Saturday, February 10, 2018

Building Understanding, One Brick at a Time

It's always the hands-on activities that we remember about school. For me, I remember climbing to the top of a ladder in second grade, then dropping my reading astronaut with a parachute to land in a wading pool of water, after all our astronauts had been traveling through space on lines above our classroom, the distance marking how many books we had read. (This was only a couple years after Apollo 11 landed the first man on the moon.) I also remember building a gold mining cradle in fourth grade.
I want my students to have the same fond memories and understanding of important curriculum. Getting their hands dirty while mixing and building adobe bricks is the perfect way to understand how adobe was used in building the missions and California rancho houses. Although the original ingredients include cow manure, I reassure my students we are not using manure (some kids are always disappointed. . .)
Students worked in groups to tear straw into small bits, then mix with dirt and sand or clay. After gradually adding water to make a thick mixture, scoop out adobe mud and place in wooden frames. (My awesome hubby built these mini frames for us!)
Press the mud firmly with another wood piece to compact the dirt and to release the extra water.
After carefully lifting the frame off the mud, voila! An adobe brick. We left ours to dry for a few days, reminding the class that "real adobe" bricks had to dry for 1 year before being whitewashed!
Another teacher suggested that students make lots of adobe bricks then use them to build a structure as a STEAM activity. Maybe next year! What hands-on activities do you do with your students? I'd love to hear about them!

You may also be interested in a differentiated unit on California Missions. Find out more by clicking on the photo below.

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  1. Great project for your kiddos. I bet they loved getting their hands dirth. I did something similar with my 6th graders, they built bricks out of mud like the ancient Sumerians who were the first brick builders in the ancient world.

  2. I LOVE this project! I am going to use it next year when we study Southwest Coast Native Americans.

  3. I still remember how we settled the Revolutionary War with a court case in 7th grade! I was Patrick Henry. We proved that King George was mentally impaired due to poryphia! Great post! Amen and amen. I so agree with everything you've written here.

  4. Cute project! Hands on is so important.