Painting with Elderberries in Chinatown Living Library & Think Park !

By mid-July, the Elder tree (Sambucus mexicana) at the Chinatown Living Library & Think Park at Gordon Lau Elementary School and Commodore Stockton Child Development Center was in full bloom, displaying cloud-like bouquets of tiny yellow flowers and bunches of dark blue berries. Last summer the students cooked the berries into a delicious and healthy syrup. This year when we harvested the raw berries…


….the students explored the fruit’s exceptional chromatic properties by mashing up the berries into pigment for painting !

We used our fingers and paintbrushes to create vibrant and natural works of art, following in the Native American tradition of transforming fruits and flowers of the Elder tree into color dye. 



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Although painting with fresh berries was a little messy at times, this hands-on activity allowed Pre-K students through 4th graders to physically engage with all stages of the Elder tree’s reproductive life cycle — from flowers to fruit to seeds!


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