The fifth grade Maccabee project is one of my favorite projects of the year. The Maccabees were a family of Jews who lived approximately 2000 years ago, who restored a temple destroyed by the Assyrians under the leader Antiochus. In restoring the temple, they found enough oil to light the ceremonial lamp for what they thought was one day- but it burned for eight days, hence the origin of Hanukah.
The unit begins with an intensive figure drawing unit, where students use wooden manikins as models, focusing on form, proportion, angle, shape, and negative space. They also do blind contour drawings, where they cannot look at the page while drawing, and gesture drawings, which are fast, loose sketches designed to capture the essence of the form.
To design their Maccabees, we discussed the time period (around 160 BCE) and what life was like. We also consulted illustrated books about the Hanukah story to observe the style of dress and the manner of weaponry that existed at the time.
Students used wire to build an armature for the body. Then, they covered it with plaster bandages. The heads are model magic and the clothing and accessories are mixed media- including cloth, foil, wood, yarn, and leather.