Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Making masks

Rafe Esquith is one of my favorite authors. While reading his book, Teach Like Your Hair is on Fire, I got a great idea that I couldn't wait to use in my class. Part way through the year, we started a study on Egypt. Because I now knew my students well enough to know I could trust them, we prepared to make face masks. We used craft plaster wrap and made molds of their faces. 

First, we made fancy tables by placing desks together and covering them with plastic tablecloths from the Dollar Tree. Then, we put a headband on their head to hold their hair back. Faces were covered with petroleum jelly; it was even placed on their eyebrows-just to be safe. 

We put pre-cut strips of plaster wrap in water so they could soak. The strips were gently squeezed to remove extra water. They were carefully laid on top of each students face. Students were careful to avoid the eyes, nostrils and mouth. A bridge was made over the noses and over the faces by layering them and smoothing out each layer. 
It was amazing, but it seemed easy as the kids remained laying still for five minutes. Then, the mask was carefully lifted off of their faces. If necessary, extra layers were added to weak areas. Students created the masks, but adults were responsible for removing them. It was really helpful to have a second adult in my classroom of 18 students. In larger classes, more help would be useful. 
Some students were fearful of the process. No one was forced to have a mask made of their face. We found a solution so they could participate. They used a balloon. 

When they were finished, we let them dry for two days. The masks were painted and used to decorate the room. 
Making masks fits into many studies, from Africans to Native Americans. It is easy to do in a multi-grade classroom almost as easily as a  single grade classroom.