A curriculum for mixed-age elementary grades by Dan Harper
Copyright (c) 2015 Dan Harper
Adobe-type bricks, made out of clay soil, have been a basic building material since ancient times. Making bricks is a fun, messy, physical project. Here’s our process for making bricks, as done by Jenny Robertson in 2013:
1. Clay soil
We got our soil for free by posting a request on Craigslist. You may wish to get a sample first to make sure it will make good bricks; some clay soils crumble after they dry out. When you find a good source, get several big big tubs of it.
2. Half a bale of straw (Note that straw works better than hay) — it can be old cruddy straw, don’t feel you have to go out and buy fancy new straw
3. Measuring cups — large heavy plastic cups of about 16 oz. capacity work well.
4. Mixing trays — gray restaurant bussing trays work well
5. 5-gallon bucket of water, out of which you can scoop water using the measuring cups
6. A hose, both for a water source, and for cleaning hands and feet
Make a brick mold, like this:
Make up a visual recipe on a large sheet of paper, something that pre-literate children can understand. Post this recipe where kids can refer to it while they work. A basic recipe is 2 parts soil, 1 part water, 1 part straw.
The “apprentices” work in pairs to measure the soil and water, and then mix it using hands or feet. When soil and water are mixed, then they mix in straw.
Put the mold somewhere where it will be sheltered from possible rain (not a big problem for us in late spring in California, but your climate may differ.) Pack the completed mix into the molds. Let it dry — in our relatively dry climate, it took a week for the bricks to get really hard and dry.