Saturday, July 30, 2011

Forever Sandcastles

So, the past week has been spent at the lake while my oldest three children take swimming lessons. I enjoy the sun and relative peace while my littlest child scoots all over the beach (she doesn't crawl), getting sand in her diaper. I have been thinking a lot about sand these days, after taking great pains to clean the sand out of everyone's shorts, diapers, food, sunscreen, car seats, etc. This week's project is all about sand: creating sandcastles from a dough that allows your project to be enjoyed long after the summer fun is done.

This project is originally from Family Fun magazine. I originally did this project at the beginning of the school year with my art students. I thought it was a good way to ease the students from summer into a year's worth of medieval art. While this project can be done with children as young as preschool age, results will vary, so don't be too concerned if the masterpieces of the younger set don't look quite like castles! Have fun and enjoy the sand!

Supplies Needed:
  • Sand dough, recipe to follow
  • Small shells
  • Small twigs or toothpicks
  • Pieces of scrap paper and glue stick for flags
  • Tacky glue
  • Paper plates covered in wax paper (to use as a work surface)
  • Plastic table cover
  • Colored pencils & scissors to decorate flags
  • Castle books for inspiration

1. Start by making the sand dough. Use an old metal pot that is not non-stick (the sand will scrape the finish). You can make the dough 1 day in advance, just keep it tightly covered until ready to use.

Sand Dough Recipe:

1 cup sand
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 tsp. alum (found in the spice section of the grocery store)
3/4 cup water

Combine the dry ingredients in the saucepan using a wooden spoon. Add the water and stir until the mixture is smooth & combined. Cook the clay over medium-high heat, stirring once in awhile. The clay will start to thicken. As it begins to thicken, stir more frequently. After about 3 minutes of cooking, the dough will be the consistency of play dough. Remove the clay from the pan and let cool a bit. Once the clay is cool enough to touch, you can begin sculpting.

2. Give each child a portion of the dough (1 batch will make enough for two children). Have the child work on a paper plate covered with a piece of waxed paper (that will make the sculpture easy to remove once it's dry).

Some of the elements you may want to include in your castle are:

The Keep: the last defensible part of a castle. This is the "building' portion of the castle.
Crenels: Openings cut from the top of a tower or wall for guns or arrows to fire through.
Moat: A water-filled ditch surrounding a fortress.
Drawbridge: A huge, heavy door that was raised and lowered over a moat to stop or allow entry into a fortress.
Bailey: A courtyard inside a castle compound.
Loop hole: A thin opening in a tower wall to let light in or to see out and to shoot arrows or fire guns through.
Battlement: A fortified top of a castle wall or tower.

Once you are done sculpting your castle, you can use shells to embellish it. The children in my art class used shells to make patterns on the sides of their castles, or as doors or windows. You can use the point of a toothpick to make brick texture or windows on the side of the castle. Now is also the time to create little flags for your castle out of bits of paper glued to toothpicks and stuck into the dough. Do this while the dough is still wet though--once it is dry it is rock hard!

Now you can let your castle air dry. It will take about 2-3 days or so. Any shells that fall off during the drying process, can be reattached with some tacky glue.

Enjoy your little bit of summer!

The castle from above

When I presented this lesson to my art class, I had the following books on hand for them to look at:

“Castle,” by David Macauley (ISBN 0-395-25784-0)
“Castles,” A First Discovery Book, Scholastic, Inc. (0-590-46377-2)
“Knights and Castles,” by Philip Dixon (ISBN 1-4169-3864-8)
“Knights and Castles,” by Fiona Macdonald (ISBN 0-8368-4997-3)
“Knights and Castles: Exploring History Through Art” by Alex Martin (ISBN 1-58728-441-3)
“Medieval Castles,” by Lynne Ferguson Chapman (ISBN 0-88682-687-x)
“See Inside a Castle,” by R.J. Unstead (ISBN 0-531-09119-8)
“The Story of a Castle,” by John S. Goodall (ISBN 0-689-50405-5)
“The World of Castles & Forts,” by Malcolm Day (ISBN 0-87226-278-2)

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