Central Manitoulin Public School packs an education week punch

Julie Buyers teaches the CMPS students the fine art of cake decorating during a fall fair education workshop held in honour of Education Week last Thursday. photos by Michael Erskine

MINDEMOYA—Creating a winning fall fair entry doesn’t just happen, it takes a fair bit of work and more than a smidgen of determination to secure the red ribbon accolade denoting best in class. Students from Kindergarten to Grade 8 at Central Manitoulin Public School attended a fall fair boot camp of sorts, with an Education Week lineup of educational opportunities that ran quite the gamut of topics presented by Island experts in their fields.

Presenters and topics included: Julie Buyers, cake decorating; Madonna Aeschlimann, water colour painting; Steve Smith, growing pumpkins; Pat Marcotte, dairy presentations; Jeff Wahl, water; David and Nancy Kaines, bees and pollinators; Shane O’Donnell, Kids Can Grow—planting; Dorothy Ferguson, sewing on a button; and Greg Bond, cheese making.

Each presenter took their charges through an in-depth (relative to grade and age) discussion and demonstration of their topic, providing the students with an opportunity to engage in hands-on and interactive learning.

Mr. Bond’s cheese making demonstration illustrates the workshops. An avid amateur cheese maker, Mr. Bond shared his not-so-secret recipe for the popular, if fairly mild, mozzarella cheese. Starting the base of 1/4 tablet of rennet, historically it would have been a small chunk of small animal intestine shares Mr. Bond (now it is just a simple tablet you can order online), in a 1/4 cup of water set it aside, add into a large bowl 1 1/2 tsp of citric acid in one cup of water, then four litres of milk. Stir. Then heat to 90 degrees (about 32 degrees Celcius), “my recipes are mostly in Fahrenheit because they come from the US,” noted Mr. Bond. Add the rennet mixture and stir for another 30 seconds (a lot of stirring and shaking is involved in this process), allow to sit for five minutes and then cut into one-inch cubes. Heat to 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.5 degrees Celcius) while stirring and then spoon the resulting curds into a bowl and squeeze out the whey.

Mr. Bond asked the students if they had ever heard the nursery rhyme where little Miss Muffet was sitting on a tuffet, eating her curds and whey. “When you get down to it, it was really all basically about a cheese recipe,” he said.

The mixture is then microwaved for about 60 seconds, kneeded to squeeze out more of the whey, then microwaved again for 35 to 40 seconds. “Be careful in this part,” cautioned Mr. Bond. “It gets really hot.” Then kneed again and the cheese is ready for the magic part.

“This is what makes mozzarella, mozzarella,” Mr. Bond said as he began to stretch the cheese out. “You stretch, and stretch, and stretch,” he said. “Then you cool it in ice water.”

Throughout the process, Mr. Bond enlisted the aid of the students, in shaking the various mixtures, creating butter and other products used in the recipe.

Once the cheese was ready, Mr. Bond cut it into slices and placed it on a plate with crackers and the homemade butter before inviting the students to sample the result. A polite, orderly feeding frenzy ensued. When the crowd dispersed, nary a crumb remained for a church mouse.

Throughout the school various similar scenes were unfolding as students took in the skills and information they could put to good use come next year’s fall fair—and best of all, it looked like a lot of fun.