Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mortar And Pestle

The mortar and pestile is an ancient tool, one that has existed in one form or another since there have been humans. We've had a few of them around the school for a couple years now after I found some small, inexpensive ones at the Japanese dollar (fifty) store Daiso. The challenge has been to find just the right thing for crushing and grinding.

We tried mashing up herbs from the garden when we first acquired them, not a bad project really, and, of course, aromatic, but then what do you with all that pulverized rosemary, thyme, and lavender? We tried mixing it with water to make "perfume," which again wasn't bad, but I knew there must be something better.

Roasted coffee beans worked for some of the kids, although many were unable to exert the force or precision necessary to pulverize them. Mashing cooked beans into a paste was fun, but for sanitary reasons, we were reluctant to let the kids eat the product of their efforts, not that they wanted to. We've come up with several other things to crush and grind with these ancient tools, but have been unable to hit on just the right thing that allows most of the kids success with the tool while also leading to something beyond just breaking things up . . . until now.

I arrived at school to discover that we'd left several boxes of chalk out in the elements, causing it to become soggy. That's the ticket! Not only would we be able to fairly easily mash wet chalk down into a powder, but by adding more water it could become a paste, and then even more water to make a kind of paint. At least that's what I was hoping the kids would discover.

And at least some of them did.

Humans are driven to use tools to imprint their visions on the world. Almost everything we make or do involves, at some level a tool, the mastery of which requires practice. In preschool, we need ample opportunity to sort of mess around with a wide variety of tools like wire, scissors, hole punches, hammers, paint brushes, saws, glue guns, pencils, screwdrivers, knives, and paper clips. We need to get our hands on brooms, clothes pins, drills, shovels, rulers, pulleys, trowels, staplers, and rakes. Every tool we learn to use opens up the world a little more.

As humans we have being alone, we have talking face-to-face; for everything else we use tools.

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Unknown said...

I remember loving mortar and pestle work when I was in (Montessori) preschool! My favorite thing to crush was eggshells, although I don't remember what we did with them afterwards...thanks for bringing back a fond memory :)

bug said...

You could mix the crushed herbs with butter or cream cheese and spread on rolls for a snack? Or is that problematic b/c no one would want to eat something with flecks in it?

The chalk paint is genius.

Anonymous said...

Some great ideas. The pleasure is after all tin he doing not the end product at this age.

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