Montessori Activity Review: 3D Project Sculpting Kit

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Montessori Activity Review: 3D Project Sculpting Kit

When I was browsing on my “go-to” Montessori website to look for something new to try with my children, the image of the volcano on the GeoSculpt 3-D Project Kit immediately caught my eye.

I think it brought back some childhood memory of a baking soda and Sprite powered volcano, complete with a tiny clay formed town doomed as it lay in the path of the carbonated lava flow. Knowing my kids and their curiosity about major natural events like tsunamis, floods, earthquakes or whatever else can destroy mankind, I knew this would be a hit with them.

When we got the package and I took a closer look at everything else you could make with the contents. I found that it was extremely versatile. In addition to landforms like volcanoes and mountains this kit is perfect for creating 3-D maps.

When I was a young Montessori kid myself, I was map crazy, and at a recent Montessori open house, I had the opportunity to work on a map of Africa with my son. I was surprised to learn that he is afflicted with the same map craziness from which I suffer, so I scrapped my volcano idea this time, and asked the kids if they wanted to make a map. I got a resounding “YES!”

Opening up the kit

As soon as my very observant daughter saw the roll of “magic” plaster gauze, she commented, “Hey, that’s like the stuff they used on my arm when I broke it! Are we going to make something with that?”

That prompted a fun conversation about plaster casting, and how it can be used for fractures or for art projects…and a quick reminder of why we don’t jump on the bed.

First, we had to decide what we were going to make. A country? Which one? A state? Which state? After much deliberation, we decided to make a model of Illinois. Why? Because both of my children were born there, and even though we now live near DC (which we love), we definitely miss our Chicago!

Since the box only has a few components, I had my concerns about how it was going to look when we were done. It seemed like it may be too difficult to work with just a single roll of plaster gauze, and a few paints.  We’ve made a few projects in the past that were not so, ahh…shall I say, “aesthetically pleasing.” However, we found that creating the sculpture was surprisingly simple, and the directions were easy to follow.

Building the 3D Sculpture

First, we printed off a basic outline of Illinois from the Internet. (Tip: When you try this, make sure that your outline fills the sheet of paper as closely as possible…it makes the next step much easier.)

We then used a marker to trace the outline on the foam, and then carefully cut our Illinois out.

After that, we cut 5-inch strips off of the roll of plaster gauze, dipped them in water and used them to cover our mold. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to mold the strips around the contours of the foam cutout. (Tip: Although the directions advise allowing your work to dry overnight at this point, we used a blow dryer on medium heat for about 5 minutes to speed up the drying process.)

My children had no problem getting their hands dirty as they smoothed the wet plaster over the mold…in fact, they soon created their own little “assembly line”. Julian, my son, would wet the plaster strips in the bowl, and Kennedy would smooth them onto the mold. They worked on this until Illinois was completely plastered. I was thrilled to see my children displaying the Montessori innovative and collaborative working environment at home.

Painting the Sculpture

Then, the final fun part…painting our sculpture. The set comes with 6 primary color acrylic paints and an acrylic paintbrush. My son decided to paint Illinois yellow since according to him, “corn, especially the kind for popcorn is a major crop for Illinois.” (A little tidbit he learned from his last field trip when we still lived there.)

Since Kennedy is our “artist-in-residence”, Julian commissioned her to do the painting. The brush and paint tubs were small, so it was very easy for her little hands to manipulate the paints, and she quickly transformed our drab, plaster colored mold into a brilliant “corn-hued” Illinois. The paint was of average quality…the yellow was a good texture and had an even hue, but the blue paint that we used for the Mississippi river was a bit thin and needed several coats to look presentable.

Continued Learning, Montessori Style

Illinois is a relatively flat state, and an easy first project with this kit. Next time we plan to make a landform that has variations in terrain; a mountain or volcano perhaps, just to test the versatility of this set, and to see if our art skills have improved at all. I think that is a major advantage of this kit, because using it can open dialogue about much more than just the aesthetics of the project…activities like this always bring to mind the Montessori quote, “Hands to Minds.” For my children, a project like this not only shows the shape of Illinois and the placement of cities and rivers, but also prompted questions about the rocks underneath the state, the reasons why the borders were created “that” way and why cities always seemed to be near rivers or lakes. I think to make something in 3-D prompts a different depth of thinking about a subject than simply looking at a 2-D document or website may do…which is of course, a central theme of the Montessori method.

Just don’t forget to allow enough time for drying, especially if you’ve got a due date!

Montessori Materials: GeoSculpt 3D Project Sculpting KitGeoSculpt 3-D Project Sculpting Kit

I would recommend this kit for multiple age levels…you could easily tailor the amount detail to the level of your child. Since you can create a state, country or any other landform you and your child can determine which geographic items… lakes, rivers and mountains, etc. you would like to incorporate into your project. Inside the box you’ll find a foam base for creating your landform, a roll of “magic” plaster gauze, 6 acrylic paints, a paintbrush and an illustrated instruction guide, but you have to use your creative license to decide how to add texture and elevation to your work. This kit definitely allows you to create much more engaging maps than the tried-and-true drawn on poster board kind, and makes any creative experience much more hands-on. Buy on Amazon


About Tieast

Tieast Leverett is a freelance writer, a corporate and technical trainer, a travel fanatic, a motivational speaker and most importantly a single mother of two fabulous children.

1 Comment

  1. Sherrice

    We should do a project like this next time we get the kids together! Sounds awesome!

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