Sunday, July 27, 2008

Farm Studies 1: The Little Red Hen

In anticipation of our big annual trip to the petting farm, we are organizing our home "pre-school" around farm themes. Today's theme was "The Little Red Hen".

In the story, the Little Red Hen finds a bit of wheat and asks the other animals on the farm to help plant it. No animal is willing to help. The wheat grows and the Little Red Hen asks for help with the harvest, the threshing, the milling, and finally the baking of the flour into bread. The animals always say "No" (Oh, how Linnea loves this part! She yells "No!" right along with the story.) Like our teenagers, they are always much too busy to help. Finally she asks who will help her eat the bread. All the the animals yell out "Me! Me! Me!", but the Little Red Hen says "No, thank you" and eats it with her chicks, leaving none for others.

We started with the book, The Little Red Hen ($5.95 at Amazon). Starfall has a computer version of the story and Arielle loves computer stories. In their version, the Little red Hen makes corn muffins, much quicker than bread and a totally doable project with kids.

Here's the recipe:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 stick softened butter
1 cup milk, divided half and half

In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add eggs, butter and 1/2 cup of milk; beat for 1 minute. Add remaining milk; beat just until blended. Fill paper-lined muffin cups three-quarters full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until the muffins smell good and test done with a toothpick.

The recipe makes very sweet and very tender corn muffins. A great afternoon snack with a few slices of cheddar cheese.

Arielle did the measuring and we counted how many scoops (instead of 1 1/2 cups, I do three 1/2 cups to make the counting easier). Linnea did some sloppy mixing. I forgot that the muffin pan was being borrowed, so we made a corn cake instead. Then we all helped clean up.

While the muffins were cooking, we practiced writing "Ch". "Ch" is for chicken. Arielle is sounding out words well, but hates writing. To write, she needs a reward. Today's reward was making a chicken. I cut out chicken bodies (these can be as simple as a half circle), triangle beaks, wings, feet, tails and bumpy chicken-combs. I gave each girl a glue stick and two googley eyes.

Since Arielle is almost grown-up, she wanted some feathers as well. When the chickens were done, we hung them in the play room.

Then it was time for Mama Hen and her little chicks to wash hands and eat corn cake. I printed out a few coloring sheets for later.

But, unlike the Red Hen in the story, we shared with the not so helpful teenagers.