The mythology and history of ancient Greece are exciting and engaging to young minds. However, teaching Greek social history from a book can be a little more challenging. Get kids excited about the everyday life of the ancient Greeks with arts and crafts projects such as pottery and temple building.
Play Dough Pottery
In ancient Greece, pottery was a true art. The pots were elaborately decorated, but they also came in dozens of different sizes and shapes, depending on their function. Throwing clay pots is difficult and messy, but making small models from play dough or modeling clay is easy and fun. Show your class a list of the different types of pots (e.g., calyx krater, amphora, rhyton) the Greeks made and what they were used for. Then give them each a chunk of play dough or clay and let them try to make the appropriate shapes. This also makes a good adjunct project for an oral report or research paper (in which case you can assign a type of pot to each student, and have them research and make it at home and then present their model to the class).
Black-figure painting on pottery was achieved by painting finished (but not yet fired) pots with a clay slip that turned black from the heat of the kiln. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the details were than incised into the clay with a sharp tool. Your students can make their own black-figure pictures with paper, crayons, and toothpicks.
Give each student a piece of paper and a burnt-orange color crayon. Students must color every inch of their paper heavily. Then give students black crayons and tell them to sketch a Greek scene on top of the orange. After they have sketched, they must color in every bit of their sketch heavily with the black crayon, leaving a lot of wax on the paper. Then they will each take a toothpick and scratch the details back into their drawing, so the orange will show through. Show them examples of black-figure pottery, so they can see how the drapery of clothing was rendered, for example.
Learning the stories of Greek mythology is important, but learning about Greek temple architecture can round out students' view of Greek religion. Have students work in small groups. Give each group several dozen craft sticks to paint white and a large, flat piece of plastic foam; these are the building materials. Print out a copy of a typical floor plan of a Greek temple, and have the students stick the craft sticks into the foam to simulate columns and the shapes of the rooms. Students can label the parts of the temple, or if you have leftover foam scraps, they can add architectural details, such as a pediment or frieze.