Under the tutelage of master cheesemaker Graham Redhead, the teachers learnt how to make four simple cheeses.

Food studies teacher Karen Weitnauer hosted the event at New Town High School, and worked with Redhead to develop a program suitable for teachers. 

She says that living in Tasmania has influenced her interest in cheesemaking.

“I’m not [living on] a farm at the moment, but I actually have some family members who have farms and we’re very passionate in Tasmania about our local dairy industry...” Weitnauer says.

“In small places like Tasmania we’re very responsive to the environment we live in and my interest in cheesemaking has come out of that and using local produce. We have the best milk in the world, with a great fat content and that’s beautiful for making cheese.”

Weitnauer says that the teachers attending her workshop wanted to get an introductory experience of cheesemaking.

“I presented them with some booklets around making four different simple cheeses,” she says.

“Those booklets would enable them to have the background knowledge to make those simple cheeses, and also the curriculum connection for them to actually do that in their classroom and know that they were meeting the outcomes and standards required of the Australian Curriculum in food and fibre production.”

Weitnauer says that cheesemaking can be applied throughout the curriculum.

“This fits really well into the design and technologies, which is the main area, but within the technologies we’ve got an elective called food specialisation, so the classes could be taken as a Year 9 and 10 or a Year 11 and 12 class in making cheese in technologies, or it could be as a demonstration or a follow up work in the K to 8 aspect of design and technologies, which is called food and fibre production,” she says.

“As well as that, within the Australian Curriculum there’s lots of links through this activity with STEM ... and we would see really big connections through geography and HASS in the junior years, but also in the senior years, looking more distinctly at things like buying local, being sustainable, food security [and] the processes of manufacturing and production...”

Weitnauer has just started putting this into practice at New Town, with her Year 9 and 10 students.

“We have some Persian feta underway, that’s our first manufactured cheese, so the boys have learnt about sanitising all their equipment, sanitising their workspace and then also taking the milk to the correct temperature, adding the culture, the starters and the rennet, and the first production is actually being hooped at the moment,” she says.

Although the feta her students are working on is a relatively simple cheese, Weitnauer has been experimenting with more advanced methods in her own time.

“I have made some camembert and brie and a washed rind cheese, and they’re a little bit more in the advanced method, and while I had reasonable success, I would like to practice that a bit more. 

“At the moment I’m just working on the three simple cheeses, which will be the Greek feta, Persian feta and a milk ricotta with my students.”