In my son Luke’s K-5/First Grade co-op class, we’ve been using the Five In A Row curriculum. Because our co-op meets once a week, we choose a book for the week and center the class activities around it. This week, our book was The Clown of God by Tomie dePaola.
The story takes place in Renaissance Italy, so we talked about the Renaissance and the types of clothing people wore. We discussed Renaissance architecture, such as the buildings and bridges, as recommended in Five In a Row. Children this age really enjoy hands-on activities, though, so I wanted to find a craft they could all work at and have fun with. So we decided on building our own “Renaissance” structures — using just gumdrops and toothpicks!
Here’s how we did it:
Supplies (for 10 children):
- Gumdrops (we used three small bags from the grocery store)
- Toothpicks (we used two boxes with 250 toothpicks in each)
- Sturdy paper plates
To start, we gave each child a paper plate on which to build his or her structure. We then placed the gumdrops on plates and set them in the middle of the table where everyone could reach them. We gave each child a handful of toothpicks to start with. I then showed them how to push a toothpick into a gumdrop and then connect it to another gumdrop by pushing in the other end.
The children caught on quickly, and were soon designing their own structures by forming squares and triangles. One even resembled a pyramid. Some of the children built their structures two- and three-”stories” high; when the buildings began to tip over (still held together with toothpicks), they turned into even more interesting shapes. It was fun to see how many different designs they came up with.
All in all, it was a good day for the Renaissance. I’m sure most (if not all) of the students will forget the word “Renaissance” before the end of the day (it’s a big one, after all), but they won’t soon forget building their gumdrop structures. Especially since they took them home to display.