Handwork fulfills any number of roles as a part of Cosmic Education. In the Elementary, one of these roles is to pick up where Practical Life leaves off in the Casa. When we think of Handwork we immediately picture skills like sewing, knitting and weaving but perhaps we should include other practical work of the hand, such as gardening and cooking in our Handwork curriculum. (Or perhaps I just really want to write about the amazing work my students have been doing as I am so proud of them - who knows?)
Every year our eighty strong 9-12 community goes on school camp for a week. For our next camp, we are planning to focus on meeting our own Fundamental Human Needs. To help with this, the children will be building their own shelters to sleep in and preparing their own food.
But, we decided that simply preparing their own food was not enough. We want the children to understand where their food has come from. Maria Montessori wanted children to develop a feeling of gratitude for the primary producers of our goods - the farmers.
To achieve this Montessori believed the children needed to understand all the work that goes into every stage of production. What better way for the children to gain this understanding than to produce their goods themselves?
So our plan, which is possibly a little over ambitious, is for the children to source all of the food for camp from as close to ‘scratch’ as possible.
The camp is in February (our summer) but in the planning meeting the children realised that because of seasonal growth (for fruit and vegetables and honey) and maturing times (for cheese and chutney) and the shear amount of work required, we needed to get started straight away. They divided themselves into groups by food type and have each researched their area and made a plan.
The Cheese Group calculated how much cheese we would need, how long each typed of cheese takes to mature and then made a calendar showing what they would need to do each week until camp. They then went to the milk group to place their order for fresh milk and began making their cheeses several months ago.
They have made four cheeses so far and waxed their first Colby this week.
Check out the designer label:
The Meat Group visited a butcher and discussed the various cuts of meat, before watching him make fresh mince, and then brought it back to school and turned it into sausages.
The Chicken Group are visiting a poultry farm next week, but in the interest of time, bought 24 chickens this week and learned how to take the meat cleanly off them ready to go in a curry. We now have packets of boneless meat in the freezer as well as bags of bones for soup.
The Vegetable Group have planted out the garden beds with a variety of vegetables and herbs and, realising they did not have enough room to grow all the potatoes we will need, bought some bags and planted them out with three varieties of spuds!
They have also made jam from their strawberries, lots of tomato sauce and sauerkraut from their first homegrown cabbage
(Notice the choice of weight on the sauerkraut jar “.... you shall flow and spread, filling every hollow, every crevice in your path.” ).
The Fish Group have been researching tide times, types of fish we have locally and methods of catching them as well as asking around in our community for experienced fishermen/women to help them.
The Grains Group plan to grind their own wheat for flour (and visit a working windmill) but in the meantime have made pasta and pizza bases.
The Oil Group have sourced a seed press and are calculating how many sunflower seeds they will need to press to produce enough oil for us to cook with for the week.
The Honey Group have visited the bee hive kept by our Adolescent Program and placed and order for some honey.
And, not to be outdone by all this natural sourcing, the Salt Group have planned a trip to the ocean to collect seawater and extract salt!
I cannot begin to document all the different levels of learning that have happened in this project so far, and we haven’t even got to camp yet!
We are receiving a lot of support from our community with this project, and we could not have got this far without the parents who have been incredibly generous with their time and expertise – thank you all so much!