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Of Pen And Ink

Grade Level: 4 - 6

Purpose:

For students to learn about the writing tools used by colonists who utilized the local plant materials, before the invention of pencils and pens.

Materials:

Large feathers (peacock or pheasant feathers are the best)
Scissors or pen knife
10 walnut shells
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Hammer
Old cloth/rag
Saucepan
Small jar with lid
Strainer

Lab Procedure:

1. Using hammer, crush the shells in the cloth

2. Add the shells and water to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, simmer 45 minutes or until dark brown. (Much of the water will evaporate.)

3. Remove the ink from the burner and let it cool.

4. Strain it into the jar and add vinegar and salt (this preserves the ink).

5. Use scissors or pen knife to cut the end of the feather so it's on an angle (/).

6. Write away!

This activity is used by permission from Science is Elementary, by Museum Institute for Teaching Science. It appeared in their June 1989 (Vol. 3, No. 3) issue. For more information on MITS, write them c/o New England Aquarium, Central Wharf, Boston, MA 02110; tel. 617-973-6587.