Contact Katharine Hutchinson for more information about this technique.

Plaster-scenes is particularly useful for helping students to remember case study details. They should work in small teams to create a plaster-scene based on the case study details that you read out. Each team will need a small amount of Playdoh for this task – don’t give them too much as this makes the task too easy. Give them a sheet of scrap paper to create their model on – the Playdoh is quite greasy and you don’t want to have greasy marks left all over your tables at the end of the activity.

I usually read the script once and then give teams 3-4 minutes to create their scene before reading it again and giving them 1-2 minutes to finish their plaster-scene. Once teams have made their model you could get them to visit another team’s creation and label it to show the key facts that they can glean from it. They then return to their own plaster-scene and look at what another team has labelled on their work. It’s worth putting the text onto the projector at this stage so that they can self-assess their work.


I have used these scripts before and both worked well – I think they have about the right level of detail in them to make the activity challenging but not impossible.

Geography example

On 12th May 2008 at 2.28pm an earthquake struck in the southern province of Sichuan in China. It measured 7.9 on the Richter scale. The cause of the earthquake was activity on a conservative plate boundary, where tectonic plates move alongside one another, building up friction and pressure that eventually is released as an earthquake. The tremor lasted over 2 minutes and led to a series of landslides occurring. People were at work and school and out shopping. Almost 70,000 people died and over 300,000 people were injured. 7000 schools were destroyed and 5.4 million homes were affected. 2 chemical factories were damaged, spilling over 80 tonnes of toxic liquids.

History example

13 young men stored 36 barrels of gunpowder in a cellar, just under the House of Lords, ready to blow it up and kill King James. But some of the plotters started having second thoughts. One of the group sent a warning letter which reached the King. Guy Fawkes was caught in the cellar with the 36 barrels of gunpowder when the authorities stormed it in the early hours of November 5. He was hung, drawn and quartered.