A Year Long Exploration of Loofahs

Our journey of wondering and discovery started last May. The children planted a row of little black seeds along the base of our trellis. 

When they began to grow, the seeds were thinned to two small sprouts. By time children returned in September, the these little saplings had grown over fifteen foot long!

Throughout the fall large yellow flowers appeared and small green oblong fruit started to grow. The children were very curious and wondered what they were. Cucumbers? Zucchini? Pickles?  They watched as they grew larger and heavier. As the weather cooled, they started to turn brown. The children wondered if they were dying.  

We spent time comparing the weight, sound and texture of the brown vs the green fruits.  As they became very light and dry, they were harvested and stored in a cool dry place for several months to remove any traces of moisture. 

This Spring, the loofahs were placed back into the environment for the children to investigate. They marveled at how little they weighed and wondered about the loud rattle when they were shaken. What was inside?

After a week of wondering, we cut off one end, and the children’s excitement was palpable as dozens of tiny black seeds poured onto the table. They were surprised at how many seeds were inside and amazed at how God put all that was needed to grow our huge vines into two of these tiny dry seeds. Miraculous! 

The children used the strong muscles in their hands and fingers to squeeze, push, and pull on the dried outer skin until it was removed, revealing the sponge inside. Some of the children observed that the loofahs with holes had more mold inside and talked about why that might be. After they were all peeled, they were soaked in a bleach solution to sanitize and rinsed well. 

Most of the children were surprised that sponges are grown! They spent time wondering what we could do with them.

The children in the Nook and Farmhouse painted with pieces of sliced loofahs. Some printed the flower shaped interior while others enjoyed making lines by rubbing the rough texture over the paper. 

Children in the Cottage, Oaks, and Maples made a sticky mixture of bird seed and pressed it into the luffas to create bird feeders to hang from the trees.

The Willows and Collective classes extended the idea of using loofahs to wash with by making loofah soaps. They melted goats milk and a clear soap base and added their own scents and colors. They experimented with various ways to add the colors to achieve different effects. 

The Willows group spent time talking about the cost of supplies, the value of their work creating the soaps, and the retail price of similar products. This was an authentic way to engage in different economic concepts.

Taking time to wonder and allowing experiences to develop slowly over time allows children to learn organically. It encourages them to be patient and persevere, as the hardest questions in life do not have immediate answers. 

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