Animals and ecosystems are so much fun. I just love working through units that include biology, zoology, and geology. I think that I have as much fun creating them as we do going through them.
Before Hanah had left public school she was working on ecosystems. We decided to choose one particular ecosystem to look into more in depth. She chose to work on the tundra.
Although we had homeschooled for a few years previously, Hanah was in public school through most of the year. However, I realized after much trial and error that this was not a good option for her. It became painfully obvious that she was not only not thriving, but being hindered by this environment. There were children there who knew that she was autistic and dogged her to no end. They found it comical to say horrible things to her. At the beginning of the year a child who had been relentless before decided to tell her that she should kill herself because nobody liked her. These are 11 year olds, which makes it heartbreaking. These children shouldn’t even know such horrible things, nevermind saying them to one another. While the school tended to punish Hanah when she finally had enough and fought back, it seemed that those tormenting her never had much if any reprimand. In the end, although she was doing academically well, she was moved to a special school. The acedemics were horribly lacking, the children there were alarmingly bad influences talking about sex and drugs constantly. I had to get my child out of that environment. Throughout the rest of the school year we are focusing on ending out everything that she should know from 5th grade along with things that come up in our life experiences.
As a part of the tundra unit, we made small snowglobes featuring arctic animals. Each animal was researched and discussed to learn their habitat, body style, and more. We looked into why animals have certain body aspects such as layered fur or blubber, and the advantages that these things bring them in the arctic environment.
Making the Snow Globes
You Will Need:
- emptied and cleaned baby food jar. (I highly recommend Goof Off for getting the labels off. My husband had some and I was amazed at how well it worked!)
- polymer clay (if you are making your own animals.)
- clay working tools
- hot glue gun & glue
- clay glaze
- sparkles (fine white sparkles worked well for “snow”)
- distilled water
How to Make the Snow Globes:
Make sure that your baby food jar is completely cleaned and dry. Paint the lid white or the color of your choice. Let dry completely. (Usually, about 2 hours or so will do) If you would like you can paint a design on the lid or your name.
Create your animals with the polymer clay. Any air dry clay should work here if you glaze it, but I have only tested polymer clay. We just used white Sculpey clay for ours. I tend to prefer Fimo clay but it can be kind of hard for little hands to work with sometimes.
Clay has varying bake times so be sure to follow the package directions for the size or thickness of your animals. Generally, this clay will be 250 degrees for about 15 minutes. You will want to watch your animals carefully for signs of darkening or burning of the clay and remove immediately if that happens. It’s always better to have underbaked clay than overbaked. Since most of the arctic animals are most likely white, it would be easy to paint over any darkened areas with white paint if needed, though.
When it comes to painting you have two options. You can paint before you glaze, or you can do one coat of glaze and then paint. I personally find it a little easier to do one layer of glaze and then paint, but we painted first on this project since someone was eager to get to painting.
Once your animals are completed create a base for them to sit on inside of the jar. This hides the lid of the jar a bit and makes it look more “tundra” like. We made little snowballs, and even a snowman to go with our animals as well. You can, of course, decorate as you would like. I had the idea of making little clay stars that would shake around with the glitter, but they didn’t make it through the baking process. I think they were just too small.
Glue your animal to the base, and then the base to the lid of the jar. It is important to be sure that the base not only fits inside the lid but that you can still screw the lid onto the jar. We found that there needs to be a small space between the base and the lid for the jar to fit on perfectly. Of course, you don’t want any leaks.
Pour enough water into the jar to come almost to the top. Keep in mind that the animal will displace some of the water once you put it in so you don’t want to overdo it here. Put a few drops of glycerin into the water to keep the glitter from sticking together. Sprinkle glitter into the water. You can make it slightly sparkly or sparkle explosion here depending on your personal preference.
Carefully put a line of hot glue in the space between the base and the jar. Flip over and quickly screw lid onto the jar so that the glue will seal your snow globe well.
Shake and enjoy as your glitter floats like snow around your arctic animal.
Important: Polymer clay can be toxic. It is important to not eat it ( hey, you never know with kids. Particularly those with PICA), but also to wash your hands well after handling clay that hasn’t been baked.
When baking be sure to do so in a well-ventilated area. Polymer clay can have some serious fumes. If you want to get into using clay more often I would suggest buying a small toaster oven for your projects. I got one at Walmart for just under $20 and it does the job just as well.
You can do the project by using small plastic animals if you would like to avoid using clay or don’t have any available. You can also use foam or other water-safe material for making the base, or avoid that step all together.
If you make a snow globe be sure to post it in the comments! I’d love to see your creations and hear what you have learned about arctic animals and the tundra!
I’m happy to answer any questions about this craft, polymer clay, or anything else ( just not your math homework.. you don’t want my help there! ). Don’t be shy to ask!
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