365 Days of Earrings

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Malleable, ductile, and soft: copper

I wore this pair of copper earrings last summer using copper wire, pliers, a hammer, and a anvil.

The two earrings were very similar--each a two-dimensional spiral. But I grabbed the center of one pair with my pliers and pulled it, creating a 3-D spiral.

I love this simple transformation from 2-D to 3-D. It's the sort of transformation that is possible because of copper's properties: it's malleable, ductile, and soft. It can be polished until it shines, and it glows a lovely color. Because of these properties, humans have used copper since prehistoric times.

Today in Social Studies I set up stations at which my students wrote observations and inferences about a variety of Indian artifacts--both authentic objects and recreations-- arrowheads; bowls made of gourds, clay, and a turtle shell; handmade rope; a pestle; bone beads; and both raw copper and copper amulets.

The children practiced useful skills--measuring three dimensions using metric units; measuring weight in grams on a balance; desc
ribing objects so that others would be able to identify them. After writing their descriptions, they made inferences about the artifacts, explaining what key features led them to make this inference.
Skins, stone, bone, plant fibers, copper. My students and I marveled at how people could make everything they needed using such simple materials.

"Like you made those earrings!" said Rose. Almost like. I didn't mine the copper or grind the stone to make beads. Maybe someday.

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