a favourite among the kids in science class. On fermentation lessons, it may be the most diverse topic you’ll bring up with students. Cheesemaking is as old as time. Ok maybe not literally, but it is very old, just like most fermentation projects we’re introducing in this biology lesson.
This article on The Guardian also explains that cheese happened originally before pasteurization:
So what is pasteurization? And why did humans introduce it to products on our grocery store shelves? That can be another avenue to teach kids about how this food biology works.
To add to all the science vocabulary we’re learning in this series, The Guardian article above also introduces words for kids to learn like “enzymes,” “coagulation,” “micelles” and “peptides.”
Also, the article points out the delicacy of the moulding process. Just the right pressure is needed, did you know that?
Then, this article on Wired.com explains a few more subjects surrounding the science of cheese:
For example, where does cheese get its yellow/orange colour? And what is lactose intolerance in humans? How about the holes in cheese? Are those the same as the holes in bread we learned about earlier?
The article delves into the difference between cheese and yogurt, and why some cheese is made in certain places. It even explains how we started calling things “cheesy” – that can be a fun word history lesson to incorporate for the kids!
Finally, this website is totally dedicated to “decoding the science of cheese”:
We’ll let you pursue that site for all sorts of teachable subjects on cheese fermentation and curdling science!
It’s not hard to see that cheese could be a semester-long learning subject, with avenues to teach several scientific topics.
There’s more to learn about fermentation and yeast science!
If you’re thinking you’ve got a year’s worth of biology lessons to teach kids, wait till you find out we’re not done! In part 3 of this series, we’re going to get into two more fermentation projects: kombucha and ginger ale. Both produce natural carbonation to teach kids about how sodas were made in the ‘olden days.’ Stay tuned!