As part of ICHK’s Deep Learning program, I’ve been working with a group of 10 students over the past weeks, studying the wonder that is yeast. In this hands-on unit, which covers a total of 4 school days, students bake bread and brew beer (of both the ginger and alocholic varieties). Through these experiences student hopefully come to understand the joy of hands on making, as opposed to mere consumption. In addition, the unit includes independent travel and shopping, a range of practical and theoretical science, and an appreciation for a range of ancient human technologies.

 

 

Bread and beer have been staples of human existence for thousands of years. In times gone by, bread offered a way to turn hard-to-digest grains into a nutritious, portable and tasty form. Meanwhile, beer offered not only nutrients, but also a way to purify dirty water in order to make it drinkable. Made from practically the same ingredients, the magic in these technologies is the use of yeast. This wonderful microorganism cracks open grains in order to eat hidden sugars. In its wake it leaves a supply of readily available nutrients, carbon dioxide (which makes bread fluffy) and sometimes alcohol.

According to some experts, many pre-industrial humans, children included, spent their days drinking low-alcohol beer, rather than water. How the world has changed! Today beer and bread are not as vital to human society as they once were, but they are still valuable technologies, both materially and socially.