For materials I used “Nasco Construction Tubes” (item #C06178), pipe cleaners, paper for placemat to protect the table, and 527 glue. Hot glue can work with older kids who work fast, but the glue dries so quickly it can create a lot of wasted material. Elmer’s and other glues do not work well on this plastic--I’ve tried.
As for an art history tie-in, I think the work of Richard Lippold fits quite nicely. His work is very linear and reminds me of crystals.
Though scissors can work, cutting damages the edges, so I use wire cutting tools like tin snips or anything else that will cut thin wires. After a few hundred have been cut, I showed students how to twist them into an “X.” It is very important that they be twisted tightly to make a cross, and not twisted like a rope. These are collected in a box for the next day.
Cover tables with paper and be sure room is well ventilated. I open a window and put a fan in my doorway. If students get in the habit of capping their glue, the odor is better controlled. If you can work outside, all the better. The acrylic straws are held together with the pipe cleaner “Xs” and 527 glue. Glue should be applied to the surface of the pipe cleaner or squeezed 1/8 of an inch into the straw. Both methods work well. I have students work on top of paper to catch drips, and sop up any drips with pipe cleaners. I demonstrate how to build one pyramid by making a figure “8” with straws (like two triangles touching), and then an extra straw joins the top and bottom of the figure. I put a diagram on my board as well to remind students of the pattern to follow.
Take three pyramids and put them together to make a triangular base. Twist the single free pipe cleaners on each corner together to secure them tightly. There will be room for one more pyramid to create a top to the larger pyramid. A total of four small pyramids, make a medium pyramid. We did this to all our small pyramids and stacked them around the perimeter of the room. If you have a secure space outside you can use, they can be stored there as well.
In the same way medium pyramids were made yesterday, even larger ones are made in the same way. Take three medium pyramids and put them together to make a triangular base. Twist the single free pipe cleaners on each corner together to secure them tightly. There will be room for one more medium pyramid to create a top to the larger pyramid. This can be done one more time to make jumbo pyramids, and brings us to the limits of what the structure can reasonably hold. These should only be moved by the large joining corners, or the stress can snap the joints or straws. Have some glue ready should any corners pop to do an on-the-spot repairs.
Cutting directions are shown below as well as some small individual samples done by students in the past.
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