We have a friend who used to teach with the Montessori method. I remember going over to her house a long time ago and she had these amazing antique hand coffee grinders. My boys fell in love with them and just sat there and ground up coffee beans forever. I was amazed and have been searching for hand coffee grinders ever since. The other day I visited the Supermarket in Austin’s Chinatown Center and found three grinders for the class for $9 each. Score! They are such simple machines, but so wondrous for kids.
Our class started out with learning how the grinders worked and examining the whole coffee beans. The coffee bean aroma filled the classroom. Once the kids seemed to have their fill of coffee grinding fun, we moved over to another table for our next lesson.
We made coffee paint by adding water, but I switched over to instant coffee instead of ground beans. The day before I tried making paint with the coffee grounds and, well, it was full of grounds. To make different shades of color we put 1 teaspoon of instant coffee in one jar, 1/2 teaspoon in another, and 1/4 teaspoon in another, added a small bit of water to each, and mixed them well. (You can play around with your variations to change thickness and darkness.)
Make a pencil drawing on watercolor paper. Color your image starting with the lightest coffee paint. Add the medium value, then the darkest value. I ended up adding a bunch of instant coffee to another jar to make an even darker value towards the end. It’s all about figuring out what you need make it work.
Value is the use of lights and darks in artwork. We can teach children about value by adding white to a color or by using graphite. I find that using the dark instant coffee mixed with a little bit of water is a subtle way to show gradation. The kids can see the coffee simply measured. Using something like coffee that is not normally thought of as an art material adds something extra to the process. You can easily see that the more “powder” you add to the water, the thicker and darker the water gets. I hope you have fun trying out this method.