Whilst I find sculpture projects to be great fun with children, especially when you gets your hands on clay, modroc and sculpting mesh but often the focus for the project can be a little ‘loose’. However, with the wonderful ‘Night of the Gargoyles’ by Eve Bunting (and coincidentally illustrated by my favourite David Wiesner) you have a fun and motivational context for a sculpture project which also links perfectly with a cross curricular English/History project.
At the heart of this story is the common premise that when night time falls, inanimate objects come to life – in this case all the gargoyles that sit poised on the rooftops throughout the city. This is a very entertaining picture book that does actually contain a fair amount of text which will also allow for some high level punctuation and grammar work – I’ve used it to look at the ever elusive semi-colon in the past!
The children (especially boys) will be immediately motivated by the comedic rudeness and a japery in the book and, as a result, they are then keen to engage with the sculpture task. The focus I have taken in the past has been to ask the children to design a gargoyle of their own, in clay, with some thought to how the form of the gargoyle represents an aspect of his/her personality i.e. it likes to surprise people from above, so it has wings; or it is always hungry so it has big puffy cheeks to store the scraps it finds in the local bins.
You can make this whole process even more magical with the addition of some glitter! In the past, we have had a resident ‘visitor’ in the our class who pops by at night and leaves us letters and notes to stimulate interest in our next learning activity. On this occasion we had a note left from our local fantastical beasts keeper, who advised us that he had lost a few gargoyles from the local church and then asked us to create him some more to avoid him getting into trouble. He then left us an intriguing little bottle of gargoyle powder (glitter); a sprinkle of which each of the children added to their clay at the making phase to help bring them to life at night!
At this point, the mention of the local church also encouraged us to visit the building to find out more about the many gargoyles residing there. We were lucky enough to get a guided tour from a church warden with a few pairs of binoculars (so we could see the smallest sculptures right at the top of the tower) who helped us all to learn more about the historical aspect of gargoyles and their inclusion on buildings in the past.
To further extend the use of the gargoyle theme (and to maximise on the children’s enthusiasm) we then used our finished gargoyles to write our own narrative stories; The Night of OUR gargoyles. We story-mapped each gargoyles adventures around our local area and then, over a number of sessions, developed these into wonderfully entertaining, extended narrative pieces!
Have fun sculpting and share any pictures of your gargoyles!