Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Meet Thoth :)

For the past few weeks Brendan's class at school has been studying ancient Egypt. They've been working in groups to make model pyramids, learning about what is believed to be the everyday life of ancient Egyptians, & also were asked to choose a god or goddess to do a research project on (he chose Thoth, the god of wisdom, scribes, & magic). Brendan has enjoyed this unit & was able to bring some resources from home for his research- one of my cousins married a man from Egypt & has sent Brendan books on Egypt & also pictures of her family in front of the pyramids- pretty cool! A couple of weekends ago Brendan found himself challenged by the homework, though... well, the fact that they had homework over the weekend (not a usual phenomenon :) was the first challenge to wrap his head around. He has very specific ideas of when & where homework should occur, & we are generally supportive of these ideas, since he needs his down-time at home very much. This is the first year since homework became part of life (in 3rd grade) that he (now in 6th grade) has been able to cope with consistently doing homework- big sigh of relief! So Brendan met the weekend homework assignment with mixed feelings, particularly since it was a craft project...

Brendan is one of the many on the spectrum who really dislikes getting his hands messy or gooey. His fine-motor co-ordination has come along very nicely & although he doesn't much like cutting with scissors or glueing things together, he will do it if someone sticks by him. I was really proud & amazed when he went along with the mask-making project at school- using plaster of paris strips on a form to make a mask of his chosen Egyptian god. He had drawn & cut out facial features, & then worked with a couple of his teachers to do the messy parts. I was there when they did it & watched him do it! He was just about maxxed-out by the gooiness of the plaster by the time he finished, & ran straight for the sink to rinse his hands afterward, but he did it :) The painting of the dry mask went better & he happily told me about the cool colours he choose for it after school one day. Again, hooray!

The weekend project was to make a statue, at least 12 inches high, of their chosen god. Brendan's first reaction was to opt out. It was an option, since his teachers are very reasonable about not pushing him too hard when it comes to homework (or allowing him to do it at school, rather than at home). Charlie told Brendan that he thought it could be fun & why don't they try doing it together? Brendan cautiously agreed... And so began an interesting weekend for all of us :)

They discussed options & decided to do a mixed-media project. They found a mailing tube that was already more than 12" tall, & then Charlie discovered that an old medicine bottle fit perfectly into the top... which led them to decided to make "Thoth as Pez dispenser :) They decided to make the head from sculpey, so I gave them total access to my sculpey stash, plus made them look at the Klutz sculpey book before going ahead. This helped them decide to make a tin foil armature first, since it would make the head lighter. They used a straightened-out paper clip for the beak (Thoth has the head of an ibis).

Charlie cut a circle out of waxed paper the same size as the top of the bottle to use as a template, so it would be the right size. They worked for over an hour on the sculpture, & then drilled holes in the lid & bottle (to wire the top in so it could be flipped off like a Pez dispenser) while it baked. I really enjoyed watching them work on it together, heads bent over various bits & pieces, discussion of how to fit things together, how best to smooth the sculpey, what colour to make the eyes :) By the end of day 1, the head was made & epoxyed to the lid & Brendan had discovered that he likes the feeling of working with sculpey. Hooray!

On day 2 it was my turn to get involved, since we needed to dress Thoth in the latest ancient Egyptian style. I brought down odds & ends of fabric & Brendan & I looked a pictures to decide how he wanted it to look. I draped & he critiqued, & finally we finished it off with a ribbon belt & a torque made from a string of glass beads Brendan had made. He was really pleased. So were we... on many levels. First, he hadn't opted out of a challenging assignment. Then... he had fun doing it! So did we :) And, mostly, I am always looking for ways to share the wonderful feeling I feel when I make stuff, with Brendan. This is not something that comes as naturally to him as it does to me, but the feeling of accomplishment is something that just makes me want to keep doing it, making things, experimenting with ideas & techniques & media. It was so lovely to see him enjoying himself so much while doing this. And... it was a great hit at school (especially the Pez... :). As I think of the summer ahead, I think we'll be doing more with sculpey- maybe this year he'll make beads to use for his holiday gifts!

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At 2:45 PM, Blogger Bev said...

I like it! Yeah, sculpey clay is good stuff, not sticky or gooey, just the right firmness.

At 2:49 PM, Blogger kristina said...

Charlie's wary of getting his hands into glue etc too---also is happier with clay.

So I guess Thoth dispenses bits of wisdom rather than candy.....

At 1:12 PM, Blogger Lisa/Jedi said...

Yeah, sculpey really is neat stuff. Plus it's firm & requires a lot of kneading, which can be a very calming activity :) (I find it that way...).

I love the idea of Thoth dispensing wisdom, Kristina! (So did Brendan :)

At 4:13 PM, Blogger FinnyB said...

I'm an undiagnosed Aspie (as I may have said at some point in the past in some other comment). While I will use glue and paper mache (which I can't spell!) and plaster of paris if I have to, and do love making things of all types (just wish I could make a living at it, as that would much better suit me than any traditional sort of job!), I much prefer working with both clay and Sculpy. They're so much fun! And I love the stuff Brendan's come up with for this project--wish my teachers had thought of interesting topics to study like that! (I've always been fascinated by Egypt, particularly ancient Egypt.)


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