SchoolArts Magazine

March 2018

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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SCHOOLARTSMAGAZINE.COM 39 tabs on the edge of the tag board and attach the towers and walls to the base using flat pieces of masking tape. After decorating their fortresses with acrylic paint, students created imaginary inhabitants using self- hardening modeling clay and wrote fantastic adventures about them. Our culminating activity was to test the defensive walls of the castles by build - ing catapults with Popsicle sticks, r ubber bands, and spoons, and firing mini-marshmallows at our creations to see how many could land inside. Anatomy of a Castle Macaulay's castle is based on several real medieval sites. I showed students photographs and floor plans of Caer- philly Castle, Conway Castle, Deal C astle, and Windsor Castle, and asked how these structures were different from each other and how they were similar. (There is no standard shape or structure for a castle. Designs were adapted to suit the site, budget, and military dangers of the day.) Students learned about the anatomy of a castle and the basic elements of architecture that are present in most of them, and were asked to identify those parts in each of the different designs. I asked them to envision themselves back in the Middle Ages, trapped in each castle while it was under siege. I divided the class into groups to discuss how each architectural engineering element was used to keep the inhabit - ants safe from attack. Each castle we looked at had tow- ers, a drawbridge, and ramparts, or walls with a broad top that served as a walkway. The walls of all the castles had embrasures, or holes in the castle walls from which arrows may be shot. Windows were always small and high off the ground. Complex Defense The entrances of castles often had complex defensive systems that included a passageway with a portcul- lis and wooden doors at both ends to t rap intruders, with murder holes cut into the ceiling above. Besides using catapults, enemies would lay siege by camping outside until the residents inside ran out of food. They would also attempt to tunnel underground in order to collapse the walls or use mobile tow - ers in order to breach the compound. T he engineering challenge of creating an impenetrable fortress excited the class and they got to work. Engineering After construction began on the castles, I introduced mini STEAM lessons at the beginning of each class period. Several such engineering and science lessons were on simple machines. Students learned how they could use pulleys to create moving portcullises and drawbridges. Once they started working on their catapults, I introduced the lever. I challenged each student to come up with their own catapult design using twelve Popsicle sticks, a rubber band, a plastic spoon, and a low-temperature hot-glue gun. We discovered through trial and error that the marshmallow would travel farthest when the spoon is pulled back at a 45-degree angle. When the spoon is pulled back farther than 45 degrees, the marshmallow will go higher in the air but not travel as far. Students had to position their catapults behind a piece of tape before launching their projectiles so the contest would be fair. We discovered that height was as important as distance since we needed to launch our objects over the walls, so it was preferable to pull the spoon back farther than 45 degrees. Interdisciplinary Connections On the surface, a castle-building activ- ity might appear to belong in a social s tudies classroom, but the activity is just as relevant in the science room. When students use catapults, they explore potential energy, kinetic energy, force, and gravity while designing a simple machine. Calculating the angle necessary to pull back the catapult in order to hit the target allows students to problem solve using mathematics. When my students created imagi- nary clay characters to live in their castles, sent them on mythical quests, and wrote stories about them, they B aving students solve a design challenge through trial and error, this project intertwines engineering with art. Left: Orange castle design, built for defense. Above: Students' finished oak tag castles. CONTINUED ON PAGE 48.

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