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Looking back, out of everything I learned in high school, very little of it seems applicable to what I do today. Sure, a basic understanding of math, science, history, and government is good, but I honed my knowledge of those in college. Hell, I’ve learned more about writing as a member of the TFM News Team than I did in high school English. In retrospect, I wish I’d learned at least something useful.
Some lucky students in Colorado are doing just that. A biology class at Ralston Valley High School is getting some hands-on experience with zymurgy. That’s the study of fermentation for all you non-scientists out there. How are they studying fermentation? The best way possible.
They’re studying how to brew beer.
How awesome is that? I would have loved to learn that when I was 16. Shit, I’d love to learn that now. When you think about it, it actually makes a lot of sense for these students to participate in the alcohol fermentation project. Anaerobic respiration, which fermentation is a form of, is a big deal in terms of biology. Not to get too into it, but it’s how all kinds of organisms like prokaryotes live and function.
As you might expect, some parents are pissed about this project. However, and quite interestingly, the project has been conducted for eight years, and nobody’s complained until now. When you look at what the project is all about, it doesn’t even make sense why parents are upset.
The project synopsis instructs students to become familiar with the ingredients and equipment needed to brew beer as well as the steps required in brewing. It also asks students to explain the variables that are changed in making other forms of alcohol, such as wine, champagne and hard alcohols like whiskey and vodka.
I’m sorry, parents, but that sounds like quality coursework to me. Not only is it an intriguing subject, a rarity in high school, but it’s also a great way to get kids interested in science. It’s like Bill Nye videos for teenagers. Plus, the course synopsis lets everyone know the true purpose of the course. It reads:
“In no way does this assignment promote the use of alcohol, but rather a deeper understanding of anaerobic respiration.”
Where’s the harm in that? Aside from outright saying it’s not supposed to promote alcohol use, it states that the primary intent is to increase the students’ knowledge of a key biological process. Considering we, as a nation, are lagging in science and technology education, you’d think parents would be happy their kids were at least learning.
Of course, there are also ways for students taking part in this project to learn outside of the classroom. Students can earn ten extra credit points if they take a tour of the nearby Coors Brewery and see the brewing process in action, which must be verified with a photo showing they were actually there.
I’m kind of jealous of these kids. They’re learning about something interesting and applicable to life, and they’re learning it for free. Shit, you’d think these students’ parents would be happy their kids are interested in science.