Thursday, 27 September 2012

Club Day. The Nature Version.

I, and I believe the Nature Clubbers too, had a marvelous afternoon together.  With Thanksgiving coming up, it just seemed right that we make corn husk dolls.  The children also had the opportunity to make a corn dolly, if they chose to.  Two, both boys, took me up on that one, which surprised me a bit.

I found that reading a story helped to ground the group before we started the craft.  Some chose not to have a snack, so to pass the time while waiting for everyone to be at the same place and ready for our craft, I read a story, A Pioneer Thanksgiving, about the upcoming holiday.  To get them hooked, I announced it was about my favorite holiday.  After hearing guesses of Hallowe'en and Christmas a couple of times, one finally shouted out Thanksgiving and we were off.  The room suddenly got quiet as the children still snacking listened in.

Once everyone was ready to craft, we put on our shoes and headed outside.  Each child got to pick their own ear of corn.  I showed them how to pick the corn first, and then they waded into our two-row deep patch and found the ear of their liking.  Next, we went to the patio table and I showed them how to carefully husk the corn, leaving all the husks intact for the craft.  Then, I asked the children if they knew how to tie knots.  For those who didn't I worked with them to learn how to tie one.  Finally, we went step-by-step through making the doll.  I was worried that I would actually end up making each of their dolls for them, but the pre-practice of tying knots really helped out.  Our dolls were based on a tutorial I found at the TeachersFirst website.

As we worked, we talked about the First Nations and first pioneers and their ability to use everything they harvested, including the corn" husks for dolls.  When we moved on to the corn dolly, I told them about the tradition or superstition of making the decoration out of the last of the harvest, and then tilling the decoration into the soil when planting the next harvest, with the hopes that the harvest would be bountiful. 

In the end, we had some lovely girl and boy corn husk dolls.  The children took home the corn they picked too.

The idea for making corn dollies came from the book All Year Round.  While they are called "corn dollies", I discovered that they were traditionally made from wheat.  You would think that living in the heart of the prairies would mean a plethora of wheat all around me, but I didn't have any, and most in this area was likely harvested already.  So, I improvised and used corn tops instead.  To make sure it would work, I experimented before the Club met.  From my experiments I learned that:

  ~ I needed to make sure to soak all the way up to where the stem meets the tops.
  ~ I needed to gently press the stalks between my fingers to break down the cellulose.  This would reduce the amount of splintering when braiding the stalks.
  ~ I needed to break off all the tassel top branches, except the middle one for an uncluttered-looking dolly
  ~ I needed a longer stalk if I wanted to do any of the more intricate designs, like hearts or loops.

Before my two Clubbers started on their dollies, I asked them if they knew how to braid.  One didn't, so we did a test drive with string.  He picked it up so quickly. It took us no time to finish them.  Well, actually, I didn't finish mine, unfortunately, because I needed to attend to my littlest one.  But there's enough corn still out there for me to try again.

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