How is olive oil made? Do green and black olives come from different trees? What is the difference between a Menorah and a Hanukiah? These are just some of the questions that were posed this past week when the first grade class came to the Heilicher Makerspace with Hamorah Nechamit to learn about making olive oil. Students started the lesson with a short movie about the ancient ways of making olive oil using hand tools, compared to the modern methods that use machines. Next, students acted out the steps involved in collecting, crushing, and pressing olives before trying their hands at pitting and crushing their own olives.
Each student was given two green and two black olives, a strainer, a plastic cup, a spoon, and a foil bowl. Students quickly noted that the pits were more difficult to remove from the green olives than the black olives. Squeals of joy were heard as students started to see oil dripping through strainers into cups. A few discovered that pressing the olives with their hands rather than the spoon was more efficient, and all of us were surprised at how much oil we were able to collect in a short amount of time.
In addition, we experimented with lighting four different kinds of oil in a Hanukiah. Students made predictions about which oils might burn the longest, noted which ones seemed to burn the brightest, and discussed the symbolism of light. For our first graders, light represents joy, hope, peace, and goodness.
When I asked Hamorah Nechamit how she felt about using the Makerspace with her students, she said, “The beauty of the makerspace is the hands-on learning and also it is a place for cross-curricular learning. I was able to take an idea and bring the light of Hanukah to life in an engaging and creative manner.” As the first graders light the candles of their own Hanukiah at home, we hope they will remember this experience for years to come.