National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
Whipping Butter into Shape
3 - 5
Students will investigate the physical change that occurs as milk is turned into butter.
Activity 1: Making Butter
- Making Butter Observation Sheet
- Heavy whipping cream at room temperature
- Baby food jars or small jam jars, 1 per group
- Timer, 1 per group
- Kitchen scale
- Butter knife, 1 per group
- Glass bowl
- Hand mixer
Activity 2: Changing Variables
- Collection of items to create a variable change (various sizes of containers, various types of milk, marbles, microwave, ice, etc.)
- 11 x 17 white paper, 1 per student
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
buttermilk: the liquid that is left after butter has been made from milk or cream
chemical change: a change that results in the formation of a new chemical substance through the making or breaking of bonds between atoms
churn: to make (butter) by stirring or shaking cream
colloid: a substance in which particles of one substance are dispersed through another substance
emulsion: a mixture of liquids in which small drops of one liquid are mixed throughout another liquid
homogenized: to treat (milk) so that the fat is mixed throughout instead of floating on top
physical change: a change from one state (solid, liquid, or gas) to another without altering the chemical composition of the substance
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- It takes 2.5 gallons (21.8) pounds) of whole milk to make 1 pound of butter.1
- On opening day of the Minnesota State Fair, the state dairy princess, known as Princess Kay of the Milky Way, has her likeness carved in a 90-pound block of Grade A butter.1
- Butter is most frequently made from cow's milk, but can also be made from the milk of other animals including sheep, goats, and buffalo.2
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Ask the students to identify products made from milk. Examples include milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, ice cream, whipped cream, pudding, and cream cheese. List the items on the board.
- Explain to the students that all of these products begin on a dairy farm. Take the class on a virtual field trip to a dairy farm by viewing the video From a Farm Family Near You: Bohnert Dairy Farm.
Activity 1: Making Butter
- Organize students into small groups. Provide each group with a small jar, heavy whipping cream, a timer, access to a kitchen scale, crackers, and a butter knife.
- Each group should weigh their empty jar with the lid and record the weight on their Making Butter Observation Sheets.
- Instruct the groups to pour the whipping cream into the jars until each jar is half full. Have the students note the appearance and consistency of the cream and record their observations. The groups should seal the lids tightly, weigh the jar, and the record the weight.
- Tell the groups to start their timers and begin shaking the jars. Group members should take turns shaking. You may choose to play music to encourage the movement.
- Instruct the groups to stop shaking, pause their timers, and observe the contents of their jar every two minutes. Have them note the appearance and consistency of the cream and how it is changing on their observation sheets.
- The groups should stop their timers and record the time when the solid butter has separated from the buttermilk. It will take 4-10 minutes to get to this point.
- Allow time for the groups to weigh their jar of butter and buttermilk with the lid. Record the weight. Ask students to compare the weight of the heavy whipping cream to the weight of the butter and buttermilk. Did the weight change? Explain to the students that the weight of matter stays the same when it changes form.
- Have the students spread their freshly made butter onto the crackers for a taste test.
- Use the Background Agricultural Connections section of this lesson to discuss the difference between chemical and physical changes. Ask the students, "Is turning cream into butter a chemical change or a physical change and why?" (It is a physical change because the change did not alter the chemical composition of the cream.) "What factor caused the physical change?" (churning) "What states of matter were observed during the different stages of the butter-making process?" (The cream is a colloid. When it is churned, it first turns into a foam (whipping cream) and then separates into a solid (butter) and a liquid (buttermilk).)
- Remind students that physical changes are reversible. Demonstrate the process of changing butter back into cream. In a microwave, melt the butter in a glass bowl. Pour in the buttermilk that was leftover from making the butter. Use a hand mixer to beat the mixture until it reaches the consistency of cream.
Activity 2: Changing Variables
- Discuss the idea that changing variables when making butter may affect the outcome. Temperature, time, container size, types of milk, and the addition of an agitator like a marble are examples of variables that can be tested.
- Place students back into the same groups from Activity 1. Show the students the materials you collected for changing variables. Explain to the class that each group will develop a question and hypothesis regarding how a variable change might affect the butter-making process. Limited to the materials in front of them, the groups will plan and carry out an investigation to test how a changed variable affects the outcome of the butter.
- Hand out an 11 x 17 piece of white paper to each student. Have each student create a foldable booklet for recording their data and observations and sharing their groups' findings.
- Fold the paper in half vertically (hot dog fold) and crease.
- Open the paper to the original size and fold in half horizontally (hamburger fold) and crease. Fold each side up from the opening to the middle and crease. The page should be folded to show impressions for eight identical pages.
- Cut or tear the center crease line from the middle fold to the first crease.
- Open and fold like an accordion to make a continuous book.
- Write the title of your group's investigation on the front cover. Label each page in order—Question, Hypothesis, Procedure, Observations/Results, Conclusion. The back cover can be left blank or decorated.
- After the investigations and booklets are completed, have each group share a summary of their group's investigation with the class.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, summarize the following key points:
- Milk, typically produced by cows, is used to make butter, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and other dairy products.
- A physical change takes place when a substance changes from one state (liquid, solid, or gas) to another state without altering the chemical composition of the substance.
- Changing milk to butter is a physical change.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
Explore another product that comes from dairy cows—ice cream. Invite students to become ice cream experts by participating in the I Scream! You Scream! We All Scream for Ice Cream! WebQuest.
Discover how butter is made in large quantities to be sold in grocery stores by viewing the video How It's Made: Butter.
Suggested Companion Resources
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Food, Health, and Lifestyle
- Diagram the path of production for a processed product, from farm to table (T3.3-5.b)
Science, Technology, Engineering & Math
- Provide examples of science being applied in farming for food, clothing, and shelter products (T4.3-5.d)
Education Content Standards
5-PS1: Matter and Its Interactions
Common Core Connections
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Writing: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.