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Felt Layers of the Earth Lesson

There is so much curriculum-centred handwork going on in my class at the moment, it feels like there has been some kind of explosion! Looking around this morning I saw one child making an embroidered book of geometry nomenclature, another cross-stitching the periodic table and a third needle felting her own version of the Needs of the Plant chart. And that was just in one work cycle.

So when we began to look at the Layers of Earth lessons, making felt models was the natural choice and I thought I would share it here as it is such a fun and easy thing to do. It opens up all sorts of discussions about the relative sizes of the layers and gives a concrete impression of the loose, gassy matter compressing into a dense, compact sphere as it solidifies.

To begin with you will need to give the children the lesson on making felt balls which you can find here. You might want to get them to practise a few times to get the feel for it before going on to add layers but you don't have to. The lovely thing about adding layers is that you get a new opportunity each time to smooth out the lumps and bumps of previous layers. When you are working the layers of the earth, you can discuss the fact that the real layers are not completely even either - parts of the lithosphere protrude into through the hydrosphere and into the atmosphere to give us the land we live on.

Here is my lesson on layered felt balls, obviously you can modify it to talk about the layers of the earth, parts of the sun etc. If you want to needle felt the continents on after it is dry, you can leave off the atmosphere.

Layered Felt Balls Lesson

Pre-requisites: Felt balls lesson

Age of child: Any

Materials: Wool roving in various colours, bar of soap, grater, towel, plastic tub, hot water.

As always:

Text in italics: what I say

Standard text: what I do

Step 1.

Work through the steps as you verbalise them for the children.

You have been experimenting with making a felt ball, some of you have tried making different sizes and that got me thinking that we might be able to do a bit more with our felting. Today I am going to show you how to make a felt ball with several layers of colour inside it. From the outside, it will look just like the single colour balls you have been making, but inside it has a secret. You can choose to cut it open at the end to reveal its secret, or you can leave it whole so you are the only person who knows about it.

We are going to start with a single colour felt ball just like the ones you have been making. I have one here.

Step 2.

I am going to take a piece of roving that is a different colour to my ball and I’m going to wrap it around my ball.

I want the colour layers to be even in thickness and the ball to stay spherical, so I’m going to try to cover it as evenly as possible with the new roving.

Step 3.

I’m happy that the ball is evenly covered so now I can begin to felt the new layer of roving. Can you remember what we said wool needs to turn into felt? Yes, heat, movement and moisture. And I’ve added some soap to help us along.

I’ll dip my ball into the hot soapy water to give it heat and moisture. I have to be careful, as I don’t want my new layer of roving to slip.

Now it needs movement so I’ll very gently roll it between my hands, just like you did when you were making felt balls. I have to start out gently so the roving stays in place, but as it locks into the layer below it; I can start to press a little harder.

Step 4.

I don’t have to felt it until it is completely firm as it will receive more heat, moisture and movement when the next layer is added. I’ll just felt it until I’m sure the roving will hold in place well. Now I can add another layer, and another and another if I like! But I think I will stop for now so that you can have a turn.

Children can choose to build up several layers of colour on their balls before rinsing and leaving them to dry.

Some children can't wait to cut the balls open to reveal the layers inside, others prefer to leave them whole and just know the secret. I have found it's better to wait until they dry to cut them, otherwise they tend to bulge out in the middle, making it hard to place the hemispheres back together. To cut, use a sharp blade and make long smooth cuts, being careful to keep fingers out of the way.

If you try this with your children (or by yourself, Handwork is not just for kids!) please post pictures on the Montessori Handwork Facebook page, come and chat about it in the Montessori Handwork Threads Facebook group or leave a comment below.

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