How best to teach ten year-olds about grapes and winemaking?
September 19, 2011 3:26 PM   Subscribe

Teaching ten year-olds about turning grapes into wine - any fun/pedagogic insights/ideas?

We did a quick stint of wine-harvesting this weekend, and brought some home some grapes because our son wanted to take them to school and get his class involved in making wine as a kind of science project. So I offered to come and do a couple of hours on Thursday, as a kind of intro. The closest I've ever come to teaching a group of kids anything was a recent birthday party that centered around science tricks I organised - given how well that went, I'm looking forward to piqueing the kids' curiosity while also teaching them about wine and winemaking. I thought there might be specific pedagogic pointers that could make my effort a little less improvised.

We're in Italy and so, although we're in a big city, I'm figuring the kids might well have some rudiments about how wine gets made. Also, though I spent years actually making wine quite seriously, I think it's more some basic concepts that they'd most enjoy thinking about and understanding: yeast eating the sugar, belching out CO2 and leaving alcohol behind; the big deal/difference that's made between white and red wine, and how it's not so obviously linked to grape colour; why grapes have colour and sugar in the first place; how would people have discovered wine being what squished grapes would slowly stew themselves into in the first place; why wine is such a big thing in so many countries/cultures.

I only have about 5kg. of grapes, so I won't be able to let them do much stomping - any ideas from those more experienced in teaching settings about how to make the most of this occasion for them?
posted by progosk to Education (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Even more than the grapes, I think they should learn about yeast. Yeast eats sugar, and it farts alcohol. That's a concept pretty much anyone can get. Explain that winemaking is a way to preserve grapes for years and years, rather than having them simply go bad in a couple of weeks.
posted by Gilbert at 3:47 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

As much involvement from them as possible. The more they participate, the more they'll learn.

First give them a basic rundown on what you're doing, and why (to learn about wine).

Then, let them to grab a few grapes each. Then have them look closely at the grape. Yeast on the outside of the skin? Hopefully yes. Explain what it is.

Next, is a couple of hours enough to get a basic water, sugar, yeast blend fermenting well? If yes, using bakers yeast or something else fast, get a reaction going in beakers at the beginning of the class and let them see bubbles forming during the two hours. Tie that back into the yeast on the skin and the process of wine making and alcohol formation.

For red and white wine, do you have a mix of grape varieties? If so (or even if not), have them grab a few grapes each and peel. Assuming they have mortars and pestles (or you do and can demonstrate), crush and grind peeled grapes. Then, crush and grind the skin of each variety to extract colour. Even if you've only got one (red/purple/black) variety, the difference between skin colour and grape colour should be enough to start explaining that one. Also explain that colour will change further in the vat/barrel/bottle.

Then have them taste their grape skins, or the crushed and ground skin pulp. Astringent, yes? Those are tannins, kids! Then explain tannins, as a colorant, preservative, modifier of flavour, etc.

At this stage it might be worth asking whether they've tasted wine (or course they have). Then pull out a small jar or jug of freshly crushed grape juice (can they/you do this in the class?) and one you've prepared before hand of newly fermented grape juice. Have them taste again, with plastic teaspoons or something. If it's only a few days old, it's going to be rough.. Explain that this is how grapes fermenting on the vine taste, but that there's still enough alcohol there that prehistoric humans loved it.

And.. that's pretty much me out of ideas.
posted by Ahab at 5:44 PM on September 19, 2011

+1 to letting them experience this first hand. You can easily replicate fermentation (if not proper aging) in a plastic bottle with a balloon. If you want them to actually drink the product, look into making root beer. Fair warning, I'm pretty experienced in making beer/wine/mead/etc and the only time I've tried to make Root Beer it was pretty awful.

Good luck!
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:15 AM on September 20, 2011

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