All Things Metal – Bronze Making up Close

Metallurgy is a fascinating science. In a talk led by Lic. Phil. Walter Fasnacht ─ an experimental archaeologist, formerly on staff at the Swiss National Museum, as well as at ICS ─ Grade 4 students are introduced to all things Bronze.

All Things Metal – Bronze Making up CloseAfter an autumn foliage-filled walk, the students descend on the conveniently close, woodsy setting. It’s our classroom, one without walls, where the group is to learn about different types of metals and the special characteristics they possess. Greeted by our host, presiding over a type of Prehistoric smelting pit, is Mr Fasnacht, a skilled metal worker and lecturer on archaeometallurgy at area universities.

Mr Fasnacht shares information on his experience working with bronze, along with metalworking history in general. The discussions highlight the Bronze Age period and the Grade 4 learning unit’s central idea: Historians can build stories of past civilizations and make connections to the present by interpreting evidence.

The youngsters were asked about smelting, physics vs. chemistry, and the term “alloy”. The alloy that is of primary focus in today’s talk is bronze: a combination of copper and tin, often with different amounts of each, or even other metals thrown in for good measure, they learn.

Viewing the artefacts Mr Fasnacht brought for display that were made using different moulding materials, and exploring technology used to make diverse tools, holds the class’s rapt attention. The cultural relics (or reproductions thereof) containing different metals, included recreational objects, coins, tools, utensils, and related. The students were able to experiment making their own piece of dice – or rather they muse, “the dice before the dice” – in the smelting pit.

The outdoor classroom-forest learning experience is both educational and captivating. In this session, Grade 4 students were able to gain insight into the human past by examining historical objects. Through studying remnants and artifacts they learn about past people, how they lived and what tools they used. The programme aligns with the learning happens everywhere philosophy of the school and to educate children on topics of ancient, historical and cultural significance through inquiry and research - fundamental to the International Baccalaureate's Primary Years Programme.

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