Hohokam Shell Etching

overview-iiIndigenous Peoples’ Day approacheth–and that’s not the only reason I’ve been thinking about the native peoples of the United States recently. The Dakota pipeline controversy erupting through the midwest is a reminder that a long and bitter legacy of disrespect continues.

I chose this particular activity because it was from the Hohokam people–of whom I’ve never heard, not even once. Since the Hohokam lived in what is now central and southern Arizona from around 200 to 1400, let’s hope I would have studied them had I grown up in the Southwest. Note: I include a pathetically brief overview at the end of this activity.

Hohokam people gathered shells from the nearby Gulf of California, and were highly skilled shell artisans. In particular, they are known for etching shells, and are probably the first people to ever etch objects of any sort, despite Wikipedia’s apparent ignorance on the matter. Traditionally, they would cover a shell with a protective substance—sap or pitch from the trees—and use a tool to scratch off the design they wished to create: animals such as lizards and frogs, or geometric patterns, for example. These shells were then soaked in an acidic liquid (probably fermented cactus juice) to eat away the exposed areas. Finally, the pitch was scraped off. The shells might be painted as a finishing touch. You can read more here.

 

From Ancient Lost Treasures.

From Ancient Lost Treasures.

To recreate their craft, we will use supplies more readily available these days, and our process will actually work in the reverse. Instead of etching the design into the shell, our design will be in relief, while the rest of the shell is worn away by the acid.  Continue reading

Cryptology for kids

spy vs spy from www.strangehistory.net/

Mad Magazine’s spy vs spy from http://www.strangehistory.net/

posted by Beret

Ages:  Any, although kids 8-11 get particularly fired up about secret codes. That’s typically the age when kids decide that a little privacy would be great–especially if younger siblings are involved.

Many aspects of being a spy are, in reality, probably unappealing:  lying, hiding, sneaking–all while your life is in constant jeopardy–plus a boatload of observation, sales, and psychological manipulation, according to former C.I.A. operative Lindsay Moran. Still, the idea of secret messages never gets old, and I’m excited to show you a few simple codes to get kids started. Continue reading

Finding Your Way: Maps, Compasses, and Treasure – Oh My!

posted by Gina

When I was a kid, there was no internet and there were no smartphones. The same is true for when I was a high school and a college student. The practical upshot of this meant that I was lost a lot of the time.

Turn right, then left. Second street over.

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Origami Bookmarks

 

©2014 Beret Olsen

Taking a bite of Stephen King’s awesome book:  On Writing.                 ©2014 Beret Olsen

posted by Beret

Ages:  Any

Post-its! Sharpies! Tape! Paper clips! I love them all. It is hard for me to talk about office supplies without exclamation points.

But above all, I love paper.

Not the kind that piles up all over my desk, mind you. Nice paper. Paper without issues and overdue notices and undone “to do” lists on it.

I also love to fold things neatly. I am weird like that. Not surprisingly, then, I find origami to be extremely satisfying. The trouble is, once you fold a lovely flat piece of paper it becomes three dimensional. And then it is taking up a lot more space–often just sitting there saying, “Look at me, I am a crane.” So, when my daughter showed me how to make a bookmark with a few quick folds, I was quite pleased. This project doesn’t collect dust and clutter the mantel; this little item holds my place in my book. Or…I suppose I could slide it jauntily over the corner of my ebook, for extra beauty.   Continue reading

Daruma Dolls

posted by Gina

You know what’s fun? Goal setting. No, really – bear with me for a second. You know how you get all excited in January to do your resolution? You know those fun little color coded spreadsheets you make for yourself, with benchmarks and rewards and motivational quotes? Well, some of us do that. But I’m betting you can join me in relating to just about now, when we’ve pretty much abandoned our resolutions by the wayside.

Seeing a goal through is a rewarding experience, and – frankly – we could all use a little motivation and encouragement. And a nifty gimmick with interesting historical roots.

So let me introduce you to the Daruma Doll.

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Relief Maps

©2012 Beret Olsen

posted by Beret

Age Range:  5 to adult

Have you ever spear-headed a flour-paste project that festered, rather than drying properly? I’ve set up fans to speed the drying process. I’ve tried adding salt as a preservative–to no effect. I’ve even added a little cinnamon to help mask any ensuing aroma. Unfortunately, I now associate that spice with a classroom closet full of rotting papier-mâché planets.

Still, kids love doing these sorts of projects, so I was gearing up for another potentially malodorous round of flour dough relief maps. Luckily, someone revealed to me the secret of all such three-dimensional projects:  plaster cloth.    Continue reading

Mummifying Chickens

A chicken mummy anointed, adorned, and nestled in its sarcophagus.     ©2012 Beret Olsen

posted by Gina

Age Range: 7 and up

Ancient Egypt is a topic that rarely fails to capture the imagination, whether a 2nd grader’s or a high school student’s.  The mythology is both beautiful and harsh, with enough romance and bloodthirst to satisfy young people across the interest spectrum.

In terms of an easy yet spectacular home project, nothing is more fabulous than a homemade mummy, whether the project comes at the end of a unit of study or opens the door to further reading and research.    Continue reading