With so many of us back in school but still living with uncertainty and higher stress levels, we need to take every opportunity to reduce anxiety and bring light. This simple handwork activity does both of these things and ties beautifully with several areas of the cosmic curriculum.
We made beeswax candles on our Fundamental Human Needs Camp earlier this year and it was a huge hit. As we try to obtain all of our materials for camp from as close to the original source as possible, our first step was visiting a beehive and learning about how the wax is made. The keepers of these hives don’t turn their wax into the sheets that we wanted so we then ordered a box of beeswax sheets and wick online.
Obviously you can skip the beehive visit if it’s not possible for you, but there are still lots of investigations your students can carry out on the life cycles of bees, wax and honey production, pollination, etc.
Before making the candles you could then explore the history of light (we have a timeline for that!) and explore the various other waxes, fats and oils humans have used to produce light. There is also some investigation to be done around the relationship between the fuel and the wick – each will burn separately but they are far more effective together.
Then we come to the fun part where we get to feel, smell, and manipulate the wax. It’s worth having a sacrificial sheet of wax that the children can explore a bit before making their candles. They can try bending, tearing and shaping it, both to give them an understanding of the properties of the wax and to prevent them from squishing the sheet they are going to use for their actual candle.
Take a sheet of beeswax and lay it on a clean surface in the ‘portrait’ position. Cut a length of wick half an inch or so longer than the width of your wax sheet and lay it along the edge nearest to you with the excess at one end.
It’s important that the candle is tightly rolled (though this is another potential investigation) so guide the children to hold the wick close to the edge of the wax and the curve the edge of the sheet up and over it.
Once you have got the first curve, it’s easy. Guide the children to roll the wax up, watching the edges to make sure they are even.
They should press hard enough to make the wax press tightly into the layer below, but not so hard that they damage the shape of the wax.
When you reach the end of the wax, give it all a final squeeze all over to make sure the layers have stuck together.
Trim the wick down to about a quarter of an inch long before lighting it. You can see from our collection, some of the children managed to roll them more tightly than others.
We used the candles we made on our Fundamental Human Needs Camp to light the giant labyrinth we built from natural materials found on site. On the last evening we lit all of the candles (which took some doing) and invited the children to take a silent journey through the labyrinth - a truly magical experience.
I'd love to know how your children get on with their explorations. Please let me know in the comments section below, on the Montessori Handwork Facebook page or in the Montessori Handwork Threads Facebook group.
Stay safe friends!