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Exposure counts. If you saw something once as a child, you probably don’t remember it. Or do you?

I get that children are exposed to a lot of stuff and that they may not remember very much from early childhood. Yet, what might cement something even if just a little in memory? How might I encourage that? Maybe engage with things in different ways? What if something that you are exposed to sits around you in your life for a number of months (or longer, depending when I purge things out), and what about the photographs of it that are sitting around in albums? fallingwater_lego

I think exposure counts for something, and that has motivated my a lot of my projects this summer. Today, I’ve compiled the different ancient architecture ideas/crafts/stories/resources that Hunter and I worked on in the month of July. At the beginning of the month, I decided that I would make my focus for the month: ancient and early architecture – mainly so that I could save contemporary architecture for August. (Secretly, I keep trying to save up money so as to purchase the lego set that is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water house.) Well…$250 is a pretty steep price tag for lego, so I just look at it longingly and instead scour the Dollarstore for gems. 11791901_10155981973015372_675081725353466540_o

Wow, and gems we found. Dollarstores across the country right now are carrying an architectural 3D puzzle series. You can buy each puzzle for the paltry price of $3. I think you’ll agree, that is so, so much easier to swallow as a child’s craft price. We picked up 2 the first day and made our first exploration of architecture: Mayan temples. 10986642_10155981973160372_2889743678661776375_o

We started by just putting the temple together. It took around an hour and was not difficult – Hunter was able to put the entire puzzle together himself.

After we got the puzzle together we went to Google Earth and took a look at where the Mayan ruins were located in Mexico and Guatemala. We looked at all the different kinds of Mayan temples and decided that ours was the 11058383_10155982111455372_1340448289426391637_o“Temple Major” in Mexico.

We then looked at closer pictures on the internet of what it looks like today. 11779832_10155981973210372_9069265822352752264_o Before summer began, I picked up around 20 years of National Geographic magazines from 1980-98, and within the stacks we found an article on Mayan ruins from April 1986. What was most interesting was that when you look at images of the temples on the internet they seem set in dense jungle settings. What the National Geographic reveals was that these temple sites were usually surrounded by entire city complexes. (I learn something new everyday.) I think that terrible movie Apocalypto changed the way I thought about temple sites – they belonged in the dense jungle in my mind.

I probably stared at the city site in that National Geographic longer than Hunter, wondering about the kind of work it must have required to keep the jungle at bay.

Turning to something more age appropriate for Hunter we returned to the Great Buildings11055357_10155812993455372_3781775980541101235_o children’s book and looked at the Temple Major story. It was pretty macabre, truth be known. Nothing was really spared and I found myself editing the information for a four year old. 11036030_10155981973055372_7091389603424276105_oStill…Hunter was magically and imaginatively drawn to the blood running down the steps and off the the left of the temple picture, a little box filled with drawn skulls.

He enthusiastically was asking, “AND MOM, WHAT IS THIS!?”

“Uhhhhh…hmmm, looks like a box decorated with skeletons?”

Exposure early really means exposure — maybe a little too early!

Our second project followed my initial plan of introducing the concept of “domes” in our urban walkabouts. These series of projects were MUCH, MUCH more tame in some respects.  They certainly were not as explicitly violent and heinous (just really, really ostentatious).

We began with St. Peter’s Basilica – the seat of the Roman Catholic Church in Vatican City. Yes, like I said, not as explicitly heinous – at least to my particular child. Wow, it is surprisingly hard to write a good sentence that includes Catholic Church, Vatican, and not heinous together. I think I better just get to the architecture – I’m out of my depth. 11782529_10155981972910372_3495367101608816204_oI can say one thing for certain: putting together paper domes is really no fun at all.11412101_10155812993565372_8875326272766782095_o

The entire craft was a massive learning set that took around 2 weeks to cover all the different aspects. We started with just looking at a bunch of different kinds of domes in the Buildings book. Hagia Sofia has low flat domes, while a building like St. Basil’s in Moscow11708005_10155981973225372_6793818322819757358_o has colourful domes with a little peak.

Looking at a variety of domes meant that anywhere we went, walking or in the car – Hunter could point out the different types of domes, whether they were on a cathedral or not and what they reminded him of, which in turn gave me the opportunity to reinforce how a flat dome looks like those big flat domes on the Hagia Sofia – which basically is just to say the names over and over again. We’ve been doing this kind of identification for three weeks now, whenever in the car, and some of the names actually stick now. St. Peter’s Basilica is the one most referenced, but I was surprised this morning when Hunter pointed out the low dome on the Castle Frank TTC station and said, “low dome – like the Hagia Sofia!” It’s working! As we drove by a major church of Bloor Street the question popped out, “Why do some cathedrals have the same doors that are on St. Peter’s basilica? It’s like the basilica is here in Toronto, even though it is in a different country.” Woah. Holy. Better than I could have ever expected on that one. I love being surprised.

I think that kind of question is borne directly from putting the thing together piece by piece. The difficulty level of the Basilica and Piazza was definitely a step up. Hunter was still able to put together the majority of the puzzle, with my help on all the little domes. 11794161_10155981973145372_3295324619842094810_o It took two different days to finish the puzzle. Hunter probably could have kept going, but the domes were making me crazy – I needed the break.

While in the bathroom one evening Hunter came running down with a National Geographic from 1991 that had a long pull out page on the inside of the Basilica. Perfect, it gave us even more to work with, and lots and lots of pictures. Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 11.48.52 AMThe pictures gave us aerial views and scenes from the massive interior. It was stunning and the articles were really fascinating.

For myself, reading about the precepts of the Vatican in 1991 (policies for stricter rather than more lenient engagement) is interesting to reflect upon, and the up close and personal interviews with Pope John Paul II were really interesting. Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 11.49.53 AM 11782268_10155981966475372_2943733503315426484_o

We moved on from the puzzle the next week into an art project that allowed us to create many different types of domes in watercolours.

As the last activity, the watercolour paint project was just fun. Later in the week we were meeting up for a playmate at a wading pool. After painting our watercolour domes gold, Hunter decided to gift his picture to the little boy we were visiting. 11794063_10155981966520372_1930553976718421729_oSo, 3 weeks later, I can say with utter confidence – this series of crafts/learning sites was entirely successful and three weeks of fun!

Method for the watercolour:

1. Use a pencil to draw several large rectangles. Add domes and turret, make them different sizes and shapes. Then erase everything so that only a light outline is left to follow.

11754478_10155981966530372_389359177369604870_o2. Use watercolour paints to fill in the buildings, but leave a small gap between the buildings and roof areas so that your colours don’t run. Let each building dry before staring an adjoining building.

3. When the paint is dry, fill in the domes with either a gold tip pen, or gold acrylic paint.

4. Once everything is dry, use a sharpie to mark in some windows and patterns on the buildings.

5. Add the sky as a last addition.


As a postscript from the 1991 National Geographic – just take a look at this image: Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 11.50.12 AM A senior citizen nun whose life aspiration was to become a missionary for the Church in China was brought to the Vatican when she was in her twenties. She was given the task at that time of restoring Raphael’s tapestries in the Vatican collection. She has over 600 colours of thread, and as a senior still working everyday – she is putting the art of Raphael back together single-handedly one thread at a time. She’s not even named in the article – just referred to as an “elderly nun”. Mind blown. I wonder if she’s still working away? Probably.