I notice that when we don’t take the time for creative projects, my children’s love of learning dries up, tapers off. We have trouble staying focused, we lose interest in what we’re learning. I know that this is the case, that a scattering of art projects, craft ideas, cooking projects, and hands-on building projects throughout the year keeps my kids interested and engaged and learning. But sometimes we get too busy, we fall behind and crank out page after page of seatwork to catch up, we forget to stop and apply what we’ve learned by creating something that represents the knowledge we’ve accumulated…something real and tangible to share with the world. Creativity cements knowledge, puts it into three dimensions, sets roots in the mind where it might otherwise wither away.
We’ve been studying ancient civilizations this year, and have been talking for the last few months about creating a miniature Ancient Israelite house using clay, sticks, and felt. Today, we put off Grammar and spent the morning creating tiny clay bricks made from Gluten-Free Cornflour Salt Dough. We’ll bake the bricks, collect sticks for the beams of the house’s roof, and we’ll assemble the little house later this week.
Here’s part one of our endeavor….
Here are some books that we used for education and inspiration:
Ancient Israelites and Their Neighbors: An Activity Guide
We’ve enjoyed this book, which covers the Philistines, the Phoenicians, and of course the Israelites! It is full of information as well as learning activities.
Old Testament Days: An Activity Guide
This is a great book for younger kids, full of history and packed with simple activities…make a sleeping mat, make a table mat and have a picnic with foods they would have eaten in King David’s time, all sorts of easy projects that an older child could help a younger child do!
Lamps, Scrolls & Goatskin Bottles: A Handbook of Bible Customs for Kids (Teacher Training Series)
This was a very informative book, full of engaging short historical fiction accounts of life in Bible times. The projects are fun, the information was very educational and there are Bible quotes and references throughout the book to help place history in with Bible reading. Fun!
Gluten-Free Salt Dough (Cornflour Salt Dough)
1 cup salt
3 cups Masa Corn Flour (not corn meal)
1 cup corn starch
1 tsp. cream of tarter
about 2 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons oil
Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl and stir well. Add the oil and hot water, mix until combined (you will want to add 1 1/2 cups of the water first, then more as needed to form a stiff dough). Knead the dough. Make sure it’s not too hot…but it’s calming for kids to knead the warm dough!
Roll the dough out between two guides…we used two cutting boards of equal thickness.
Using a guide (we used existing blocks from a building set we have, but you can form two blocks from the clay as a guide before cutting), measure out the width of your blocks and cut using a straight edge. As you can see, we were creative with what we used for ours!
Set a guide block at both the top and bottom of each strip to keep them reasonably straight. We figured that the clay blocks used to make ancient houses were probably not perfect either, so we didn’t allow too much stress about getting them perfect. We made some smaller blocks using 1/2 the width of the larger ones, to make the parapet around the rooftop. Rooftops were important in Ancient Israel, so we are paying special attention to ours!
Put the cut blocks onto a cookie sheet (or two!) and bake at 200 degrees for an hour. Take out the small bricks, flip the large bricks over, and bake for about another hour or until bricks are very hard.
And, here’s a random act of creativity from leftover clay….