The third grade fiber block was definitely one of my favorite blocks this year! I used Waldorf teacher Marsha Johnson’s outline entitled “Shelters – For My Soul and Myself” as my guiding document. (You can find this on the free files section of her Yahoo group “waldorfhomeeducators.”) As with most of Marsha’s free resources, I really connected with the way she suggests to bring the topic to the children.
We began by reviewing Pintail’s birth and then talking about how babies are born naked and what we do clothe them. In his main lesson book, he drew his layette from a photo we have of him leaving the hospital. He wrote lists in his main lesson book of the typical clothes found in our climate, and then after checking out the tags on lots of our clothing at home, he wrote a list of the materials used in making our clothing.
As Marsha suggests in her outline, I told the story of Jacob, Rachel and Leah. I used the version from Jacob Streit’s Journey to the Promised Land. We talked about how they probably made their clothes from cloth woven on a loom. We then set about making an “Old Testament Suspension Loom,” the instructions for which are another of Marsha Johnson’s free files. I cut the amount of warp strings in half, since Pintail would be the only weaver, and had him weave five to tens weft-rows per day. He really enjoyed this project throughout the block! I also told the story of Joseph’s coat from Journey to the Promised Land. Sometimes, I do have to modify some of Streit’s retellings to fit the versions consistent with my beliefs, but usually not by much. I have tried to weave as many of the Old Testament stories into our blocks as I can this year. It has been a nice theme running through all of our studies.
We then moved on to our study of leather, wool, cotton, linen and silk.
After discussing leather, Pintail made a pair of leather moccasins that we purchased at our local Scout store. You can order a pair HERE. He wore them for many days until some of the strings frayed too much to stay tied. I keep meaning to buy some more laces so he can fix them up.
Pintail has had plenty of experience with wool, so I tried to do some new things. We pulled out some roving and burned it as Marsha suggested to see what it smelled like! We also got it wet to experience that smell. We talked about how wool is turned into cloth and he drew a little schematic into his main lesson book. We read Pelle’s New Suit. The weft strings on his weaving are wool.
I found cotton bolls online from Cottonman.com for our study of cotton. I bought five bolls. Pintail took one boll apart and found the seeds. He also drew the boll from the back view into his main lesson book. He worked hard on making it look right, layering with Post-It Labeling and Cover-up tape, something we use to fix mistakes. As a resource for teacher, I found the video How Cotton is Made to be very informative to learn about the life cycle of cotton. It said Alexander the Great called cotton “tree wool.” Cute, huh?
Marsha suggests growing your own flax to turn into linen or visiting a local spinning group. We did not do either of those suggestions. I found this video to be a good substitute to show Pintail the process of creating linen from flax. I did let him watch the video as it is only about five minutes. We looked at items in our house made from linen and wrote the cycle from plant to fabric into the main lesson book.
For silk, I began with the story of Lei Zu who was a legendary Chinese Empress said to have been having tea beneath a mulberry tree when a silkworm’s cocoon fell into her tea. The hot tea caused the cocoon to unravel and she pulled the thread until it unwound completely creating a delicate thread for weaving. I showed this video of a man popping open a cocoon and stretching the silk fibers on a wire. The sound! We made silk thread (yarn) using a drop-spindle. Pintail and I used a sugar scrub to get rid of dry skin, then we made silk roving from a silk hankie and turned it into yarn using a drop-spindle. As a teacher resource, I learned how to prepare silk roving for drop-spindling using this instructional video: How to Use Silk Hankies.
The culmination of the block was Pintail’s finished loom piece. I didn’t leave enough room in the bottom warp strings to tie it off, so I stitched it closed for him using a sewing machine. I do love how it turned out!
Did you do a fiber block for your Waldorf third grade? Thanks for stopping by!