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Make a Roman Shield

This Roman shield has been a long time coming. We have had many previous attempts when the boys were smaller but had problems keeping the curved shape of the shield. So when my daughter decided that she wanted to make one for a school topic we just had to come up with the new improved version..

make your own Roman Shield

The original Roman shields or Scutums were made of layers of wood, with a metal frame and boss (the sticky out bit). They were most commonly rectangular in shape and big enough to properly hide behind. The wood was enough to stop most missiles but still light enough to carry.

In battles ranks of Roman Legionaries could overlap their shields to form a wall, or even make a roof above their heads to form a testudo (which is latin for tortoise.)

Form testudo!

To make your very own shield you will need:

  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Red paint
  • Gold card
  • Silver paint
  • Plain card
  • Round plastic tub or the bottom of a plastic bottle
  • Silver duct tape

First cut out a large rectangle from the corrugated cardboard. Make sure that the corrugations run from top to bottom – this is essential so that the shield can curve around your body.

Next round off the corners – we used a bowl as a template.

Make your own Roman Scutum

Cut two long buy cheap cytotec online strips of cardboard and stick them across the back of the shield in the middle. Then stick the two ends together (you could also staple them for extra strength.) You want to make the strap short enough so that the whole shield curves.

make your own Roman shield

make your own Roman shieldNow make the metal boss. Cut a circle in the centre of a piece of card just smaller than your pot slip the pot through it. Either tape it or glue it in place. Once the glue is dry you can paint it silver or gold. We sprayed it with some metallic paint we had but acrylic paint would also work well.

make your own Roman shield

Paint the front of the shield, stick on the boss and then you can decorate it with the gold paper. Make sure you get your pets to help out.

To finish it off stick some of the duct tape round the edge of the shield.

Finished!

prepare to receive missiles

take cover!We had great fun using it to protect against hails of nerf bullets and a toy cross bow. Now we just need to make a few more so we can form a testudo…

 

Make a Victoria Cross

Our Victoria Cross
The boys are both doing World War 2 as their history topic this year, so we have been doing a bit of extra reading and finding out about some of the astounding bravery shown by soldiers, spys, animals and members of the public during this war.

We found out a bit more about the Victoria Cross, the highest level of award, given for “… most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.”

It was only awarded 182 times during the whole of the WW2, often posthumously, meaning that it was awarded to someone who died as a result of their actions. One soldier from New Zealand, Charles Upham, amazingly won the Victoria Cross on two separate occasions and lived to tell the tale.

Interesting Facts about the Victoria Cross

  1. It was introduced by Queen Victoria during the Crimean War.
  2. The original Crosses were supposed to be made from the metal from a Russian cannon captured during the Crimean War.
  3. There is enough of this metal left to make another 80 medals (approximately.)
  4. If a group of men were found to be all brave then a ballot is drawn to see who would receive the medal.
  5. If you are awarded a Victoria Cross the government will also give you a small amount of money each year for the rest of your life.
  6. Since WWII it has been awarded another 16 occasions.
  7. A total of 1,359 Victoria Crosses have ever cytotec online no prescription been awarded.
  8. No woman has ever been awarded the Victoria Cross.

Make your own Victoria Cross

After reading all of this, it only seemed right that we should make some of our own medals. We used some Newclay Airdough to make them, but I think any air drying clay would work just as well.

First take a look at some of the original medals – the Victoria Cross is made of bronze, in a cross shape with the words ‘for valour’ on the front. It also has the crown of Saint Edward with a lion on top of it, though this is much trickier to make, so best of luck with that!

Victoria_Cross

We cut the cross shape out, then added details as best we could.

Make your own Victoria Cross

We left it overnight to dry then mixed some gold and black paints to make a bronze colour.

Once the paint was dry we stuck the crimson ribbon on with some glue.

Our Victoria Cross

Finished! We made a few other medals while we were at it. You can copy some real medals – have a look here to see some, or you can create some of your own. How about the ‘Friendship medallion’ the ‘Kindest Sibling Cross’ or the ‘Homework Star’?

medals

 

Read some of the amazing stories of some of the people who won the Victoria Cross here and here.

STOP PRESS! Have a look at this news story about the most recent soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross, Joshua Leakey, a paratrooper who showed “complete disregard” for his own safety during a Taliban attack in Afghanistan.

Celebrate Saturnalia!

Does it feel like you are getting up in the middle of the night at the moment? That you are dragging yourself to work or school when you should be in bed because it’s just so dark? Now imagine that you don’t have any electric lights and the only light you have is from candles or oil lamps and open fires. So maybe it should be no surprise that people have been marking the day that the nights stop getting longer for as long as we can tell.

The midwinter solstice, the shortest day of the year, has been celebrated for thousands of years. How do we know? Well, many neolithic henges and chambers have been found to be aligned to the winter solstice dawn or sunset. Stonehenge, for example, is aligned with the setting sun on midwinters day. Although this might not prove that the people who built these monuments ‘celebrated’ midwinter as such, it must have been an incredibly important time of year. It also shows that they must have had a good understanding of astronomy and have studied the sky over many years.

stonehenge

The Romans also had one of their most important order cytotec online festivals over the midwinter period – Saturnalia. On the 17th of December, a ceremony dedicated to the God Saturn would start the festival followed by feasting, gift giving and general partying. Slaves and their masters would trade positions, gambling was allowed for the only time in the year and children would become masters for the day. Greenery was taken into the house and lots of candles were used. These festivities could last a week! Does it remind you of any other winter festivals by any chance?

Saturnalia

So tonight we had our own Saturnalia celebrations – we decorated the table with leaves and candles and had a Roman style feast with breads, cheese, olives, stuffed chicken, salads, eggs, grapes, cheesecake and grape juice to drink. Had we really got our act together we could have made some stuffed dates, pizza or honey cakes too, but well, we also a bit busy getting ready for christmas!

saturnalia

The kids were happy enough to be the masters during the feast but I had to draw the line at staying up all night. It would be interesting to find out how that would have played out in real Roman houses!

Make a Roman oil lamp

lamp6

We recently went on a camping holiday which made me think about how different life must have been before there was electric light. It is very hard to do anything once the daylight goes, even with plenty of candles about. So what was it like before electricity was invented?

Oil lamps have been found in many Ancient civilizations and there are many examples of Roman oil lamps. Many of these were made from clay which was set in moulds and then fired. The lamps were often decorated with patterns or pictures like this one in the British Museum, which has a picture of gladiators fighting on it!

We thought it would be a good idea to have a go at making one. It turned out to be quite a difficult thing to do so children might need a bit of adult help at some points.

How to make your own Roman Lamp

You will need:

  • some air drying clay
  • a piece of kitchen towel
  • some olive oil

First make the base of the lamp – take a lump of the clay and roll it out until it about a cm thick. Keeping the bottom of the lamp circular, start pinching up the sides until it start to look like a small circular bowl. Then you can  pinch one side together to make the spout.

lamp1

Next tool out another circle to make the lid. Decorate it and make a hole to pour the oil into. We did this using a felt tip pen. Cut the circle to fit the size of the lamp then use plenty of water and stick the two pieces together.

lamp4

Attach a small piece of clay to the lamp to make the handle and let the lamp dry out for a couple of days.

lamp3

Once it is dry you can try it out! buy misoprostol online take a piece of kitchen roll the length of the lamp base – roll and twist it into a thin rope. This will be the lamp wick which draws the oil out of the lamp. In Ancient Rome rolled up linen was often used in a similar way.

lamp7

Pour some olive oil into the hole in the top of the lamp and wait a while until you can see it  soaking into the wick. You can now light the wick.

lamp6

Finished – this is the perfect light to use at a Roman feast.

The only slight problem with our one was the smell. It was slightly stinky when we blew it out , and gave off quite a sooty smoke. It might be worth experimenting with some different kinds of oils or wicks to see if some other vegetable oils are better, but is likely that olive oil was used in many of these lamps. Did the whole of Rome smell like this in the evenings? It would be lovely to know!

But actually I am pretty impressed with this lamp. It burns brightly and evenly and is easy to use. I can imagine slaves in Ancient Rome going round topping up the oil in them each day. It is also a very eco-friendly way of lighting the house – especially if you owned a few olive trees. Just the job if you have a power cut and have run out of candles.

Find out more about this kind of lamp here and see a cute lamp on the BBC’s Roman page here.

D-Day for children

Omaha

This time 70 years ago something momentous was happening in Britain; everyone was getting ready for the biggest seaborne invasion of all time. On June the 6th 1944, in World War II, the allied forces invaded Normandy and started to push the Germans back. It is thought that this day, D-day, was the turning point in the second world war which eventually led to victory for the allied forces.

D-day really means ‘the day’. There was a countdown; D minus 2, D minus 1, so D-day was the day for the invasion to happen. The invasion itself was called Operation Overlord.

The South of England must have been like a huge army camp with soldiers from many allied nations including Britian, America and Canada waiting for the start of the big invasion of German occupied Europe. Many months of planning included inventing new kinds of landing crafts, building floating harbours, building underwater fuel lines, and bringing hundreds of thousands of soldiers to the South Coast of Britain. There were also amazing plots to mislead the Germans, making them think that the invasion would happen on a different part of the French coast.

D-day map

The night before D-Day, the assault on Normandy started, with planes bombarding the coast with thousands of bombs. Next the paratroopers were sent in under cover of darkness to secure some strategic bridges and protect the flanks for the troops arriving the following day by sea. It is easy to imagine how terrifying it must have been to be parachuted into enemy territory at night. Have a look at the BBC site for an animated map of attack!

361px-Paratrooper_about_to_jump_into_combat_on_1944-6-6

The next day thousands of boats brought 160,000 soldiers across the English channel where they landed on several different beaches. Men had to jump out of the boats and wade into the sea to get onto the beach. Some of the beaches  were heavily defended by German machine guns and many men were killed and injured.

Operation_Overlord_(the_Normandy_Landings)-_D-day_6_June_1944_B5245

Despite these losses, the invasion on D-day did manage to give the Allied forces a foothold in Europe. After that day they could brought more men and supplies over safely and started to push the Germans back to eventually win the war in 1945.

Omaha wounded

What is significant cytotec online about this 70th anniversary of D-Day is that people still remember D-day, either because they were there, or because they heard about it. In another 30 years on the 100th anniversary it is very unlikely that any eyewitnesses will still be around. So now is the time to ask people what they can remember about D-Day and life during the Second World War. Ask your grandparents, great-grandparents or friends who would have been around back then. Ask them what they were doing on D-Day, did they know anyone in the invasion forces? What did they do during the war? Almost everyone will have fascinating stories to tell.

My own children have heard stories from one granny who was evacuated to the countryside during the war. The other granny told us about her brother who ran away to the army to enlist as a paratrooper at the age of 16, and her mother who would pace the floors at night worrying about him! One great-grandad was given a medal for working in the minesweeper boats, another was a blackout warden.

If you can’t find anyone who can tell you about D-day, you could try listening to some of these eyewitness accounts.

There are also some fantastic books for older children to read set in the second world war. These have been some of our favourites;

  • Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden
  • Machine Gunners by Robert Westall
  • Time Train to the Blitz by Sophie McKenzie
  • My Friend the Enemy by Dan Smith (at the end of which I disgraced myself by crying in front of the kids while reading it out loud)
  • D-Day, My Story by Bryan Perrett
  • Second World War, Usborne sticker dressing book

There are some good websites too. Try planning Operation Overlord here, or look at the BBC’s website to find out more about life during the Second World War.

And if you are ever in North Yorkshire then try and make it to Eden Camp; a World War II museum set in an old prisoner of war camp. It is brilliant for children, with plenty to touch, see and hear, and it is very interactive. The wartime cafe  and adventure playground also make it fantastic day out.

 

Make an American Indian Armband

bracelet3

People have lived in North America for more than 15,000 years. When Christopher Columbus arrived in North America, he thought he had arrived in India which is why the indigenous people there were called Indians!

These original Americans lived in tribes, some which you might have heard of  like the Apaches, Cherokees and Sioux. They made useful items like bags, belts and shoes that were decorated with beautiful beadwork. Originally the  beads were carved from natural materials like shells, coral, stone, teeth and bone, but later after the Europeans arrived, they used glass beads that they bought.

Each tribe made different patterns, some floral and some geometric. Most of the patterns are symmetrical. We thought we would have a go at making our own version of a beaded armband.

Make your own American Indian Armband

You will need:

  • some Hama beads in a variety of colours
  • a Hama bead board
  • a jar or glass which is the same cytotec online usa size as you want your armband to be
  • an iron
  • a piece of greaseproof paper (or the paper that come with Hama beads when you buy them)

First make your pattern with the Hama beads. It is easiest to keep the pattern symmetrical if you make the armband in 3, 5 or 7 rows. Have a look at some of these original Sioux bands for inspiration:

362px-Collection_of_6_pieces_of_Sioux_Indian_bead_work_(belts?)_on_display,_ca.1900_(CHS-4055)

When you are happy with your design you are ready to iron it.

bracelet6 Ask a grown up to help with this bit. Get the jar ready. Once the beads have started to melt, take them quickly and wrap the band round the jar and leave it to cool. It should cool into its round shape.

bracelet5

There, your armband is finished. You can try making different patterns and colour combinations. It can become quite addictive!

bracelets1

Why not make a Tomahawk to go with your new armbands?

The mystery of the Neolithic stone balls.

ball2

One of the things I love about the Neolithic is the number of totally weird things that have been found. And for most of these we have absolutely  no idea at all what they were used for. Like stone circles, man made hills, deer skulls that might have been worn as masks, and knobbly stone balls. Yes, knobbly stone balls. Look at  this beautiful example from 3200 – 2500BC which was found in Aberdeenshire.

528px-Towriepetrosphere

You can also see some real ones at the British Museum.

Almost 400 of these balls have been found, most of them in Scotland, including five from Skara Brae. Most of them are around 7cm in diameter and almost half of them have six knobs, though some have less and some have more. The are all symmetrical and some were decorated with spirals and other patterns.

No-one really has any clue as to what these balls are all about, but here are some of the ideas that archaeologists have had:

  1. they were used as weapons – maybe swung round in a leather strap then flung
  2. they were used as balls in a game
  3. they were weights
  4. they were used to help in the construction of stone circles somehow
  5. they were used in rituals of some sort

They must have taken a very long time to make, and some were incredibly beautiful, buying cytotec which makes me think they must have been precious objects. Very few of them are damaged or chipped which makes it less likely that they were chucked about. We thought we would try and made some of our own to see if that would give us any ideas.

Make your own Neolithic stone balls

Take a lump of air drying clay about the size of a tennis ball and roll in into a sphere.

ball5

 

Next, work out where your knobs will be. If you are making a six knob one, you will need three pairs of knobs, with one knob on either side of the sphere, like sides of a dice. Now you can carve out the knobs using a modelling tool (or your fingers).

ball3

Once your knobs have been carved you can smooth them out bit with a finger dipped in water and then decorate them.  You could make spirals, or use something else to make a pattern. My daughter rolled hers around on a cheese grater (as you do.)

ball1

There, your balls are finished. They are lovely to hold in your hand, and it is very tempting to roll them along the ground or play bowls with them. What do you think? Do you have any other ideas? You never know – maybe you could be right!

 

 

 

 

Make an Egyptian Sistrum

Abu_Simbel_Nefartari_Sistrum-2

Have you ever noticed that Egyptian Goddesses sometimes hold this funny looking object? It turns out that it is something called a sistrum, which not only looks beautiful, but makes a sound too. It was first used in Ancient Egypt and could be made of wood, pottery or bronze. The loop at the end has thin metal rods strung across it from which beads or metal strips were threaded. These would slide against each other when the sistrum was shaken to make a sound just like a rattle.

It is thought to have been used in religious ceremonies and was associated with the Goddess Hathor. Perhaps it played a rhythm to accompany a sacred chant, or made a noise to scare away evil spirits. In some Ethiopian churches, sistrum’s are still used by priests today.

We have made our own version here. It might require a bit of pre-planning or rummaging through the recycling to find some things to make the jangles.

sistrum8

 

You will need:

  • some stiff cardboard
  • some flexible thin cardboard (an old cereal box is ideal)
  • glue, scissors
  • gold paint
  • pipecleaners or thin metal wire
  • jangly things – we used cheap valtrex some bells from the craft shop and some buttons.
  • sistrum4

Cut out two handles from the thick cardboard and stick them together to make the handle stronger.

sistrum7

Cut out a long thin strip from the flexible card. Make a slit at both ends so that it will slot onto the sticking out bits on the handle. Check that it will make a loop. Carefully make a couple of small holes in the both sides of the strip.  Thread a pipe cleaner or a piece of wire through a hole on one side and fix it in place with some sticky tape. Thread your jangly things onto the wire and then  put it through the holes on the other side. Tape them in place too.

sistrum6

You can spray the whole thing gold if you fancy or just get playing. Ours sounded very different – one jingly and one sort of clackety. I love the idea that we could recreate the sounds that once played in Ancient Egypt. I would love to hear what the original ones sounded like, wouldn’t you?

 

Make an Egyptian Circlet

Diadem1

Have you ever noticed that in lots of Egyptian paintings people are wearing bands round their heads? Some seem to look like they are made of gold, some of the ones worn by royalty have snakes or animals at the front. Others have patterns similar to the collars they wear. So what are they? This needed some further investigation.

512px-RamsesIII_and_Horus_in_QV44

It turns out that these things are known as circlets, and were popular in ancient Egypt. They were worn by both men and women, and by rich and poor. At first they were simple bands made of woven reeds used to keep long hair in place. Plain linen circlets that were knotted at the back were also popular, and it was fashionable to tuck some lotus blossoms or other flowers into them.

circlet ladies

Of course, the rich started to make their circlets more elaborate, and started using gold wire instead or reeds or linen, and gems and beads instead of flowers. Kings and Queens would wear gold circlets  mounted with a vulture or a cobra which were symbols of royalty. Have a look at this beautiful one which was found in the tomb of  Princess Sit-Hathor Yunet, a sister of the Pharaoh.

512px-Crown_of_Sit-Hathor_Yunet_(Senusret_II's_daughter)

                                                     (photo: doxycycline online pharmacy Hanns Ollerman, from Wikimedia Commons)
 

So inspired by this we decided to make our own version. Here is how we did it:

Make your own Egyptian circlet

You will need:

  • some thin card ( a cereal box is ideal)
  • gold paint – spray paint in quickest, but other paint will work too.
  • small amounts of acrylic paint in other colours
  • glue

Cut some long strips of the card about 3cm wide and glue them together so they fit snugly round your head.

Cut out a snake shape and bend it round a pencil to make the curves of the cobra. Stick the base of the cobra to the bottom of the circlet. Use a small piece of card to attach the top to the top of the circlet.

diadem2 diadem3

Cut out some round circles out of card – a 10p is a good template, but some golden chocolate coin wrappers would be even better if you happen to have any.

Spray all of the card gold, then decorate with the acrylic paint.

diadem4

Finished!

diadem5

Make a pterodactyl

OK, so this is maybe a little off subject, but I suppose you could argue that history extends as far back as you want it to, and if you can time travel to ancient egypt, well, why not back to the Jurassic too? My daughter has to give a talk on dinosaurs at school and she has chosen pterodactyls as her specialist subject (although we have just discovered that they aren’t actually called pterodactyls , and are not really dinosaurs after all – do you think her teacher will mind?) Anyway, to make her talk a bit more exciting we made….

pterodactyl4

This was a super easy project. Here is how to do it.

Make your own pterodactyl!

Cut out the shapes for the wings and the head from a piece of cardboard. You can do this freehand for a really big pterodactyl or you could use our template for a small one. Score down the centre of the wings very gently with a sharp knife to allow it to bend.

pterodactyl3

Cut a thin slit in the head and slot it onto the wings. If it doesn’t fit all that buy cytotec 200 mg snugly put a blob of glue between the two.

pterodactyl2

Now you can paint it or colour it in. We used some pastels which were fun to smudge the colours together. No-one really knows what colour they really were so you can go to town and use your imagination.

You can now put it on a stand or attach some string to the wings.They would make a fantastic mobile too I think.

Done!

Here are some of the things we found out about pterodactyls:

  • there is no such thing really as a pterodactyl – they are pterosaurs!
  • there are lots of different kinds of pterosaurs, from small ones the size of birds today to huge ones the size of a small plane.
  • they were not really dinosaurs, but winged lizards and they did not have feathers.
  • some of them had huge crests on their heads, but no-one knows why.
  • fossilised footprints suggest they walked on 4 legs when they were not flying.
  • birds evolved from small dinosaurs, not from pterosaurs.