Distance learning with fermentation lab

The COVID-19 pandemic brought many challenges for teachers and students, and Ohio Corn & Wheat-sponsored Feed the World was there to help! Feed the World provided materials for Loveland High School teacher Jamie Allison’s students to conduct the Fermentation in a Bag lab, from FTW’s Energy and Ethanol curriculum, through distance learning.

Allison said his junior Biotechnology class is studying about fermentation and fermentation technologies. “This is a perfect fit for this unit. The students are trying some “at home” fermentation activities—lacto-fermentation, making pickles or hot sauce, sourdough starter and bread. However, none of those can address the importance of enzymes in the process. This activity focuses on the use of enzymes to make the fermentation process more efficient.”

​Allison’s students used the materials exactly as described in the lab instructions. However, in an effort to catch some of the nuances of the enzymes involved, they increased the frequency of measuring the height of the bag and increased the number of readings. “Currently, the lab asks for 4 readings at 10 minutes apart. We took readings every 5 minutes for an hour or until the bags stop inflating.”

The lesson began with a Google Meet, so students could get immediate help and assistance if needed while they did the activity. Other students opted to do the activity on their own time. Students wrote up the labs on their own. Allison said the experience of doing the lab at home introduced some interesting variables. “Our number one variable was the surface the kids are working on. Stone kitchen counters pulled much of the heat from the bags and slowed things down.” In response, his students tried different things: towels underneath, warm towels on top of the bags.

If you’d like to try this activity with your students, the lesson is available online here.