"Salt Pan" by Samara Malang, Grade 5


The video bug caught on with Al Qamar Academy teachers after our success with the Hummingbirds and the girl. We wondered, how can we better use videos to inspire children’s curiosity, to provoke them to ask meaningful questions?

I tried another video this week with my new 5th graders. This time it was linked to an experiment they had conducted in the Small Science (Grade 4) class in the previous week.

We had just finished up with mixtures and solutions (in Chapter 5 ‘Water Dissolves Things’). The students were asked to make salt and sugar solutions and dry them at home. They were told to keep a record of what happened to the solutions. And we moved on to the next activity.

About a week later, when we did the experiment on evaporation (‘Liquid water turns into water vapour’), I posted this video on Salt Harvesting in Tuticorin. Yet again, I posted a Google Form for the children to record their questions. Then, we had a follow-up discussion in class.

Children are literal minded, a quality that gives their curiosity an unexpectedly sharp edge. The first question that struck them was, “How can you turn salt into Gold?” Here was a question that, unwittingly perhaps, plumbed the economics of salt production and its numerous technological and commercial possibilities. Later, thinking it over, this question gave me a new perspective on the beautifully shot video with its music by Strauss.

For now, to continue the conversation with my fifth graders, I steered away from the more intricate aspects of economics, and the fabulous fantasies of alchemy. I asked them whether they thought it was even possible to turn salt into gold. Most simply said, “No”. We went on to discuss some implied meanings and connotations and I related the fact that salt was once paid as remuneration to Roman soldiers, hence the word “salary”. That information fascinated them. Salt which is so cheap for us now, could have been valuable earlier? The next question was again economics based - “Why is salt so cheap when so much hard work is put into making it?”  Interestingly the child who asked this question understood the backbreaking labour involved in making salt and connected it with the low price that salt fetches in the market. Two years ago, our 6th grade students had visited the salt pans at Marakannam and were shocked to find that the salt lying about would fetch only Re.1 per kg in the market.