Grades 4 & 5 Visit the Ethnological Museum

Visiting the Folklife and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia-Thrace in Thessaloniki is always a cultural experience, particularly with Elementary School students. Their innocent points of view help us better understand what D. Loukopoulos said back in  1938, «Just as it is true that the right to develop is identical with the right to eternal  youth, so it is true that tomorrow is always shaped using the materials of yesterday. […] Only then can a civilization have sturdy foundations, when it is rooted in a profound awareness of its past, of its immediate past».

On the 11th of November we visited the permanent Museum exhibition focusing on food, shelter and clothing in traditional society.

The Museums permanent exhibition ‘At the Watermills of Macedonia and Thrace: Gristmills, Sawmills, Fulling Mills, Cloth-finishing Waterfalls in Traditional Society’, presents pre-industrial technology and the exploitation of water as source of energy for the grinding of grain, the ripping of logs and the pounding of woolen clothes.

What is a winged-wheel? What are water-powered machines?

The winged-wheel is a kind of wheel with blades which is revolved by running water; the rotary movement continues as long as water continues to strike the blades. Thus the wheel was able to revolve continuously without human intervention.

The history of the winged-wheel is of particular importance in the evolution of technology, because it is connected with the functioning of the very first labour-producing machine, the watermill. This was a water-driven machine, in which the water turned the wheel, which in turn moved the millstone to grind the wheat into flour. In the history of technology the watermill marks the transition from the era of tools to the era of machinery.

The first water-driven machine proved to be so important that it was subsequently used as the model for later machines. Thus a winged-wheel installed in a stream next to a saw became the sawmill for cutting logs into planks for use in construction; when installed next to a hammering or pounding mechanism it became a fulling mill, used to process the woollen garments so essential for keeping man warm.

Are there still machines operated by winged-wheels today? What else is a hydro-electric power station with its water turbine?

The children feel the force of the moving wheel – which for them actually speaks and moves, turning with its paddles, made tangible through its constructions, playing games and making up stories about millers, using the power of imagination… Through the various activities the children also enjoy another valuable experience: learning to set their own winged-wheels in motion, using the power of mind and heart …

Our students were greatly impressed by the exhibition. They admired the various reconstructions of Watermills

Amalia Spiliakou
Host Country Studies Coordinator