MCPHERSON — On an otherwise routine Thursday night in mid-November, about 40 Kansas 4-H members were transported by computer screen to a flour mill and baking lab on the Kansas State University campus.
The one-hour program marked the kickoff of Bring Your 4-H Projects to Life, virtual lessons that aim to connect youth to college and career opportunities related to their interests, developed in part by Lindsey Mueting, a 4-H youth development agent in McPherson County.
"Not only does this provide an additional opportunity for youth to learn about their 4-H projects, but it is also purposeful programming to enhance our mission toward career readiness," Mueting said.
Mueting and Sarah Maass, a 4-H youth development agent in the Central Kansas extension district, developed the series to run on the second Thursday of each month. Each month’s program will connect youth to professionals currently working in an area related to one of 34 projects offered by Kansas 4-H.
"We are making connections with new people and using our amazing resource of the university to bring college and career ideas and opportunities to our 4-H youth," Mueting said.
The first program took the youth and their parents to the inner-workings of the K-State Department of Grain Science and Industry, where faculty members walked them through the life of a kernel of wheat as it is taken from a farm field, processed into flour, made into dough, and formed into scones for baking.
Jason Watt, the Buhler Instructor of Milling at K-State, explained the anatomy of a wheat kernel and explained how three parts – the bran, germ and endosperm – are all needed for whole wheat flour.
He used simple equipment to show the youth how a kernel is first cleaned, then crushed to its finest form. The process he demonstrated was tedious when done by hand; larger, more automated equipment gets the job done in just a fraction of the time.
Up the hallway, baking science instructor Aaron Clanton, was preparing dough to make scones. As the online learning shifted to his baking lab, he began with a chemistry lesson on the important differences associated with using baking powder or baking soda in recipes.
Clanton then showed how each product reacted to cold water, hot water and vinegar. Baking powder, which contains both an acid and an alkaline component, bubbled as it interacted with each ingredient. Baking soda, which does not contain acid, only reacts when it is combined with an acid, such as vinegar.
The lesson became more clear when Clanton showed examples of scones made with each ingredient. The scones with baking powder rose to a good height and color with fluffy air pockets in the middle. The one’s without baking powder were flat and crumbly.
"There is a lot of science involved in baking," said Clanton, a 4-H member as a youth. "It’s a very rewarding thing to learn about. It’s something you can learn about in your 4-H foods project, and as you go on, you’ll learn that the food industry relies on a lot of science to make products."
Each of the youth received baking ingredients and a recipe to make their own scones at home. In the week following the online lesson, they were encouraged to post pictures, videos and description of their own scones online, Mueting said.
For more information on upcoming lessons through Bring Your 4-H Project to Life, interested persons can contact Mueting at Lmueting@ksu.edu; or Maass at email@example.com.