Time Required: This lesson will require approximately one hour on the first day and approximately one hour a week later.

Science Information: Adobe is a building material made from clay soil, water and straw. It is poured into brick forms and allowed to dry in the sun until it is hard. The adobe bricks are used to build structures. These types of homes were and are used by people living in dry climates. Cement blocks, tile, and other construction materials are made and used today as building materials. Water is an important natural resource used in making building materials.

Purpose: The purpose of this lesson is to help students understand how water was combined with earth, grass, etc., and made into bricks for building shelters by Native Americans and early settlers living in the past.

Objective: The learner will be able to: 1) Create a home model using adobe bricks, 2.) Describe how crude bricks were made and used by native Americans in the past, 3.) Explain the importance of water for use in building materials by people long ago and today, and 4.) Infer the type of climate for adobe homes to survive.

Materials: For each student, a shoebox full of clay soil, newspapers, dry grass and/or leaves, etc., a small plastic bowl for mixing materials

Instructional Strategies
Engage: Discuss with the students how Native Americans utilized a variety of natural materials in building shelters for themselves. Show the students a poster of several Native American adobe dwellings. Discuss how adobe bricks are made.

Explore: Students should work in cooperative groups. Encourage the students to design on paper what their adobe shelter will look like. Have the students list in sequence the steps they will follow to produce the construction materials and to build their dwelling.

You may want to set as a guideline the "adobe bricks" can be no larger than 1" x 1" x 2"; their shelter can be comprised of a maximum of fifty bricks, etc. Caution students to add small quantities of water to their mixture as a time to avoid soupiness. Once the adobe bricks are formed, have the students set them places where they will be able to dry thoroughly -- ideally in direct sunlight on a very warm series of days.

Students build their shelter.

Explain: Discuss how roofs were made, and what types of materials were used in their construction. Stick and earth roofs are common. Review the construction techniques and discuss the summary questions.

What Did You Learn?
1. How important is water in making adobe?
Water is very important in making adobe.

2. How does the adobe change when drying?
The adobe dries and becomes lighter in color.

3. Where can you find adobe homes?
You can find adobe homes only in dry places.

4. What happens to the water in adobe?
Much of the water in adobe evaporates.

5. How can you make an adobe home?
You can mix water, clay soil and grass which can be formed and dried into bricks. These bricks can be used to build homes.

Applied Learning:
1. What happens to adobe in wet places?
Adobe turns to mud in wet places.

2. What other kinds of building materials use water?
Cement, tile, clay bricks use water in their formation.

Survey the students in the class to determine how many of them live in homes that make use of bricks in their construction. Have the students work with their parents to identify items around their homes (especially in the kitchen) which were developed to be used by mixing first with water: soup, food mixes, etc. Visit adobe homes to see how adobe was and is used to make shelters.

For Additional Information or Activities Contact:
The Central Colorado Water Conservancy District
3209 W 28th Street
Greeley, CO 80631

Using Water to Build (Student Page)
How can you build an adobe home?

soil, grass, newspaper, water, sticks, plastic milk carton

1. Research how to make adobe bricks from clay soil, grass, sticks and water.

2. Select a building design for your adobe home model.

3. Mix clay, grass and water in a bowl to form adobe.

4. Make fifty 1" x 1" x 2" adobe bricks using the clay soil, grass and water.

5. Allow the adobe bricks to dry for one week.

6. Build your adobe model home.

Adobe Bricks
Document the size, color, and touch of the bricks before and after.

1. How important is water in making adobe?

2. How does the adobe change when drying?

3. Where can you find adobe homes?

4. What happens to the water in adobe?

5. How can you make an adobe home?

1. What happens to adobe in wet places?

2. What other kinds of building materials use water?

Reprinted with permission from the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District
Grade Level:
Upper Elementary

Subject Areas:
Social Studies, Science

SD Standards for 4th grade:
Social Studies
4.US.1.2; 4.G.2.1

4.P.1.1; 4.P.1.2; 4.S.1.1


Observing, Describing, Modeling, Explaining, Inferring

Prior Preparation: With the assistance of the librarian, supply reading materials for students which explains how native American and settlers built shelters to live in.

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