I remember doing this project in elementary school. We mixed up a batch of Plaster of Paris, let it set in a recycled small milk carton (the ones from the school cafeteria) and then used spoons to scratch out a sculpture. We repeated the project with a slight variation in middle school. That time we mixed up the Plaster of Paris and let it set up in a baggie that we held in our hand to create an abstract shape. I still remember how the Plaster grew warm as it set. Although the finished pieces were hardly masterpieces… I still remember enjoying the projects. After reading about Mount Rushmore in our State Studies, I thought this would be a perfect time to do this project with the kids. You may want to research modern art sculpture (as a modern looking pieces will be more easily accomplished by young artists). I suggest looking at work by Henry Moore and Jean Hans Arp… but be careful and pre-screen art websites. You may find some content inappropriate for your kids.
This project is better suited to older elementary school children and up. Pixie had a very hard time trying to work on it. You may want to wear goggles while working on this project… if you are aggressive in your sculpting, pieces may fly. We worked on it several times over the course of two weeks… and my kids still don’t feel like they are done. Life of an artist… never quite done. This is a process not product project and can be pulled out again and again.
- Plaster of Paris
- Wax coated paper cups or cardboard milk cartons
- mixing device (we used old plastic forks)
- metal spoons, nails, or other utensils for scratching the plaster
- nail file or sandpaper for finishing
- optional – craft paint to paint finished sculpture
Cover your work area. Write your name on the bottom of your cup.
Mix 2/3 cup plaster with 1/3 of a cup of water in your cup and mix thoroughly.
You want a thick frosting texture.
Let your plaster harden for about 20-30 minutes. Check out how warm the plaster gets as it hardens. You may want to work with it while it is still a bit soft to do the initial carving (removing the biggest pieces).
Remove the plaster base from your cup. You can tear away the cup.
Use metal utensils to scratch away the plaster to create your sculpture. We had a hammer and pick left over from one of those digging for dinosaur bones kit, old spoons, a spread knife, and the favorite… a paint can opener.
Go for big basic shapes. Use any air bubbles or holes as part of the design.
When you have your design set, let it harden complete. You can then use sand paper or nail files to smooth out the surface. You can paint or seal your final design if you would like.