Saturday, May 4, 2013

Using Architecture to Understand the Iliad - The City of Troy Project

When the children began to feel satisfied with their Trojan animal creations and were ready to move on, a group of boys wanted to continue their exploration of the story of the Iliad through architecture, specifically by building a small scale model of the city of Troy and the Trojan horse with clay.  
T. and N. look to their book about Troy to see how the city was laid out
N. initially tried to build the city using recycled materials and cardboard, but soon decided that he wanted to build sturdier walls.  A design consult with T. convinced them to work in clay. 

As the work progressed each day, 
the boys constantly negotiated the following:

How to accommodate the others' occasional interest in helping out?
  • Did one person have the lead, directing the others’ work, or were they all sharing the work and the vision of this project?  How could they work together effectively, efficiently, and respectfully?  
  • How to create the walls?  Different techniques were tested and utilized – some days, there seemed to be an assembly line process, while other times, people worked on their own individually, creating their own sections using their own techniques.  Determining where to place individual works along the perimeter of the city was given careful consideration, and was constantly reevaluated each time new pieces were added. 
  • What scale to use?  Given the space limitations of our classroom, the boys had to confine their work to a table, which meant that they had to work with a certain scale and create work that would work with and accommodate the space.
  • The affordances of the material – working in clay can be tricky.  How thick did the walls have to be to stand up properly?  How much slip do you need to work the clay?  When adding clay pieces on to others, what was the best way to attach them?  Could the clay pieces support weight?  Thickness, strength, and the manipulative quality of the clay were considered at every step in their building process.  

The building of the wall over several weeks' time often seemed to be the object of paramount importance to the project, but once it was complete, 
the boys began to think of what the wall would protect, 
and so they decided to build a Trojan palace.  

A colonnade in the front, a fountain, throne, and tiled floor inside, and a courtyard in the back
They had to consider how strong to make the columns in the colonnade so that it could support a lift-off clay roof.  When it was complete, the children presented their work to the class.  We began with a discussion with Sabot's atelierista, Anna Golden:

O.F.:  What is the Trojan Horse was real and there was a place you could go and say, "Hey, I wanna buy the leg?"

Anna related to the children that in Greece, some unscrupulous people would try to sell parts of the Trojan horse to tourists, but that these so-called artifacts would later turn out to be fake.  

Anna:  [It was like] a fake piece of a fake horse - a double fake!

She then told the class about other Sabot children who have shown interest in the story of the Trojan horse.  The first year that she taught at Sabot, she enjoyed reading D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths to her students – a favorite was the story of Perseus, Medusa, and Andromeda.   

This year at Sabot, the Meadow Room children have been captivated by stories about good and bad guys fighting, and would often frame these tales using Star Wars and Lego Ninjago story lines.  Anna helped them to see that these modern stories have a lot of the same elements as the Greek myths.  One day, she talked to the Meadow Room students about Helen of Troy, and when they heard about the Trojan horse, they fell in love with the idea of making their own.  Once it was finished, the children would hide behind the cardboard horse, and Anna would approach, pretending not to know what was going on. The children would then jump out and surprise her, and then “attack and defeat” her.

The City of Troy project group then showed the class their clay version of the Trojan horse, and explained the model they had created together:

N:  This is the palace.  O.F. and T. were working on the palace.  You can lift off the roof.  It has a throne and a fountain [inside].

Also included in their model was the Luck of Troy (which Odysseus stole from the temple of Athena), the Hall of Agammemnon, a house (T: a house like a normal person would live in), a Greek toilet, and a courtyard.

O.F.:  It took about a month and a half to build. 
K: Is there the temple of Athena that the Luck of Troy was in?
L.M.:  We’re going to make it soon. 
N:  [re: the origin of the project]:  First I had the idea of making it.  We needed something good to make the walls.  T. thought of using clay.  

T:  The palace is not the most important part.  The walls are the most important part because in all the stories, that's what protects the palace.  

N:  But if there was no palace, then you wouldn't need to protect the walls.

Anna:  It's funny because I think that Helen is the most important thing because she started the war, but some people think that the Trojan horse is. 

T:  Actually, I agree with O.F.. I think that the horse is the most important part.

L.A.: How did they get the horse into the city if the horse is taller than the walls?

N:  They open like this [opens a place in the walls where there is a break]. If I were the Greeks, I would just build a humungous ladder and climb on it to the wall.  

Why didn't they just use ladders?
T: They didn’t use that much ladders because they didn’t know about that at that time.
N: They didn’t have ladders.
T: N’s right, they didn’t have ladders.

I’m wondering how the Trojans were able to build their city if they didn’t have any ladders…
N: In old times before there was any construction, they built this entire monument with hands. And it took….[discussion about how long]…a century and a half. [It was made of] rocks…
T: It was something like concrete, but they didn’t really know about concrete.
L.A.: Concrete didn’t exist.

How long would it take to build the city of Troy without the construction equipment we have now?
T: It would take as long as they’re building the Huguenot Bridge, but back then it would take four years to build the whole city.
N: 10 years.
O.F.: A century.
N: As soon as they heard about Helen they didn’t have a century so maybe [the wall] was already there.

Anna:  What’s the same about the Death Star and the Trojan Horse?
N:  The Trojan horse is like a temporary hideout.
O.F.:  In the first [Star Wars] movie, they think [the Death Star] is a moon, but it’s really a spaceship. 
N:  The walls were there before Helen arrived [in Troy].
T:  [Troy] was a peaceful country.  

If it’s peaceful, then why would they need to build a wall?
T:  The United States is peaceful, but we will need the Air Force, the Army, and the Navy to protect us.  There are lots of guys protecting the United States.  [Troy] is peaceful, but there could be people who want to steal things, but they still need to be careful and protect themselves. 
D.H.:  That’s why we have police, too.

After presenting their work, the boys went to draw some other pictures of defensive walls to process this discussion and think about walls further:  

O.F.:  I’m drawing me protecting Sabot. We’re protecting the school from people who’d attacked it.  We’re protecting all the worms. 
T:  Protecting all the money that the school raises. 
N:  This is a city floating on a flying saucer with cannons, and it’s protected by a force field. 
L.M.:  This is me protecting Sabot. I’ve got a bow and arrow and a sword.  I’m protecting it with omnidroids, tanks…

Why would we need protection?
T:  Sometimes there could be intruders.  Crazy people…Sometimes things happen.  Something unusual.  You need to be ready.  It’s good to be prepared.  Something can come out of nowhere. 

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely love the video of Tom, Nolan and Oliver working with clay-their confidence, independence and understanding of their own process is impressive-just incredible work-these children will change the world! Thank you Christine and Mauren.