Arts and crafts are a fun way to teach children about Italian history and culture. Ancient Roman and Etruscan traditions include mosaics, murals, sculptures and pottery. The Romans modelled many of their art forms on earlier Greek traditions.
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The floors of many ancient Roman public buildings and wealthy homes were decorated with elaborate tile mosaics. Older students can use glass tile pieces to assemble mosaics. Give younger children safer materials, like eggshells or paper pieces. Encourage students to arrange mosaics before gluing them in place. Glue glass tiles to a surface and then grout around them.
The eruption of Mount Vesuvius preserved some lovely examples of Roman wall paintings. Display reproductions and discuss some of the symbols and objects depicted in them with the kids. Children can then paint their own murals directly on walls or on large panels of cardboard.
Black Figure Pottery
The Romans and Etruscans created pottery inspired by Greek ceramic vessels. One of the most common types is Black Figure ceramics, which was created by painting black glaze silhouettes on red clay. Many of the scenes show gods and heroic events. Make black-figure pottery in the traditional way, using clay and glaze, to depict an event from Italian history. An alternative is use black paint on a red surface, such as factory-made plates, painted cardboard or red paper.
Papier-Mache Emperor Busts
Roman emperors and elite citizens were immortalised with marble busts. Use papier-mache to make Roman-style self-portraits sculptures. Shoe boxes make a good sturdy base. Roll up a strip of cardboard and attach it to the shoulders of the box to make a neck. Use an inflated balloon to make the head. Dip strips of newspaper in a mixture of flour, glue and water and cover the armature. Make sure there are at least three layers of papier-mache for a sturdy bust. Add facial features and Roman hairstyles with papier-mache.
Mediterranean Herb Garden
Popular Italian culinary herbs include basil, rosemary, thyme, sage and oregano. Help the children paint flower pots or planters using popular Italian ceramic design motifs, such as geometric patterns, roosters, fruit and flowers. Plant the herbs in the pots and after they've grown use the herbs to make a variety of Italian pasta sauces, such as pesto and marinara sauce for the children to sample.
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