Smooth like butter

You may not typically associate butter with high drama, but in Sarah Simon’s 2nd grade class, drama, butter, and honey seem to go hand-in-hand.

Drama #1: the disappearance of honey bees. This is what prompted the class to undertake a honey butter-making endeavor. They were sitting in their morning meeting not long ago when one student brought a concern to the group: Honeybees were in danger. They were disappearing because their hives were being damaged. Sarah challenged the group to think of something they could do to help.

Earlier in the year, the class read a story about a family in the early 1900s who didn’t have a local grocer they could go to for staples like butter. As part of the lesson, students learned to make butter. That was the kernel of the bee-saving idea. From there, it blossomed into a full-on honey butter manufacturing endeavor with a goal of raising money to buy bee hives from the Heifer Foundation, which supports families in developing countries.

Everyone was on board. Students began the project with some math. How much would they have to sell their product for in order to cover expenses for jars, cream, and tags–and still raise money? Using cognitively guided instruction (CGI), they developed a formula that yielded a $4 per jar price. Sara ordered the materials, and kids got to work.

Making butter requires a lot of muscle!

When I arrived to the class on Tuesday, the room smelled of honey and cream. Volunteer mom Paige Pomerance was on hand to help with the butter-making. Sari Wexler, another volunteer mom, came with her camera. She and a student crew were documenting the process via video.

Sari Wexler and her team of documentary film makers use iMovie to capture the honey-butter action.

The only thing missing were those old-fashioned butter churns. No worries, though. Students took turns shaking jars of cream until the butter separated from the liquid. This was not a task for the faint-hearted. I quickly learned (from experience) that you have to really give those jars a lot of muscle to achieve the goal. But shake they did, and butter they made.

As one team shook, another team made tags for the jars. Each tag features a “bee fact,” such as, “Bees do not have noses. [Their] sense of smell is located in the antennae.” Who knew? I’ll tell you who knew: Sara’s 2nd graders. They know everything about honey bees.

The classroom was, um, a hive of activity. In fact, they were so busy, they almost forgot about Drama #2: The lost money.

It happened earlier in the week. The class has been selling their honey butter in the mornings before class. Someone bought five jars with a $100 bill. Students counted the change, and everyone was happy. Until they noticed the $100 bill was gone.

There went profits. Which is why, on Tuesday, production had been ramped up. Way up. “We may even need to raise the price to meet our goal,” Sara said.

Sara is welcoming volunteers to jar and label the honey butter. She wants to have plenty of product ready for sale prior to tomorrow’s All School Meeting.

Fingers crossed that they have lots of jars on hand, because I can’t wait to get mine. I have some English muffins that are just crying out for Wildwood honey butter.

The fruit of their labor!

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