Making Cheese, Learning With iPads At York Food Festival 2012

28/09/12 19:36 Caroline Bell News

We have attended the York Food Festival in one form or another for many years. When we first started out making cheese it was events like this that gave us a route to market and helped us to gain confidence in the reaction of consumers to our product and our brand. Food festivals are now even more popular and more important than ever, and whilst we can’t attend every one, we try to get involved wherever possible.

We met Debbie from York Food Festival back in May to discuss options for this year’s event and we came up with the idea of a cheese making workshop for primary school groups. At that time, I’d just returned to Shepherds Purse from Apple, where my most recent role had been to manage the Apple Education business in the North of England. Over the past 18 months this had been dominated by learning with the iPad. So it seemed like a perfect opportunity to merge our backgrounds in both technology and cheese and hopefully deliver a memorable experience for the kids.

We believe in artisan cheese making, and the purpose of this workshop was mainly for the students to have fun getting hands on experience making cheese – the messier and more fun the better!

But we did want to provide some structure to the learning experience. We wanted the students to learn that cheese is made from milk and that you can make cheese from many different types of milk. We also wanted the students to appreciate the art and the science that goes into the process of cheese making, so we had them reflecting on and noting down the sensory experiences involved in cheese making as well as measuring factors such as time taken at each stage and the volume of milk vs volume of whey that was left at the end. As we didn’t have wifi in a tent the middle of York, we used the iPads for one member of the group to be the story teller and tell the story of cheese making through photos and videos.


The groups were split into teams of three. Each member of the team would have a chance at being

  • The Cheese Maker – Practical hands on tasks with the cheese
  • The Scientist Assistant – Noting down important information, asking questions and recording data
  • The Story Teller – Use the iPad to tell your group’s story of cheese making with photo and video

There was A LOT to fit into 90 minutes!

At the end of the last session we asked the group to tell us three things they had learnt about cheese… this is what we got back …

1. “Cheese can be made from milk from many different types of animals; not just cows”

2. “Half way through it looks and feels like scrambled egg” – This was when they had cut the curds but there was still quite a bit of whey.

3. This conversation ….

Student: “I thought cheese was only really made by machines”

SPC: “And why do you think, after you’ve made cheese today, that we believe it is important for cheese to be made by hand?”

Student: “Because machines can’t feel and smell and taste”

A huge thanks to the XMA Education Team for lending us the iPads for the event – the teacher’s faces were a picture when we gave them out at the beginning of the session – something to do with the tubs of warm water and hard stone floors! However, by the end (when none had been broken or caused an issue) I think they’d relaxed a little!

The students loved using the iPads but they were not the dominant feature of this workshop…. the purpose was for the kids to make cheese, have fun doing it, and learn about the process of making cheese. The iPads provided a tool to enhance and potentially transform the experience. In our case, they certainly enhanced and I’m more certain than ever that they can transform the learning experience for this generation of students for the better. The activity we did in 90 minutes could become the base experience for a group to explore so many different subjects and topics. It could easily be a full day or two day workshop … watch this space!


To the students, staff and helpers from Haxby Road Primary School and St Lawrence Primary School in York, thank you for making the sessions so much fun. We hope you enjoyed them as much as we did … and remember … if you want to become an artisan cheese maker in the future make sure you come and see us!
Caroline (& Mrs Bell The Cheese Maker!)