Friday, May 26, 2017

Making and using papyrus

One thing I remember pretty clearly from my grade-school years is the time I made my own "papyrus" for a school project. I don't remember it all THAT clearly, I guess, but I do remember that I used iris leaves, and it took a lot of experimentation to get them soft enough—seems like maybe I ended up using the blender? And then baking the sheets in the oven?—and it never really turned into great paper. But it was fun, I remember that! For this unit, though, I wasn't really planning on trying to make paper because we had done it recently when learning about Japan.

But…while we were gathering the reeds for our reed boats, we found some of these nice wide-leaved water plants which seemed like they might be kind of like papyrus…because they had white pulpy stuff inside, and seemed buoyant. So, we decided just to experiment a bit.
With real papyrus, you'd scoop out the pulp and just use that for your paper, I think. But we just wove the whole reeds into a kind of mat and then pounded it with a mallet. Seb quite enjoyed that part.
It got all pulpy and you could see the fibers sort of fuse together as it dried.
And once it was fully dry, it was possible to write on our "papyrus"…though not really easy. Still, it was fun to visualize the process a little better by doing this activity.
I also ordered some actual papyrus so the children could see and feel what it was like. Much nicer than our "homemade" version, of course! And it was fun to write on it with brushes. We attempted to write our names using hieroglyphs, though the more we learned about that written language, the more we realized how complicated it was and how we didn't really "get" it with our letter-for-letter Western view of things! Still…fun to try it.

Here's an overview of the Egyptian numbering system we used, too.

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