Making Soap (and math) on my Last Day

On January 15, I began a new job–not in the classroom.  I am now using all of my tech skills to be the “digital engagement specialist” for my school district, i.e. web guru.  I am responsible for maintaining all our online communications outlets, including our website, social media and email newsletters to employees and the general public.  It has been a huge shift for me, waking up everyday to sit at a computer,  not surrounded by teenagers, not thinking about lesson plans, grades and the dreaded standardized test.  Although there is a lot I do not miss, I truly do miss the kids.  I miss laughing with them, nursing their wounds, seeing the “light bulb moment” when I know that I was the bridge between them and the unknown…there is definitely a lot that I do miss.  I do not miss the stress, not having time or energy for my own children because it was spent on my school kids, or spending Sunday afternoon at school trying to complete the futile task of “getting caught up”.

One thing that I am happy about is that I had the opportunity to end things on a high note.  Knowing that I was leaving,  I did one last hands-on activity with my students.

Each kid went home with a baggie full of homemade soap and a mind full of fractions, decimals and questions to ask about why they use the things they use in their homes on an everyday basis.  For me, this activity was born from the idea that I was spending too much on laundry soap!  My best friend found a recipe online titled “MAKE A YEAR’S WORTH OF LAUNDRY SOAP FOR $30.00!” and the rest, as they say, is history.

I have shared this recipe with everyone I knew because it was so easy to make, it was so inexpensive, and it was just amazing to replace something that I mindlessly spent hundreds of dollars a year on when it was unnecessary.   Here’s how I adapted it into an amazing classroom activity:

We took the recipe with ingredients of given weights in ounces.  In order to make three batches of the soap with my ingredients (for three classes) we divided each weight by three, introducing fractions into the activity, and measuring everything out. The entire class participated in this activity by physically measuring the ingredients, calculating how much to add and even performing additional operations to make up for measuring mistakes. Measurement is not only a big part of the Geometry curriculum, but it is also a major weakness for most of the students I’ve taught.  After making the soap, we engaged in a discussion where we compared the price of our soap to the price of store-bought soap. At the conclusion of the activity, I had the students write reflections on what they learned. Overwhelmingly, the students expressed that they enjoyed the activity and wished that they had the chance to do math in this way more often.   We also watched a documentary on Netflix called Chemerical, which follows a family of five who commits to ridding their home of all chemical cleaners to replace them with homemade cleaners made with simple, inexpensive ingredients like baking soda and vinegar.

Now that I am no longer in the classroom, I am still passionate about education, and soap!  I can’t wait to run out of the batch I made for my family and friends back in December so I can make a new batch and share the leftovers with my co-workers.  I figure that people always bring pastries and candy to share, so why not share my favorite treat–homemade laundry soap!

Moving Forward

As I step into my new role as a support employee for my school district,  I know that my blog will not be the same as it has been up to this point.  On my blog, I have showcased the best of my classroom experience and the great work that I have had the privilege to share with my students and fellow teachers.  The information that I’ve shared  will remain here on as resource for anyone who wants ideas on how to spice up their math classes.

Now, I wish to use my blanchetBlog as a place for me to share it all.  My tech geekiness, my quest towards healthy living, my minimalist aspirations, my love for creating beautiful things and of course, my passion for education.

Moving forward, I will talk less and share more.  Quotes, links, pictures, videos and whatever else I find or create that inspires me will live on the new blanchetBlog.  I hope that my followers will continue to join me on the journey of learning and love that has been showcased there for the past five years.


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