The aspect of the Thanksgiving holiday that I love goes beyond all of that. It's a time to teach about gratitude, Autumn and Harvest. So, in lieu of teaching about Pilgrims and "Indians" I focused on the concepts of Gratitude and Harvest. As I've mentioned here before, our school is lucky enough to be the home of a micro-farm where the kids take part in every aspect of it, from planting, to composting, weeding and finally- harvesting.
As the Thanksgiving holiday neared the corn became ready to turn to flour so I put bowls of it out as an option for a few days so that the kids could wander over to it between or during activities and pick the dried corn off the cob. This activity proved to be incredibly soothing for many of them. I even brought one of the bowls outside with us. No matter where it was, at some point a child would wander over, sit down, and get to work on pulling the corn from the cob. Some did it one piece at a time, while others developed methods with tools or their hands to scrape more off at a time. I did this activity whenever I walked by, it's addicting! Eventually there was no more corn to pull off and we moved on to grinding it into flour.
An alternative if you don't happen to have a farm or a grinder to do something like this: Purchase dried corn and give the kids a rock or depending on their age, a hammer and let them pound it into flour themselves!
We used the ground flour to make a Hopi dish called Blue Corn Mush. The Mexican variation of this dish is a drink called Atole. The kids love this dish and enjoy making it.
Here is the recipe we used:
Recipe for Blue Corn Mush
2 cups Milk or Water
1/4 Tsp Salt
3/4 Cup Blue Corn Flour
Honey or Maple Syrum to taste
Slowly heat water or milk and salt over medium heat and add corn flour while stirring continuously so that it doesn't lump up. Heat and stir continuously until mixture starts to bubble like lava (or at least that's what it looks like to me: blue lava). Remove from heat and add honey. Let cool a bit and serve!
To be honest, one of the biggest "points" of this activity is that it deeply connected the kids to their food. Not many children today have the opportunity to witness corn grow from a kernel into a plant and even fewer have the opportunity to harvest it, dry it and turn it into flour. Today, food is more often than not, something pulled off a shelf at a store or already frozen and prepared and though we all know the basic process, it's not something we see or even understand. An important part of creating a sustainable future is connecting our children to their food. You don't even need a farm or a grinder to do something like this. Purchase dried corn and give the kids a rock or depending on their age, a hammer and let them pound it into flour themselves!
- Early Literacy: Letters (by the time we were done, they all knew corn began with the letter C), Spelling
- Early Math: counting (kernels), patterns, shapes (using the pulled off kernels to make shapes)
- Science: Plant life-cycles, dehydration, seeds, husks, health and nutrition
- Fine Motor: picking the corn off the cob, pouring into the grinder, stirring, picking up the kernel
- Communication with peers
- Resolving conflict
- Safety : Following rules for safety, discovering what could hurt us(they took apart the grinder to see the blade).
- Cooking-making the blue corn mush
- Basic DIY skills were reinforced as they went through this activity
- Growing and using food in a high desert climate
- Receptive Language: Following 1-3 step directions.
- New Vocabulary: grind, blue corn, mush, atole, flour, Hopi, culture
- Constant conversation about the activity: Always encourage language development!