Last spring the fourth graders planted a Three Sisters’ Garden. (See June entries from 2013). In the fall as fifth graders, they harvested their crop of flint corn, a variety of corn with a hard kernel that you’ve seen sold as hanging ornaments. They tied the corn and hung it in their classrooms to dry over the winter. Flint corn was one of the few early crops that native Americans could process into food during the long winter. It took a lot of hard work to grow, harvest, dry and finally grind their corn into meal. These fifth graders learned that survival wasn’t easy in our country 200 years ago.
I found a grain mill through Amazon manufactured by the Great Northern Popcorn Company. It’s durable enough to handle grinding hard flinty corn. The moveable parts have value as a tool for teaching physics concepts. Students can see how the auger sends the corn through to be ground while they’re using the mill. They compared it to other time they’d seen augers (for instance, ice fishing). They observed the plates grinding against each other and they tightened and loosened them as the they passed the ground corn through a few times to create a finer meal. What provided the energy for grinding this corn? The breakfast they ate earlier in the morning!
After regrinding the corn, we sifted it and saved the coarser meal for another project. Then we followed an old New England recipe for baked corn pudding. It worked! I introduced the class to the aromas and tastes of nutmeg and molasses before we began baking. This prepared them to enjoy those ingredients later in the pudding.