What do you get when you combine a delightful children's classic about a baking project gone awry, a marshmallow catapult, and four adorable little boys? (This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)
My favorite book club meeting of the entire year!
This past month, it was my turn to lead the Littles in their bi-weekly book club.
I was given the task of designing a unit around the Virginia Kahl classic, The Duchess Bakes a Cake, and to be honest, I wasn't all that thrilled to be assigned to a book about baking...knowing that I'd be teaching a pack of boys.
The book is so funny and filled with lots of action! And what boy doesn't love a story involving catapults and knights in shining armor?! (I'm actually not sure which was more funny...the story, or my mediocre attempt to read with several different European accents.)
After reading the book together, we talked a little bit about the hierarchy of European monarchy. (Since the author does not clearly show WHICH European country is the setting for the story, we chose to enjoy it along with the Geography Club which was "touring" Germany for the morning.) We discussed how a Duke and Duchess would have been land-owning royalty, in line for the throne just after the prince and princesses.
With the help of youtube, we toured a medieval castle.
Then, we explored the baking power of leaven.
Having never baked anything in her life, the adventurous Duchess attempts to bake a cake one day. She soon learns the dangers of adding too much leaven to her recipe and finds herself overtaken by an out-of-control cake.
I had the boys hold hands in a tight circle and then spread out to demonstrate what leaven does in a cake.
Next, we discussed the three main kinds of baking leaven: baking soda, baking powder, and yeast. We conducted a little experiment to determine which of the three would produce the most gas and rising power.
What you'll need:
- three empty bottles (They should all be the same size and have a narrow neck.)
- three balloons
- 1 T. of each of the following: baking soda, baking powder, yeast
- 1 to 1 1/2 tsp. of sugar
- 1/2 c. of vinegar
- 1/2 c. hot water
- large jelly roll pan (optional)
Using the funnel, pour the following into each empty bottle:
- BOTTLE 1: one tablespoon of baking soda
- BOTTLE 2: one tablespoon of baking powder
- BOTTLE 3: one tablespoon and 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar
Pour the liquid into each bottle and IMMEDIATELY cap each bottle with a balloon.
- BOTTLE 1: 1/4 c. vinegar
- BOTTLE 2: 1/4 c. vinegar
- BOTTLE 3: 1/2 c. hot water (After you cap this bottle with a balloon, you will need to shake the bottle a bit in order to stir the yeast and sugar together.)
The gas created by combining the solids and the liquids will be INSTANT causing the balloons to fill and rise.
I wish I had taken an "after" picture when our experiment was completed. The balloon from the yeast bottle ended up growing so large that I was afraid it might pop and send a gooey mess all over the room.
At the kings request, the cavalry, dressed in their regalia, comes to the aid of the Duchess who is stuck on top of an ever-growing mound of cake. They unsuccessfully attempt to hurl objects at her in order to knock her down off her lofty perch.
The boys were excited to replicate some knightly attire by making cardboard shields. The Hubs was gracious enough to cut out shield shapes from scrap cardboard and attach duct tape handles to the back.
After looking at the crests painted on medieval shields, the boys created their own one-of-a-kind shields.
At one point, the calvary uses catapults and large rocks to try and shoot the Duchess off the cake.
In an attempt to recreate the scene, we used popsicle stick catapults and large marshmallows to destroy a tower of cups.
The author used rhyme to give the book a poetic feel.
After reminding the bots of some of the royal hierarchy and official positions in a medieval community, I had them each choose a medieval title to be their team name during the rhyming game. We had a knight, a prince, a king, and a duke (I think?!)
The rules of the game were simple. I would call out a word and the boys had to shout out words that rhymed with my word. Each boy could call out as many words as they could think of and as long as it rhymed with my word, he earned a point. (Since our meeting room just happened to have a chalk board, I could easily keep score.) The medieval character who earned the most points at the end of the game was declared the winner.
For simplicity, I chose one-syllable words such as
Naturally, baking a cake would have made for a great addition to our morning of fun, but our space was not conducive to an extensive baking project. Instead, we enjoyed snacking on some homemade pretzels that the Geography Club made in their tour of Germany.
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