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Once a week we will be featuring a fun and/or educational activity you can try at home or in the classroom. This week, we learn how to make mud bricks like people use to make houses in some parts of the world.

In southwestern United States and Mexico (as well as other parts of the world), where there are not many trees, people often build houses out of mud bricks called adobe. Adobe houses are warm in the evening and cool in the daytime.

An illustration of a small house made from adobe bricks.
One type of house made from adobe bricks.



Materials

  • Soil
  • Water
  • Bowl
  • Large mixing spoon
  • Straw, dry grass or pine needles
  • 2 thermometers
  • One-pint milk carton
  • Clock
  • A sunny window
  • Pencil and paper

Directions:
  1. Gather some straw. If you do not have straw you can use dry grass, or dry pine needles.
  2. Put the straw, soil from your yard, and water into a bowl and mix it well.
  3. Open the top of the empty one-pint milk carton. Pour the mud mixture from the bowl into the milk carton.
  4. Make a hole in the mud by pushing a pencil halfway down in the middle of the opening. Loosen the mud around the pencil by moving the pencil in a small circle, and then leave it in the carton.
  5. Place the milk carton in a sunny window and leave it there for several days to dry.
  6. When the brick is firm and dry, take the pencil out of it and peel off the carton.
  7. Leave your brick in a sunny window for one more hour. Then, put the brick on a table out of the sunlight.
  8. Put a thermometer into the hole of the brick. This will measure the temperature inside the brick.
  9. Lay another thermometer nearby on the table to measure the temperature of the air outside the brick.
  10. Wait a few minutes, and then read and write down the temperatures showing on the thermometer inside and outside of the brick. (How long will it take before the thermometer inside the brick is the same temperature as the one outside of it?)

Discussion questions:

Many people around the world use different materials to build their houses. What are some of the advantages to using adobe bricks to build a house? What could be added to the mud mix to make stronger bricks?

If a mud brick is warmed by the sun, how long will it continue to give off warmth once the sun goes down? 

Adobe bricks are not used for building in places where there is a lot of rain, or where it is cold. What would happen if adobe bricks froze and thawed a lot? What happens to adobe bricks if they keep getting wet?

What are some other materials that can be used to build houses?

Show me more educational activities and stories like this one!

Top photo by Russ McCabe, courtesy of Unsplash.
 

Author

Linda Meyers

Linda Meyers, an Arkansas transplant originally from St. Louis, Mo., started working at Heifer International in 2011. She enjoys dragging her three children on nature hikes and snapping photos of them and everything around her. She has a bachelor’s degree in English has been “in the process” of writing the great American novel for 24 years.

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