Long-toed Shoes

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During the Gothic period, cities showed off their wealth by building giant fancy cathedrals.  People showed off their wealth by wearing fancy clothes and long-toed shoes.  It’s possible that the tall spires on the cathedrals inspired the long-toed shoes; known as Crakows because they originated in Krakow, Poland.  The shoes are also called poulaines.  Poulaine refers to the long pointed tip of the shoe. 

Cobblers were the shoemakers who made shoes for commoners and peasants.  It was the cordwainers who made shoes for the rich.  In those days, shoes were not made to fit each foot.  The left and right shoe were exactly the same.  The shoes were made of leather.  Rich people’s shoes had elaborate patterns and embroidery.  Everyone else wore plain leather shoes.  Because the shoes were made entirely of leather, they could easily be ruined if the wearer walked on a muddy road or stepped in a puddle.  To protect the soles of the shoes, people wore wooden patens under their shoes to keep them dry.  Patens were a flat piece of wood with two wedges of wood on the bottom.  People tied the patens on their feet, over their shoes, with leather straps.

The pointy-toed shoes were very impractical.  Sometimes the toe of the shoe was so long, the wearer had to stuff it with hair or moss to help it hold its shape.  

This long-toed shoes craft will give your students an idea of what it would be like to walk around in shoes with toes that are much longer than your foot.  It takes about fifteen minutes to color and assemble one shoe.  If you have time, you can have the kids make two shoes, but one is enough to experience the ridiculousness of wearing a shoe with a super long toe. 

For added fun, you can have a Gothic shoe fashion show.

Medieval Catapult

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A catapult is a medieval device used to hurl objects into and over castle walls.  Catapults were able to hurl 300 pound boulders as far as 1000 feet.  The big rocks would eventually break through castle walls so the opposing army could enter the castle.  But rocks weren’t the only things medieval armies hurled at castles.  Sometimes they loaded their catapult with buckets of hot tar to set fires inside the castle.  They also loaded the catapult with stinky garbage or diseased corpses to drive out the people who were in the castle.



The earliest known catapult was invented in ancient Greece by a man named Dionysius the Elder in 400 BCE.  He designed the catapult to operate like a giant crossbow.  Instead of using arrows as ammunition, his catapult shot sharpened logs.


The mangonel is a standard catapult with a long wooden arm and a bucket for flinging objects.  The mangonel could be as large as a truck, so it was built on wheels to make it easier to transport.


This catapult has a long wooden arm with a sling on one end and a counterweight on the other.  They were still used during WWI to launch projectiles over trenches.


The catapult craft isn’t a scientifically working catapult.  It will give students an idea of what the medieval catapults looked like.  After they’ve made their catapults, your students can use them to play launching game.  Set up an area where your students can launch their payload of pom-pons or crumpled paper balls into a cardboard box.  You can even decorate the box to look like a castle.

To make this craft you’ll need a large popsicle stick, a water bottle lid, a small rubber band and a 5” dowel for each student.  You’ll also need a hot glue gun to glue the bottle lid to the popsicle stick.  The craft works best when printed on cardstock paper.

Handwritten Book

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                 The printing press didn’t exist in the early Middle Ages, and yet, there are beautiful books from that time period.  The books of the early Middle Ages were made entirely by hand.  The pages were vellum or parchment made of specially treated animal skins.  Each page was handwritten in Latin, mostly by religious people; monks or nuns.  The pages were illustrated, decorated, and illuminated.  Illumination made the pages look like they were glowing.  To illuminate the artwork, the writer brushed on gold or silver leaf and bright mineral paints.  Finally, the book pages were stitched together and bound in a leather cover.  The books were stored in libraries of the European monasteries.  Hand-copying books was very time consuming.  Copying the bible took about 15 months.  But copying books was necessary to preserve knowledge.  Monks often traveled to other monasteries to copy the books from their libraries.


                 The Pied Piper of Hamelin is an ancient story, a legend, from the town of Hamelin, Germany.  The main character is called the Pied Piper because he is a musician who plays a pipe.  And the word pied means multicolored clothing.  No one knows exactly when the story was created, but there are a lot of theories about its origin.  Some people think it began as a story of hope.  During the Middle Ages, many towns were hit by terrible plagues that spread because of large rat populations.  It’s likely that a storyteller invented a tale of a magical man who had the ability to make the rats go away.  But the other aspect of the story, the moral, gives the story a meaning that applies today:  Keep your promises or something bad might happen.


The purpose of this craft is to give your students an idea of how time consuming and difficult it is to copy text onto blank unlined pages. You can decide how complicated you want the craft to be. Just doing the craft in the most basic way; the writing, layout, and stitching the pages together, will take at least an hour.

If you want to make the book look like it has a leather cover:  1.  Crumble a 10X13” piece of tissue paper.  Un-crumble it and spread it flat with your hands.  2.  Spread watered down school glue (1 part water + 1 part glue) on the book cover page with a paint brush.  3.  Lay the tissue paper over the glued book cover page.  Spread it flat with your hands.  4.  Sponge brown and black paint over the tissue paper.  5.  Let it dry.  Trim the excess tissue paper from the edges.

Greek Theater Mask

Ancient Greek Theater Masks Craft
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The ancient Greeks loved theater.  They had two theater festivals each year that lasted all day for three days.  Businesses were closed on festival days.  Everyone  was allowed to attend — even prisoners and women.  The plays were performed in large outdoor theaters.  There were two kinds of plays: comedies and tragedies.  The comedies made fun of everyday people and politics.  The tragedies dealt with serious subjects like war.  The actors wore tall boots and heavy robes to make themselves larger than life.  They also wore large masks that were created to give the audience an idea of their character’s age and personality.  The masks had funnel-shaped mouths to amplify the actor’s voice.  


The earliest Greek plays included a large chorus and dealt with the lives of gods and goddesses.

Aeschylus (525-456 BC) He reduced the size of the chorus and made bigger parts for individual characters.

Euripides (484-406 BC) He introduced characters with recognizable problems and personalities.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) He built suspense in his tragedies.

Aristophanes (450-388 BC) His comedies poked fun at the politics and people of the time.

In 320 BC the architect, Polykleitos, built a theater that could seat 13,000 people.  Everyone in the audience had an equal view of the performers.  The sound quality was amazing.  Plays are still performed there today.


Greek theater masks were made of cloth, covered in plaster, then colored.  If you want to make this craft seem as if it were made using this technique, you can have your students scribble horizontal and vertical lines over the mask using a white crayon.  Then have them brush over the mask with watercolor paint.  They can paint the mask parts page in the same way.  Just remember to have them dab the excess water off of their paper so it won’t wrinkle.  Wait for the mask and parts to dry before cutting out the pieces.


Click to view or print the pattern and instructions for this craft.

Lamassu from the Citadel of Sargon II


The lamassu is a human-headed winged bull.   It is a Sumerian protective deity.  Enormous pairs of Lamassu were carved into giant slabs of stone and placed at the entrances of the brick citadel (fortress) built for King Sargon II.  Sargon II was the king of the Assyrian Empire.  The Assyrians borrowed their ideas from the Sumerians, but they reimagined them to make them their own.

The Lamassu is a relief sculpture, which means it’s a sculpture that’s attached to the stone it was carved from.  The lamassu was carved to appear strong and steady from the front, but from the side, it looks like it’s walking forward.  It was meant to look powerful and menacing.  The cuneiform writing underneath the Lamassu is a warning to all who enter.

Stone Masons were the artists of the Mesopotamian empire.  They carved the relief sculptures into stone slab and walls.  Their art was made to glorify the gods and kings.

If you want to make the lamassu look like the relief sculptures at the entrances of Sargon’s citadel, you’ll need to make a pair of them and create a paper arch to attach to them.  We made our paper arch by cutting a sheet of paper in half lengthwise and gluing the halves together at the short ends,  Then we arched the paper and placed a lamassu at the bottom inside of each side of the arch.  You can stand a small action figure between the arches to get a feeling of how large the lamassu really are.

Neolithic Settlement Diorama


The Agricultural Revolution

Agriculture is farming.  Farming started a new way of life.  As you recall, the people of the Old Stone Age were hunters and gatherers.  Because they found their food, they had to travel, by foot, to places where food was available.  This made life difficult.  Over time, people realized that the seeds of the plants they were gathering could be placed in the ground to make new plants.  That started a new way of life.  The families of the New Stone Age were able to settle in one place and grow their own food.

A Settlement is a small village. The people of the Neolithic Age chose to live near water because all living things need water to survive.  They used the materials that nature offered to build their houses.  Settlements that were built in areas that had lots of trees, used the branches and leaves for home building.  If the area had lots of dirt, homes were built of mud-bricks.  Planting crops provided most of the food, but people still hunted and gathered food when they needed to.

Domestication means to grow or to tame.  As mentioned, plants were domesticated.  Seeds were dried and sorted.  The best seeds were planted.  Also, animals were domesticated.  Settled people began to feed and tame various animals like cows, goats, and sheep.  Early on, they realized that placing a circle of stones around a group of sheep would keep the sheep in place.  The sheep wouldn’t step over the stones.  The animals were used for food and clothing.  Cows and goats provided milk and meat.  Sheep were shaved and their wool fur was woven into cloth.

The settled life gave people time to think and discover.  There were many new inventions like looms for weaving, pottery for carrying and storing food, and sewing needles made of bone that were used to stitch fabric.  Dyes for fabrics were made from various plants.  Farming tools were invented.  It’s likely that the wheel was invented in the late Neolithic Period.

Print this craft to make a Neolithic village for your display table.  If you have several students, have everyone color the hut on page 1.  You can have your students draw their own people and animals for the display, if you’d like.  You can also add rocks, plants, and sticks to the scene to make it more interesting.

Skull Puzzles

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Piecing Together the Past

Archeology and Anthropology

Anthropology is the study of humans.  Anthropologists are the scientists who seek to understand the human experience from the beginning to present day.

Archeology is the study of human history through the excavation (digging) of ancient sites where humans left clues behind.

Fossilization occurs when a living thing dies and its bones turn to stone.

The people of the Old Stone Age didn’t leave written records of their daily lives, but they did leave clues behind to help scientists understand how they lived.  The clues include human bones that have fossilized (turned to stone), stone tools, and cave art.  Anthropologists are the scientists who study the clues that are found. There are several ways an anthropologist can find out about the fossils and tools that have been uncovered by archeologists.  One way is Carbon 14 Dating.  Carbon 14 is a radioactive carbon that is found in all living things.  It decays at a steady rate after something dies.  That’s how scientists figure out how long ago it lived.  Another way scientists learn about ancient humans is from DNA testing.  DNA is the blueprint of how a living thing will develop.  DNA is the code that determines eye color, hair color, skin color…  Half of your DNA comes from your mother and half from your father.   Scientists use DNA to find out how things are related.   Scientists also use computer imaging to examine ancient skulls.  They can measure to find out brain size.  They can even reconstruct facial features to find out how the person looked when they were alive.

When a site is excavated, many of the fossil clues are broken up like a jigsaw puzzle.  Archeologists carefully remove the pieces and reassemble them.  If you’ve ever put together a jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the finished picture will look like, you can imagine how difficult this task would be and how much time it would take.


Click here to print the pattern and instructions for the skull puzzles.

You can use this activity in two different ways.

1. Puzzle Worksheet – Make a copy of either puzzle for everyone in your class.  The Neanderthal skull is an easier 9-piece puzzle for younger students.  The Cro-Magnon skull has 16 pieces for older students.  Instruct students to cut the pieces apart and reassemble the skull to look like the skull in the picture.  Or have them put the small picture of the finished skull inside their desk.  They can take it out when they’ve completed the puzzle to check their work.

2. Archeological Dig – You’ll need to prepare a tray for each group of 4 students.  To prepare the tray, you’ll need to print a puzzle or both puzzles for each group.  Laminate the puzzles and cut them out.  Place a set of puzzle pieces across the tray.  Cover the puzzle pieces with sand or rice.  Place four small paint brushes around each tray.  Set a tray in front of each group.  Instruct them to use the brushes to carefully uncover the skull fragments.  The object is to put the skull together without seeing the picture of what the assembled skull will look like.  When the group has finished reconstructing the skull, give them the small picture of the skull so they can check their work.

*You don’t have to make a tray for every group.  You can make just one archeological dig tray for your classroom activity center.  Small groups of students can take turns uncovering the skull pieces and putting them together.

Triangle Tree (Advent Calendar)

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It’s December first—let the countdown begin with this Christmas tree advent calendar. 

Print the tree pattern on cardstock paper.  Have your child or students number the ornaments from 1-24, color the tree, cut it out, and assemble it. 

The children can color an ornament each day.  Or they can place a sticker or craft item on the tree each day.  We used small wooden stars, sequins, and pom-pons on our trees.  Glue them on with a dot of school glue or use a bit of ticky-tack to hold them in place.


Pilgrim Hat Place Cards

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November is the obvious time to ask your students to reflect on the things that they are thankful for.  Mostly, you’ll hear similar responses, “My parents, siblings, home, God, food, friends, my pet…”  But every once in a while, you’ll get the more unique response.  When my son was in preschool, the teacher created a “Wall of Thanks” bulletin board.  There were colorful feathers on the board that included a word or two about what each 4 year old was thankful for.  I noticed a few parents looking at the board and giggling.  Their gaze was fixed on one particular purple feather.  I immediately noticed it belonged to my son.  The words on his feather were, “I am thankful for my intestines.”  I have no idea why he chose to be thankful for his digestive system, but that, according to his teacher, was not just the first thing that came to his mind, it was absolutely what he wanted on his feather.

I pull that feather out of my Thanksgiving decorations bin every year.  And every year, I am thankful for laughter and for my creative kid who always has a different answer than everyone else. 

This quick and easy craft  is perfect for a classroom party or for your own Thanksgiving table. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Witch or Wizard Cone

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From Spiderman to Harry Potter – when you’re a kid, you often dream about the superpower you wish you had and the way in which you’d use it.  When I was in second grade, I wished to have the powers of Samantha Stephens from the TV show Bewitched.  To me, she was the most awesome superhero because she could use her magic to make anything happen.  She could teleport, make objects appear, or move objects.  Her powers were summoned with a twitch of her nose.  My favorite thing she did with her powers was to instantly change outfits or clean a room.  I was a lazy kid and those power seemed very useful! 

Second grade was also the year I was introduced to Norman Bridwell’s book, “The Witch Next Door.”  Most people know of this author because of his Clifford the Big Red Dog series; which is great, too.  But I loved his witch series because it was so magical and the witch was so kind.  When she first moved into the neighborhood, the neighbors were up in arms about their eccentric new neighbor, but as they got to know her, and experience her kindness, they warmed to her uniqueness.  The books were filled with imagination and had a great message about getting to know a person before you judge them. 

To make this craft, it’s best to color the pieces before you cut them out. 

Below is an example of how the wizard and witch look before cutting them out.

We put ticky tack inside their hands so they could hold Styrofoam pumpkins.

Happy Magical Halloween!