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Seasonally Montessori: Autumn Corn and Gourd Songs With Some Free Activities!

CRISPNESS IN THE AUTUMN AIR IS EXCITING FOR US ALL, ESPECIALLY FOR LITTLE CHILDREN WHO ARE BUSY EXPLORING THE HARVEST WHILE DEVELOPING IMPORTANT SKILLS, TOO!
The harvest season is the time to find lots of Indian corn and dried gourds. These products of the harvest have a rich history in the cultures of the Americas and sharing this cultural richness with out children is both satisfying as well as helpful to the young child's development.


Photo from Adobe Stock

CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE OF
CORN GRINDING SONGS

~ Here is a beautiful corn grinding story/song authentically performed by children from the Crystal Boarding School at the New Mexico Association for Bilingual Education Conference, 2006. 

Click Here to view on Youtube: "Corn Grinding Family."


 Corn has been an important part of life in the Native Cultures of the Americas.  I have fallen in love with this amazing film that was produced for the Student Film Festival at the Arizona State University (Tempe campus).
~ Here is a description of the video:
"Corn has sustained the culture, language and lifeway of the Navajo people. The film provides a glimpse into the intimate relationship the Navajo people have with the natural environment. Corn teaches the people the proper way to live in harmony with nature."
Click Here to view "Naa Daa Nanitin"



~ Here is a Youtube video of a session of Zuni women grinding corn. 
Click Here "Zuni Corn Grinding Session"

This Youtube video is a film of Hopi children performing and dancing the corn dance. Lovely! 
Click Here "Hopi Corn Dance 2" 



OUR MONTESSORI OUTDOOR CLASSROOM 
CORN GRINDING 

STEP-BY-STEP PROCESS

Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

MATERIALS NEEDED:

Tray #1
  • Autumn corn, called Indian or Flint corn. (I buy it at the grocery or the Pumpkin Patch during harvest season)
  • Tweezers
  • Containers: a small one to hold the tweezers and medium-sized one for the plucked kernels
Tray #2
  • Mortar & Pestle (I use a "Molcajete")
  • Stiff vegetable brush. I use one made from broom corn. Here is a link: Broom Corn Vegetable Brush
  • Container to hold the crushed corn for the bird feeder

 FINE MOTOR SKILLS


1. Use tweezers to pluck the kernels from the cob of Indian corn.

There are 2 trays and children often work in pairs with this work. First, the autumn corn (called "Indian corn") is set up with a pair of tweezers so that the child can pluck the kernels from the corn cob. This is a wonderful fine motor exercise! 

If the children are very young and still building the strength of their finger muscles, they can pluck the kernels with their fingers. I discovered this, when some of my littles began to do this when they were frustrated with using the tweezers! 

I've noticed that children will stay at this activity for a long time...it is quite meditational.


Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

2. Place a handful of plucked kernels in the bowl of the mortar and pestle.

After the kernels have been plucked, they are placed in a container and saved for grinding.

We use this style of mortar and pestle that you can find in Mexican grocery stores, however any sturdy mortar and pestle will work. 

Photo from Adobe Stock

3. Grasp the pestle in the dominant hand and place over the kernels in the mortar and apply pressure to crush them. Work these over the bottom of the mortar until the kernels are broken down somewhat. (They don't have to be finely ground for the birds)

4. Brush the kernels from the bowl of the mortar into a container to carry to the bird feeder.  After the corn kernels have been crushed, they are "swept" into a container with a little stiff brush and then the child will carry the ground corn over to the wild bird feeders in the Montessori Outdoor Classroom. 

Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

SOCIAL SKILLS AND LARGE MOTOR 
DEVELOPMENT
5. Two children carry the step ladder over to the bird feeder and set it firmly on the ground. Then, one child climbs up to place the cracked corn in the bird feeder.

Feeding the wild birds is a bit of a process in the bird habitat that is set up in the Outdoor Classroom.  Two children carry the step ladder over to the feeder where the kernels are added to the bird feeder. Amazing practice with large muscle development and emerging social skills, as well! 
The children sing the song, "Cooperation...Makes it happen."

Photos by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

LANGUAGE AND MATH SKILLS

6. Extension: Use the cracked corn to compile a container of Wild Bird Seed following a recipe printed out for the children to follow.

The children love plucking the kernels from the Autumn corn so much, that we often end up with a lot  of kernels that haven't gotten ground yet. We use these to add to our Wild Bird Seed mix that the children make from reading the recipe card. 

Click here to read My Blog Article: "Mathematics & Montessori Outdoor Classroom" 
Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

ART
7. Extension: Use the dried husks to make corn husk dollies.

After the children pluck the corn cobs, there are lots of corn husks left. Making a very simple corn husk dolly is fun and perfect for the art activities in your Montessori Outdoor Classroom.

Click here to read my Blog Article: "The Outdoor Classroom and Making Art." 

Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

8. Use the cob that remains (after plucking all the kernels) to make art prints. 

~ Set up a piece of art paper and a shallow container of paint large enough to fit the corn cob. Roll the cob in the container of paint until the cob is covered with paint. Place the paint-covered cob on the paper and roll to create a print.
~ Helpful hint: If you attach a corn cob holder on each end of the cob it will be easier for the child to roll the cob without getting a lot of paint on the hands. I like to use this set from Amazon since it comes with containers for the cobs that work well as the paint container in the activity.


CHILDREN'S SONGS AND PICTURE BOOKS 
ABOUT GRINDING CORN
You may have heard this simple little "Grinding Corn" children's song. 
Click Here to see a Kindergarten group singing it:

You can really hear the song in this lovely Youtube video of an 8 year old playing the melody on the piano.
Click Here to view the Youtube video: "Grinding Corn Song with Singing"



A really beautiful rendition of this children's song can be downloaded as an mp3 from Kindermusik International at this link: "Grinding Corn" Click Here.

If you would like to have an authentic rendition of the traditional Navajo/Apache "Corn Grinding Song," you can download this mp3 song. Click Here. 

Here is a page at Amazon with picture books about corn grinding in the cultures of the Americas. Click Here

Here is the description for this traditional story. "A story of adventure! When the Navajo people are on the brink of a devastating famine, the boy Red Bird is sent to ask Spider Woman for her help. On his journey he encounters a lizard, a Gila monster, a snake, and a flock of sun-yellow birds. Will they help Red Bird find Spider Woman in time to save the crops?"

I like this one, especially, because my great grandmother was from the Cherokee tribe in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. Here is the description of this story. "Step back in time for a captivating glimpse of Cherokee life in pre-Columbian North America. Join Little Wolf and his family as they prepare to celebrate Itse Selu, the harvest festival. As night approaches the village, the magic of anticipation fills the air. The luscious feast, Grandfather's storytelling, and the sacred corn dance weave a magical tapestry of tradition."


"MAKE A GOURD RATTLE" and check out 
my FREEBIES at 
MONTESSORI MAGIC FRIDAY 
Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

I have curated TEN gourd rattle articles, videos, activities and my FREE RESOURCES!

Click Here to link to the resources and free download, "Montessori Magic Friday" at Magical Movement Company website.


My Mp3 recording of me and the children singing this Cherokee work chant is a nice way to use the gourd rattles you make with your group. You can also play regular shakers, maracas, drums, rhythm instruments and even dance while chanting this song.


There are lots more free resources at my Subscriber's Freebie Collection, including my eBook. You can subscribe to my newsletter on the sidebar of this Blog, and you will immediately receive the password for my Freebie page in your welcome email. 

SUBSCRIBE TO MY EMAIL LIST

And, if you would like to add more musical activities to your North American studies unit, you might like my Lesson Plan Activity Pack, "Musically Montessori: North American Pow Wow Music and Dance for Children." Click Here to check it out at my Teachers Pay Teachers Shop.

I am so happy to have you visiting my Blog today and I hope that you have gotten some fun ideas for your group to celebrate the season. 


Advertising Disclosure: Magical Movement Company may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website. Thanks for your support! 














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