Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ndebele Hut Sculptures!

I have spent the last three weeks with my 4th graders discussing a culture of people from south east Africa known as the Ndebele. (En-duh-bay-lay) These are a very creative group of people who are also very traditional and continue the practice of building homes with beautiful geometric designs.

We started off with a piece of 6 x 18" long drawing paper. Students were given the option of choosing a shape for the door to be drawn in the middle of the paper. From there, students were to draw geometric shapes to create designs on each side of the door. The rule was that I wanted it to be symmetrical. Each side needed to match closely. We traced our designs with permanent marker.

The second day we worked on this project students finished tracing their designs with marker, then colored with crayola markers. This project could be colored with crayons or even painted with watercolors or tempera. Its whatever you feel most comfortable doing.

The third day students completed coloring and we began turning our flat paper into a cylindrical sculpture. Students rolled their houses into a cylinder and glued the two ends together.  Then they traced a large circle onto a 9 x 9" piece of brown construction paper. They cut the circle out then cut a radius into it.

Students brought me their roof circle and cylinder house. I stapled the roof into a wide cone, then hot glued the roof to the cylinder. You could have students do these independently, however I felt this would complete the project most efficiently if I helped them along.

These all turned out differently and I love the results!  Our school librarian has graciously allowed us to display our huts in the library. They are quite the hit!

There is also a good story book out there called the Village of Round and Square Houses by Ann Grifalconi that makes a great reference for this particular project. Feel free to google Ndebele. They are a fascinating people!

This project took 3 forty minute classes to complete. Makes a great interdisciplinary connection to geometry, shape, and symmetry in 4th grade math studies.
This project is inspired from a lesson I got at my 2009 state conference.


  1. What great activities!

    I just found your blog and am your newest follower! I would love for you to visit me if you get the chance!

    Heather's Heart

  2. Thanks Heather! I'm always glad to hear when people like the projects I'm doing with my students.
    You have a great blog and I appreciate your enthusiasm. Added you to my blogs I follow today.

    Happy Blogging!