Friday, January 17, 2014

Homeschool History: Make a Sarcophagus

Creating a model sarcophagus is an excellent enrichment activity to add to an Ancient Egypt study, and it fits in well with chapter four of The Story of the World: Ancient Times, the chapter on Ancient Egypt that includes information about mummies and pyramids.

I found little cardboard... pencil boxes?... on clearance one day in one of the big box arts/crafts stores that I frequent as little as possible due to my tendency to buy things on clearance that I don't need and probably won't use for years, and kept them on a shelf in the study/studio for, yes, years before realizing that they were the perfect material for this craft. Can a time lag of three years still be described as serendipity?

Any little box that's longer than it is wide will work for this craft, however, whether it's cardboard or wooden--I don't think plastic would work well, but you can make your own cardboard box that's the exact size that you want. For a very miniature sarcophagus, you could even make a matchbox work, and that would be super cute!

Before the kids began their own sarcophogi, we researched a bit and did a Google Image search in order to study examples. Based on that, we talked about having a facial portrait on the sarcophagus, including decorative elements and patterns, drawing symbols or representations of the meaningful gods, and recording important scenes from their lives. We also talked about the importance of the sarcophagus being their best work, and thoughtful, and including a lot of details and creative embellishments. I introduced the idea that artists often create sketches or rough drafts of their work before they begin the piece itself, and to that end I gave them these sarcophagus design sheets and asked them to create a draft of their piece first. Will fussed at this, of course, because she hadn't focused yet and thus didn't feel invested in the project, and actually tried to scribble her sarcophagus out as fast as possible on the cardboard box, but I erased her work, done quickly and shabbily to try to make a point, and required her to do her design sheet first. 

While working on her design sheet, she finally focused and found herself invested in her work, and worked hard and happily until she finished:
Seriously, though--school in Cinderella pajamas? That kid doesn't understand how good she's got it.

The kids copied their designs onto the cardboard sarcophogi in pencil--I reminded them to be mindful of the scale, but that's a concept we clearly need to keep working on, since both of their drawings ended up pretty small--colored them with Prismacolor and Sharpie markers, and, since their designs left extra room, I had them each research and write the cartouche for their names on the boxes, as well:

I actually think that I will have the kids use these sarcophagi as pencil boxes, and if this alone serves to stop their bickering over who stole whose pencil, then it will be three bucks well spent. This does bring to mind, though, my favorite thing to do with a kid's finished project--use it! For us, at least, a project used or displayed is a project that brings greater overall enjoyment, and a project that eventually gets worn out or messed up in some way, and therefore a project that eventually gets thrown away, guilt-free. Guilt-free de-acquisition? YAY!!!

Possible extension activities for this project:
  • Sarcophogi were sometimes decorated on the inside, as well (in the Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose, we saw a sarcophogus made by a coffin maker for his daughter. On the inside, he'd written all the information from The Book of the Dead that his daughter would need for her journey--a beautiful relic of his last act of service to his beloved child), so you could also decorate the inside of your sarcophogus, perhaps even with hieroglyphics.
  • You could create a mummy to live inside the sarcophogus. Some homeschoolers have symbolically mummified Barbie, and I don't think that's such a bad fate for her.
  • A matchbox sarcophagus could be entombed inside a model pyramid.
This project is shared with the After School Link Party over at Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational.

2 comments:

Tina said...

Those look awesome :0)

Natalie AfterschoolForSmartyPants said...

What a great idea. I think they turned out lovely! Thanks for sharing with Afterschool!

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