The Curriculum of the Steiner School - Class 3

Notes and Lesson Plans

Stories of Household Items
updated February 13, 2022

Recorded here is my own personal collection of articles, resources, favorite links, teaching ideas, and lesson plans. It encompasses many years, from the very beginning of my experience studying and learning about Waldorf to the present time. People from all around the world visit my site and recommend it to others. Welcome!

This site records my journey. I hope my honesty is encouraging and helps break down some barriers that may prevent people from trying Waldorf methods. Because this is an ongoing site documenting my curriculum planning and ideas, some materials are more Waldorf-y than others. Please feel free to take what you like and leave the rest.

This page has helpful links and LOADS of free resources to help you plan your third grade year. Enjoy!

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Stories of Household Items
for Class 3


I'm tutoring via Zoom because of COVID right now, doing some Waldorf main lesson blocks online with families, and one little girl asked for the story of how household items came to be and who invented materials or was the first to use them... things like pottery and wood and stone and metal.

What a cool idea for an MLB! I'm really excited about it.

And it goes so well with other Third Grade practical wonderings... the story of measurement, the story of money, the story of clocks & calendars, the story of clothing, the story of shelter building, and the story of food & farming.

In fact, if you don't have enough time this school year to give all of those their own main lesson block, you could just put many topics under the umbrella theme of "Stories of Household Items" and explore a little bit of a lot of things!!! Here are my planning notes as I put this block together.

Ice! The Amazing History of the Ice Business by Laurence Pringle would also be perfect for this topic!

Sample Lessons and Free Curriculum

    Sculpted Science: Turn Milk Into Plastic
    experiment from Scientific American

    this experiment will be done again in 8th grade Nutrition with more of a look at the science behind it; several of these topics come around again, like Iron and Coal

Other Helpful Links

Books to Buy

I strongly recommend a book that I've also suggested for the Fibers & Clothing block. It is the now out-of-print but absolutely wonderful It's Fun to Know Why: Experiments with Things around Us by Julius Schwartz (1952). This book about the science of everyday materials -- wool, paper, glass, bread, iron, salt, rubber, and more -- has great information plus lots of hands on experiments.

This is what I would suggest for the rhythm:

    Week One (Early Humans) - stone tools, fire, cave paintings

    Week Two (Time / Money) - calendars, clocks, money, salt

    Week Three (Foods / Farming) - bread, milk & ice cream
    we would have done more foods but we took a few days off for sickness

    Week Four (Clothing) - cotton, wool, rubber, plastic

    Week Five (Misc.) - soap, books, paper, iron, coal

    Week Six (Housebuilding) - nails, cement, glass, lumber

I am planning 22 lessons in all, but of course you could do more or fewer. She's really into this!

Planning & Teaching Notes:

STONE TOOLS - Tue, Jan 19

    briefly review the idea of the Tree of Life, find scientific names of bacteria on a yogurt container, explain that scientific names help us see the relationships between living things (Canis lupus, Canis lupus familiaris)

    how long ago do you think early humans lived?

    compare Ape Skull to Homo habilis Skull in Early Humans by Michelle Breyer (pp. 111, 122)

    read from Early Humans

      Homo habilis, p.121
      Tools Used by Early Humans, p.124
      Stone Tools, p.125
      Tools We Use, p.126

    measure and compare your child's height to height of Homo habilis (4.5 ft tall)

    extra time: toothpick fish puzzle

    I don't have but would love to get the Paleolithic Stone Tool Kit from Clocca Concepts

    for going more into Early Humans, their Human Evolution Card Set is also excellent!

FIRE - Wed, Jan 20

    if Homo habilis lived 2.4 MYA, we can compare that to a 24 hour day, where each hour represented 100,000 years

    we know Homo habilis had not tamed fire; at what point in that 24 hour day do you think later species of early humans were able to make fire whenever they wanted it?

    there are different answers to this question depending on interpretations of archaeological evidence; answers vary from 1 MYA to 700,000 years ago to 400,000 years ago to 100,000 years ago

    Who Started the First Fire?

    How and When Did Humans Discover Fire?

    Human Ancestors Tamed Fire Earlier Than Thought

    there is a difference between capturing and keeping embers from naturally occurring wildfires (controlling fire) and making fire

    some ancient tools required glues that could only have been made using fire, so finding those tools at an archaeological site is evidence of mastery of fire

    700,000 years ago would be 5 pm
    400,000 years ago would be 8 pm
    100,000 years ago would be 11 pm

    humans survived for a long time without the ability to make fire at will!

    of course, it would be great if you can have a special guest come show the children how to start a fire; if not, here is a good video of the Bow Drill Method

    measure dry rice into half gallon jars to compare the brain size of Homo habilis (800 mL), Homo erectus (1100 mL), and Homo sapiens sapiens (1800 mL)

    compare Homo erectus Skull to Modern Human's Skull in Early Humans by Michelle Breyer (pp. 129, 154)

    read from Early Humans

      Homo erectus, p.128
      Terra Amata: A Homo erectus Camp, pp.131-132

    play Hunters and Gatherers Simulation Game from Early Humans, pp.134-140


    read from Early Humans

      Cro-Magnon, pp.150-153

    look at illustrations of cave paintings; make a piece of cave painting art for the MLB with yellow, orange, red, brown, and black on crumbled brown butcher paper (charcoal and chalk pastels are best for this)

    read When Cave Men Painted by Norman Bate (worth tracking down, this historical fiction picture book imagines the story behind a specific illustration on the cave walls at Lascaux)

    watch virtual tour of Lascaux on Vimeo, pause at the illustration which goes with the story (2:20-2:32)

    if you can't find the book by Norman Bate, you could substitute Mordecai Gerstein's The First Drawing and/or Emily Arnold McCully's The Secret Cave: Discovering Lascaux

CALENDARS - Mon, Jan 25

    read from The Story of Clocks and Calendars by Betsy Maestro (pp. 10-11, 14-18, 24-29)

    do Finger Knitted String and Colored Index Card activities (scroll down through my Maths of Practical Life: Time blog post to find these activities described and pictured at the end)

    teach the knuckle trick for remembering how many days are in each month

    the "Stories of the Days" and "Stories of the Months" materials by Montessori for Everyone are very useful if you don't have Betsy Maestro's book or if you'd like some follow-up work

CLOCKS - Tue, Jan 26

    read from The Story of Clocks and Calendars (pp. 34-41)

    find a sand timer of unknown duration; use a stopwatch to measure it

    use a stopwatch to measure how much time passes between when your eye blinks and when it blinks again; is it the same as someone else's?

    extra time: Roman numerals

    possible follow-up activities: pendulums OR Investigation #6, "Shadow Changes," from Puddle Questions for Science: Grade 2 by Heather McDonald and Joan Westley, pp.52-59

MONEY - Wed, Jan 27

    discuss barter, the need for money, early forms of money (such as stone money on the island of Yap), and that paper money is only valuable because we all agree that it is

    read from What Is Trade? by Carolyn Andrews

      Gold-Salt Trade in West Africa, pp.12-13

      Trade with Money, pp.16-17

    learn about how coins are designed and minted in The Buffalo Nickel by Taylor Morrison

    look at examples of U.S. coins and foreign coins; discuss the Euro and how it made things easier, and how the U.S. colonies each minted their own coins (which made things difficult)

    set up a pretend store and "shop," practicing counting money and making change

    The Story of Money by Betsy Maestro is also excellent for this topic!

SALT - Thu, Jan 28

BREAD - Thu, Feb 4

    read and do experiments from "Bread - The Staff of Life" chapter in It's Fun to Know Why, pp.83-92

    look at whole head of dried wheat; talk about the steps in processing wheat into flour

    look at pictures of cutting wheat with a sickle, threshing with a flail, and grinding with a millstone in Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carle

    look at pictures of George Washington's 16-sided threshing barn in Farmer George Plants a Nation by Peggy Thomas, pp.26-27

    grind einkorn wheat berries in an old fashioned hand-crank coffee grinder to make flour

    start a wheat plant from seed (in a damp folded paper towel sealed in a ziploc bag and placed in a warm place) and look at seed packets for amaranth and quinoa

    look at examples of grains from the pantry (wheat, barley, rice, cornmeal), wheat germ, popcorn, and alternative flours (almond, coconut)

    even for older children it is fun to make a Flour Sensory Bin; we used home-ground and store-bought wheat flour plus oat flour, rye flour, almond flour, and coconut flour

    look at picture of making tortillas in A Ride on Mother's Back: A Day of Baby Carrying Around the World by Emery & Durga Bernhard

    you could also read Corn Is Maize: The Gift of the Indians by Aliki or Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard (his recipe uses both cornmeal and flour)

MILK & ICE CREAM - Mon, Feb 8

    read Cow and Ice Cream by Jules Older

    make ice cream in a bag


      In a small resealable plastic bag, combine 1 cup of half-and-half with 2 T sugar and 1/2 tsp. vanilla. Carefully push out all excess air and seal tightly.

      In a large resealable plastic bag, combine 3 cups of ice and 1/3 cup kosher salt.

      Place the small bag inside the bigger bag and shake vigorously, 7 to 10 minutes, until ice cream has hardened.

      Notes: Bags with sliding "zippers" don't work as well for this as they tend to leak.
      Double-bag it and/or do this activity over a sink if you are concerned about drips.

    or you can make ice cream in a mason jar

    there are many books with interesting stories about foods; some of my favorites are apples, bananas, pumpkins, bubble gum, pasta, popcorn, and potato chips

    if you want to do a day on farm animals instead, consider chickens, goats, or pigs

COTTON - Tue, Feb 9

    read Where Did My Clothes Come From? by Chris Butterworth, an overview of clothing (she actually did a pretty good job with the variety of fibers)

      jeans - story of cotton
      also mentions linen and hemp

      sweater - story of wool
      also mentions yaks, bison, camels, llamas, alpacas, cashmere goats, angora goats, musk oxen, and angora rabbits

      party dress - story of silk

      soccer uniform - story of synthetic fibers

      fleece jacket - story of recycled plastic bottles

      rain boots - story of rubber

    look at a real cotton boll; look at the boll weevil in A Beetle is Shy by Dianna Hutts Aston

    look at a picture of the cotton gin (short for engine)

    look at some of the tags in your clothing to see what it's made of

    if you'd like to do the story of flax/linen instead, I suggest How a Shirt Grew in the Field translated from Russian by Marguerita Rudolph

RUBBER - Wed, Feb 10

PLASTIC - Thu, Feb 11

    read The Button Box by Margarette S. Reid

    get out your button box and look through all of the many kinds of buttons

    look at vintage Bakelite poker chips

    do Sculpted Science: Turn Milk Into Plastic experiment from Scientific American
    I do recommend laying a cloth napkin or pillowcase over a large basin and holding it in place while you pour the curdled liquid through. You get all of the curds that way!

WOOL - Mon, Feb 15 and Tue, Feb 16


    feel wool roving from a variety of sheep breeds (Corriedale, English Leicester, Romney)

    read and do experiments from "Wool - Fleece for Man" chapter in It's Fun to Know Why, pp.62-69


    read The Goat in the Rug by Charles Blood & Martin Link

    read and do experiments from "Wool - Fleece for Man" chapter in It's Fun to Know Why, pp.70-74

    this section on weaving reminded me of the guard invented by Margaret Knight (age 12) to stop a flying shuttle, as they would break free and fly across the room, striking the workers

PAPER - Wed, Feb 17

SOAP - Mon, Mar 1 and Fri Mar 5


    read from "Soap - Dirt Chaser" chapter in It's Fun to Know Why, pp.97-100

    relevant excerpts from Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder:
    "Saturday Night," pp.80-83
    "Cold Snap," pp.163-165


    read and do experiments from "Soap - Dirt Chaser" chapter in It's Fun to Know Why, pp.93-97 and 101-106

IRON - Mon, Mar 8

NAILS - Tue, Mar 9

BOOKS - Wed, Mar 10

COAL - Mon, Mar 15

CEMENT - Tue, Mar 16

GLASS - Wed, Mar 17

LUMBER - Thu, Mar 18

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