At the Portland Waldorf School, we have hundreds of plant species on campus, many with a rich history and folklore that are fascinating to explore. In our food forest this past summer, we were delighted to see our mullein plants covered in yellow blossoms and standing over seven feet tall. Mullein is native to Europe and Asia and has a history dating back well over two thousand years.
During Grade 6’s Ancient Rome block, we learned of the medicinal qualities of mullein and how the Romans used these plants. Dioscorides, a pharmacologist and botanist practicing in 1st century Rome, first recommended mullein to be used to treat lung conditions. We also learned that mullein, known to the Romans as ‘torch plant’, could be dipped in tallow when dry and lit to create a long lasting torch.
With plenty of dried stems with seed pods to experiment, we dipped our torches in beeswax and lit them from a fire in our outdoor oven. Our torches burned for over 18 minutes before we had to submerge them in water and head back to class.
Facilitating hands-on experiences that allow the students to live deeply into the curriculum and to connect to their own environment is a valuable component of the LivingLAB program. It is an absolute joy to bring these experiences to the students.