At some point in the fall a group of kids from a collective homeschooling program came out to visit aprovecho. They were to spend two days with us learning about all the stuff we were up to. This was the first time i'd experienced aprovecho gearing its programs towards kids, which they'd done plenty of times before, just hadn't been there when it happened. It was interesting to see how play became central to the lessons. Identifying plants in the woods? Scavenger hunt! Natural building? Make a sweet cob birdhouse! I was asked to join in the fray and come up with some stuff for the kids to do with the machines. Fortunately, pedal powered machines are intrinsically fun, so it wasn't too hard, even when one of the machines didn't work.
The plan was to fill x-amount of hours with activity. Smoothies was, of course, the first thing that i thought of. Demoing the machines (which with kids amounts to them crawling all over them). And... drawing what you would make with pedal power if you could make anything. Smoothies were a bust, well, pedal powered smoothies were a bust. The blender didn't work. I probably should have done a test run right before the workshop, but it didn't occur to me. But even so, the kids didn't really seem to care all that much. They were still completely enraptured by the machine anyway, it didn't matter that there wasn't anything in the blender, just watching the blades (kind of) spin was enough.
Just about when everyone had their turn on the blender i sensed the energy about to shift, so i quickly got them going on the mill. Now, the mill was working. And it was hard. Their legs weren't long enough, it took too much force. So i crouched down and cranked one of the pedals with my arm while they sat on the other side and did the same. I don't think that part was all that exciting for them, though i didn't run out of volunteers. They mostly were excited to see the wheat berries being ground into dust. Endlessly fascinating.
After the mill we went inside to have smoothies, sadly, via the electric blender. Kefir, raspberries, bananas, honey and a little bit of spinach. Kefir! I love kefir! several shouted upon seeing the carton. What a bunch of west coast homeschool kids, i thought as i smiled to myself. "Ewwwww, spinach?" Oh, right. But they're still kids.
The smoothies were, of course, a huge success despite the hint of spinach. And they transitioned us well into the final phase- go crazy drawing pedal powered machines. And that they did. This was definitely my favorite part of the day. Kids come up with the weirdest stuff, like pedal powered cloners, toilets, dragons, or a swimming pool maze hotel soda machine... that's attached to a bike. I really enjoyed wandering around and listening to them excitedly, and at times unintelligibly, explain their brilliant contraptions. Uh huh... Yeah... Oh, really? It has an automatic pizza machine attached to it that shoots pizzas at your little brother's head?
Oh man, kids are great.