I’m just finishing one that’s been highly successful, if I may say so myself. For my 7th and 8th grade geography class (using the ABeka World Geography text) I had my students make play-dough landscapes to demonstrate their understanding of landforms. Starting with a piece of cardstock with blue paper (the landscape’s main body of water) glued to it, students molded mountains, plateaus, peninsulas, etc. from a list of required features. Other features, such as rivers, deltas, and estuaries, were painted on (we used acrylic and tempura paints). Students had fun, and this project even ticks off educational buzzword boxes like differentiated instruction and kinetic learning.
Here’s my list of required features: mountain, hill, plateau, mesa, butte, plain, delta, estuary, peninsula, island, isthmus, stream, river, tributary, lake. All of these are defined in our textbook.
My (or rather, my mom’s) play-dough recipe:
2 cups flour
2 tbsp cream of tartar
Heat to boiling:
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup salt
1 tbsp oil
Stir boiling liquid into dry ingredients. Knead until smooth. Store in an airtight container. Two batches was just enough for sixteen students, but your mileage may vary.
Grading: Each required feature is worth five points. If a feature is present and accurately portrayed, all five of its points are awarded to the student. Partial credit may be given for poorly-executed features, such as a too-thick isthmus or mountains and hills that aren’t distinguishable from each other.
Misc. tips: This was my second time doing this project, and I learned from my first go-around that order and organization are important (as if that were a surprise). Have a place for in-progress landscape storage. Have a system for orderly distribution of materials (play-dough, paint, anti-paint-spattered-desk newspaper, etc.). Have a clean-up procedure, and start it about five minutes before the end of the class period. Have green, brown, blue, red or orange (some of those mountains will be volcanic), gray, and white paint available.