Mamacita ran into a former student — now a father of three — in Kroger’s. He told her his fondest memory from eighth-grade English was making butter, just like pioneers did in “that olden-days book.”
“My kids and I love to make butter, just like you showed us in 8th grade,” he told her.
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy “was perfect for a low-ability class of 37 14-to-17 year old students, all boys, who hated reading,” recalls Mamacita. The boys saw no connection between books and the outdoors lives they led, which included hunting, farming, 4H, cattle raising and fixing things.
Using a churn was too complicated, Mamacita recalls. “We poured the cream into a big Tupperware thing and passed it all around the class and the boys shook it while listening to me read.”
When the butter “came,” the boys went into action.
(They) poured off the buttermilk and squeezed the butter until it stopped weeping. They sprinkled just a little salt into the butter and kneaded it in. Then they all washed their hands and whoever’s turn it was that day sliced the bread and they all put napkins in their shirt collars and tucked in. We used KNIVES to slice the bread and to spread the butter. Heavens to BETSY.
Other teachers criticized her “because watching sourdough rise, and making butter, weren’t proper English lessons,” she writes.
I maintained, and I still maintain, that anything we as teachers or parents do that makes learning come alive is a proper English lesson. Science lesson. History lesson. Math lesson. Life lesson.
Finally, the principal told her to stop. “There really wasn’t time, anyway, what with all the ISTEP prep the boys needed to do.”