- Form teams of three and make a stepping-stone to put in the school garden
- Write about "giving" and how it makes them feel
- 60 lb. bags of quick drying pre-mixed concrete (sand-based gives a more finished appearance)
- 4–8 trowels
- Large disposable bucket for mixing concrete
- Several paint stirrers to stir the concrete
- Personal-sized or small pizza boxes, about one for every three students
- Bucket for water
- 4–8 small hammers
- Newspapers for padding to put on floor when large pieces of tile are broken up with the hammers
- Duct tape to secure the corners of the pizza boxes
- Large sheets of drawing paper
- An assortment of broken colored tiles (Note: Our broken tiles were donated by Home Depot, but any tile store would probably be glad to give you pieces. Another source would be to buy bags of the 1/2-inch colored mosaic tiles at a craft store.)
- Very sharp pencils or craft sticks designed to draw in clay
- An overhead transparency with a few design ideas already drawn out
- A pre-prepared stone so that the students may see the end results
- Large oak tag paper on which to write the directions
- Bags of cement
- Bucket and stirrers for mixing
- Water for adding to the cement mixture
- Hammers, trowels, and sharp pencils
- Copies of directions for parents
- Newspapers to spread on floor when hammering tiles
- Pizza boxes that have been duct taped
- Rulers to measure ½ inch
- Paper towels
- Make a practice stepping stone to iron out any problems.
- Draw out a few designs on a transparency so that the students have an idea what you want from them.
- Cut the drawing paper to the exact size of the pizza boxes. Each group of students will need at least one sheet for the rough draft of their stepping-stone design.
- Prepare an oak tag poster with directions on how to assemble the stepping stone (all directions are listed in Step 3).
- Have some of the tiles handy to show the students.
- Arrange for parents or volunteers to be with the class. Make sure they know what to do and which children they will be working with. Post the oak tag poster with the directions for the project. Use the typed directions in Step 3 below to make individual copies for the classroom helpers.
- Duct tape all the corners of the pizza boxes.
- Pour the cement into a large bucket.
- Have measured water ready.
- Have trowels, hammers, and pencils ready for the adults.
- Put all the small tile pieces in bowls from which students may pick.
- Prepare an area in the classroom where it will be safe to use the hammer to break up large pieces of tile. You will need lots of newspaper for padding. (CAUTION: Some edges of tile may be very sharp.)
History: Since our theme this month is "giving," we thought adopting the garden outside our classrooms would be fun and practical. We weeded the area and planted bulbs for the spring, but wanted to do something to beautify it until the bulbs bloomed. We chose to do a project of designing and making stepping-stones to put in the garden. The theme of the stones is "Our school is a special community because." Hopefully, these stones will still be intact when these fourth graders graduate from high school!
Step 1: Let the children know that they will be making stepping-stones for the garden. The stones will carry the theme of "Our school is a special community because." Explain to them that they will need to design a stepping-stone. Put the transparency on the overhead with some of your own simple designs so the students may get some ideas. Show the students your stepping-stone. (Mine said, "Fourth Graders are Buddies not Bullies." I made a design with the tiles that looks like the sign language sign for "friend.")
Step 2: Have the students use the drawing paper you've provided (the same size as the pizza boxes) to make a rough draft of their design. Three children can work on each stone. They need to divide up the work so they will know who is doing what part of the design or writing. Have them write in their saying and draw in the tiles, indicating which colors they will be using.
Step 3: Briefly explain to the students how the stepping-stones will be made, so that they may think about how they will put their stone together the next day. Show the students the oak tag direction poster you have prepared. Go over it. Explain that an adult will help with the mixing and measuring.
Pour the cement into your pizza box. Stop pouring when the cement is 1/2 inch from the top of the box.
Use the trowel to level and smooth the surface of the cement in your box. Let the cement stand for approximately 15 minutes. (Weather and temperature can vary the time, but wait no more than 15 minutes.)
- While the cement is setting, gather the tiles you will need and arrange them on your paper. Keep rearranging until your group is happy with the results. You may use the hammers and newspaper to break up the larger pieces of tiles. Decide who will do the writing. (Work quickly to get your pieces and finalize your plan. You don't want the cement to get too hard before you push in the tiles and write.)
When the cement is ready, begin placing the tiles in their appropriate places. Make sure each tile is pushed into the cement with only the surface of the tile showing. Gently wipe any cement off the surface of the tiles with a damp paper towel. Write the message.
Put the stepping-stone on the windowsill when you are finished.
Wash your hands and clean up your area. (Now you have an idea what we will be doing tomorrow).
Step 4: Explain to students: I've posted the large poster with the directions for making the stepping-stones. We went over them together yesterday, but we'll review them once more for your adult helpers. Then we'll get started! I'm very excited to see your ideas come to life!
Step 5: Review the poster of directions.
Step 6: Have the volunteers gather their groups of students. Have them work with students to mark ½ inch down from the top of the pizza box so that it is clear when to stop pouring the cement. Follow the directions on the poster.
Step 7: Wait 24–48 hours for the stepping-stones to become fully hardened. At that time, tear the pizza boxes off and "plant" the stepping-stones in the places chosen earlier in the garden.
Step 8: Visit the garden once a month.
- Did the student teams understand the assignment and their roles?
- Were the students able to draw a rough draft of their stepping-stone that adequately conveyed their thoughts?
- Do we need to work with any groups before tomorrow?
- Were the students able to make the stepping-stone with help?
- How much adult assistance did they need?
- Did the teams of three students share the work?
- Was this a positive experience in "giving" for the students?
- Can they see beyond the fun of making the stepping-stone to the good feeling of giving the gift?
- Would taking before-and-after pictures help students see their contribution as a part of the whole project?
The teacher will look over and edit the rough drafts for the stepping-stones, helping any students that are having difficulties with the concept. Check the size of the writing to make sure it is large enough to read easily.
Once all the stones have been placed in the garden, have the students do a quick interview with a partner to find out how this project made them feel about giving to the school community. Each child will write up the interview and put it in their writing portfolio.