Spice it up
Our interest in rosemary got us thinking about spices in general.
We removed all the pine cones and insects and other things that had been our nature table, and replaced them with herbs and spices.
We harvested fresh herbs from the garden. We raided the centre kitchen for dried herbs and spices, then brought some from home, and finally went to the supermarket and stocked up.
We tried to include as many as possible of the herbs and spices in two forms, placed together for comparison. Fresh and dried herbs. Whole and ground spices.
At first we left the table without comment. Children came singly or in small groups and explored the colourful powders and interesting shapes. They soon started to sniff them as they noticed the aromas.
When we joined them to talk about the display, they made comments like
‘That smells like gingerbread.’
‘My Mum puts that on my porridge.’
They had differences of opinion about which ones smell good and which ones don’t.
At mat time, we talked about the display, and pointed out the different states and types. Being an Italian class, we also introduced the names of some herbs and spices in Italian (though we did not attempt to turn it into a vocabulary memorisation exercise). We discussed how to use them. We passed them around and smelt them. We talked about which parts of the plants they come from.
When we went outside, some children were interested in seeing the living plants in the garden.
We have kept the display out for several weeks now. We don’t put out all of them all the time. We swap them around a bit. Sometimes the aroma of one or another gets stronger – especially when something gets spilt as happens from time to time. We have added screw top jars so the children can choose individual spices to smell. (Just the commercial ones they are sold in.)
Spices are a treat for the senses – interesting to look at, rich in colour, aroma and flavour. We are also finding them a rich vein of ideas for learning activities.