Written by Kat Jacks, 8th Grader
Our class prides itself on working together on hands-on projects. One more recent project we did was making soap. We each took on and rotated tasks, ensuring everyone got a chance with each job.
The class decided two make two kinds of soap for our first round. We made a honey and lavender soap and a honey oatmeal soap. The honey and beeswax used in the soap came from our beehives. The oils and fragrances used were all organic.
While soap is safe for us to use it undergoes a chemical process when it is made the generates a considerable amount of heat (130+℉) and uses a chemical called sodium hydroxide (lye). The chemical process that occurs is saponification. We made cold process soap which involves mixing fats and lye. The chemical reaction between any fat and sodium hydroxide is a saponification reaction. Using a sodium hydroxide, it creates a hard soap.
To be as safe as possible, we used goggles and gloves while handling and mixing the lye. When lye comes in contact with water, it rapidly releases heat and fumes which cannot be inhaled. Once the lye had completely disintegrated into the water, or now lye mixture, we integrated it into the wax and oil.
Measuring out the ingredients went by fast, and the next step was to mix them together. We used the heat from the lye and water mixture to melt the solid coconut oil down so it could incorporate easily. Once the oils were well combined and beginning to harden, to the point of trace, we added the fragrance and oats. We then poured the completed mixture into molds to cure. The soap isn’t safe yet, depending on the thickness of the soap it can take 4-6 weeks for the chemical process to finish.
After two days we cut the soap. The goal here is to cut the soap before it gets too hard and allow more surface area to be exposed to air quickening the chemical process.
The class would like to thank Chris Chamberlin and the Woodside Montessori Academy Parent Guild for helping us make the initial investment in this new product for our microeconomy. We are very grateful and learned a lot during the process!
Written by Santi Sekula, 7th Grade
Part of our Icarus Apiaries microeconomy is a line of products that we make with our honey or beeswax. Classes have made beeswax candles, soap, salves of several types, and lip balm. In the past, classes have made stick lip balms but this year we decided to make lip balm tins.
Our lip balm is made with all natural ingredients and fragrances. Our lip balms are made with beeswax and calendula oil. All the oils used in our products have been infused by the Woodside Montessori Academy community and using plants grown by us.
The process of making the lip balms involves an intricate process of testing consistency to make sure the mixture is perfect. The lip balm is made with a double boiler slowly melting down the wax into the oils. You test to see if the mixture is ready by taking a tablespoon of the mixture and placing into the freezer to make sure the mixture is the right consistency for pouring.
Once the hot mixture is ready, the fragrance is added to make the desired smell. After that, it is poured into containers to cool and harden. When mixture has hardened, the caps are placed on the containers and the containers are labeled/ We chose to label the lip balms with a corresponding color to match the scent, so it is easy to see what fragrance it is quickly. To me, the lip balms were very fun to make.
The lip balms will be sold at the Montessori Schools of Massachusetts Annual Conference in Franklin, MA in January along with our other products. For the last several years the class has had a vendor table at the conference, preparing everything to market and sell at our booth. This year we will have three types of lip balm to sell: strawberry, citris, and unscented. Our lip balms will also be sold in bags that have variety of other products included, they make great gifts!
Written by Gautam Shankar, 8th Grader
In November of 2019, we attended the Massachusetts Beekeepers Association’s Annual Meeting in Medway, MA. We entered the honey judging competition for the first time because we wanted a new challenge and wanted to show off our honey and beekeeping capabilities. We were all very excited to compete and really wanted to win or at least get a ribbon for second or third!
To help us learn about the honey judging process, Kathy our Head of School, asked a friend from the Norfolk County Beekeeper’s Association, Kathy Varney, to come and talk to us. Ms. Varney has ribboned in countless honey and wax competitions across the state, and has several best in show awards. She shared her expertise and words of advice as we started the research process to prepare for our first competition.
Never having done this before, we prepared two jars (a requirement) from three different harvests and two hives. We went through the steps with each set so that we could decide which set looked the best for submission. Criteria for honey judging include: cleanliness, appearance, density/water content, freedom from crystallization, accuracy of fill, and flavor.
Preparing for the honey judging was an arduous process. We had to strain our honey from our Langstroth hives twice and our AZ hive three times because it was so thick - the extra strain helped ensure that there was no crystallization or any other impurities in the honey. We had to clean the two jars we submitted multiple times to make sure that there was nothing on them, not even a fingerprint. Right before the competition we carefully cleaned the jars one last time with a microfiber cloth to get rid of anything else on the jars.
We ended up coming in third place out of fifteen in the “Best two jars of amber honey” category; which we all thought was pretty good for the first time. Our honey received 81 points out of 100. There were some impurities in our honey and our jars were underfilled so that is why we lost 19 points. Considering that this was our first time, we were very happy with the results. We hope to do even better next year now that we have some experience with the process.