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!