February 17, 2017

Exploring Wool at Island Preschools

With our school gardens cleaned up and put away for the winter, preschoolers across the island have been learning about an important agricultural product of our community- wool and fiber.

In our first lesson, we discussed where wool comes from- farmers give their sheep a haircut, then use their wool to make warm clothes to wear. Many kind children asked me how the sheep stay warm once we’ve cut all their wool off, and we talked about how the sheep get their wool cut off in the spring when it’s warm outside and they’re happier to be without it.

Children from First Light Child Development Center exploring yarn made of wool

Wool can be turned into socks!

Children from First Light washing wool

The first step was to wash the raw wool with soap and water. It was full of dirt and twigs and one preschooler told me, “It smells like the big bad wolf!” After it was washed, the wool looked clean and white and smelled much better.

Children from First Light washing wool

Preschoolers from the Vineyard Montessori School washing wool

Children from Grace Preschool exploring clean wool.

Children from First Light exploring their clean wool

Once the wool is all clean, the next step is to dye it! We combined wool, vinegar and food coloring in Ziploc bags, sealed them, then pressed and squeezed them to get the dye all over the wool.

Children from the Island Children’s School dyeing wool.

A proud preschooler from the Island Children’s School with his class’s dyed wool

After our wool is dyed, it’s time to card it! We used small hand carders and a big drum carder to brush our dyed wool, making it soft and fluffy. The drum carder makes it easy to mix colors together- some preschoolers told me that the end result looked like cotton candy or a rainbow cloud.

Preschoolers from the Montessori School carding wool

A student at the Montessori School using the drum carder

Children at First Light using the drum carder

Making a rainbow

We got all the carded wool off the drum carder in one long piece. It looked like a scarf!

Preschoolers at Grace Preschool thought the carded wool looked like a clown wig!

Preschoolers at MV Community Services spinning yarn

After carding, our wool was ready to spin into yarn! Students chose some carded wool in a color they liked, and hooked it around a spinning stick. Then they spun the stick in their hands, while I held the wool and helped them spin a small piece of yarn! After the yarn was spun, we let it twist back on itself to ply it. Some children tied their yarn around their wrist as a bracelet, while others proudly took their yarn home to show their families.

A beautiful yarn bracelet! 

Preschoolers at Community Services weaving

The last step of this unit was turning yarn into cloth. Students used a lap loom to weave pieces of yarn over and under to create a small piece of woven cloth with a beautiful striped pattern! They speculated that it could be turned into a tiny scarf, or maybe a blanket for a doll.

Learning about how to make yarn out of wool was one of my favorite activities when I was in school, so I was so excited to bring that knowledge to more island kids. Their enthusiasm and interest made this a really fun unit for all of us- hopefully now they will look at cloth and wool clothing a little differently.

By Ava Castro