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Smithsburg students make butter

April 28, 2008|By JANET HEIM

SMITHSBURG - It was a question that stumped many fourth-graders at Smithsburg Elementary School. Which milk product - heavy cream, light cream or buttermilk - can be turned into butter?

Students in Richele Gift's class, working in groups of two and three students, learned the answer firsthand April 16. Under the direction of Wayne Buckingham, a teacher with the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation, the fourth-graders conducted an experiment called "Cream to Butter."

First, Buckingham passed out maps of Maryland, showing how many cows are in each county. Washington County has about 16,000 cows, second to Frederick County, which has about 26,000 cows.

Students also learned that one cow can produce about 90 glasses of milk each day.

Using lab sheets and the scientific method, each group came up with a hypothesis, or guess, of which of the three milk products would produce butter. Two teams predicted heavy cream, two predicted light cream and four teams thought it would be buttermilk.


Students Alaina Black, Haley Griffith and Abigail Baker guessed buttermilk would turn to butter because butter is in the name, they said.

Buckingham poured samples of each product for the groups and instructed them how to shake the small, tightly covered containers.

"Shake it up. Let's go," instructed Buckingham.

The energy level started high, but arms grew weary and the shaking slowed with time.

"My arm is getting tired," could be heard around the classroom.

After about five minutes, Buckingham had students check the progress of their samples. In most cases, the heavy cream was starting to thicken and the other samples remained the same.

Five more minutes of shaking and the heavy cream was definitely the winner, producing enough butter for each group to sample on crackers.

Buckingham explained that heavy cream made butter because of its high fat content. Light cream has about half the fat, which is why it didn't produce butter.

Buttermilk is the liquid left after butter is made, which is why it doesn't make butter.

All fourth-grade classes in Washington County Public Schools will get to participate in the "Cream to Butter" presentation.

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