Tucked away in a little shopping center in the quiet side of Gatlinburg (up US 321), 20,000 pairs of salt and pepper shakers sit waiting to be discovered. In the only museum of its kind in the world (aside from its sister museum in Spain), The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum is a surprisingly fascinating destination that offers a little something for everyone. Are you into 1950s kitsch? It’s there. Fan of all things vegetable? You’ll see carrots, cabbages, and corn. Glittery cut crystal? Yep.
And it’s a paradise for homeschoolers. First of all, it’s only $3 a head to get in. Granted, the space is small and you can’t spend a whole day there, but it’s well worth the admission because of all the possibilities it opens.
Consider the myriad options for study.
With 20,000 pairs of shakers, anything to do with counting and math comes into play. You can use multiplication and division to estimate the number of shakers in a display case or along one wall. You could work with ratios and percentages: what is the ratio of cattle-themed shakers to cowboy-themed sets or what percentage of the collection is made of bone? Salt and pepper connect to cooking, which is all about fractions.
Even a quick glance shows you that the styles, designs, and forms vary widely. You could discuss changes in art forms through the ages. You could examine how the function of the pieces dictates (or fails to dictate) form. Different regions of the world make different shakers in different ways, which could lead to discussions about geography and culture.
Looking to get a little creative after your visit? Kids could design and build their own shaker sets. You’ll need to explore forms and materials to make a set that functions well.
And the post-visit writing options abound. Use the museum as a starting place for a history research project. For more creative options, imagine the life of one of the shakers. How did it get to the museum? What is the specific history of that piece? On whose table did these shakers sit?
One great feature of the museum is the website, specifically the Google Virtual Tour. You can pre-visit to get a sense of what you might want to do with it. After your visit, you don’t need to rely on your own pictures to remember everything that was there.
Obviously, I found the place pretty inspirational. Later I’ll be working on more site-specific assignments and activities. For now spice up your homeschooling with a quick visit.