Make your own Hill of Calvary for Easter. This grass garden features the hill where Jesus was hung on the cross and a small tomb where he was buried and rose again. It makes a very symbolic centerpiece for your Easter table and it an incredible teaching tool for your little sprout.
Note: It's best to start your Hill of Calvary at least 2 weeks before Easter.
Step 1: Lay the 4 inch pot on its side in the 10 inch dish. Use smallish rocks to hold the pot in place.
Step 2: Pour in a small layer of gravel for drainage.
Step 3: Make mud! The best way to apply the soil/dirt is by first making mud in a separate container. (Sorry this isn't great picture..I was in the midst of experimenting.) Just put your soil and water in a bucket of some sort and mix it up. Your kids will love the mud pie batter.
Step 4: Take handfuls of the mud and pack it all around the pot and in the dish. You will want to create a nice rounded hill.
Step 5: Spread a thick layer of seed over the ENTIRE soil area. You may have to kind of push it into the soil a bit on the steep sides. This is very important: Don't be stingy with the seed. If you want nice, dense grass, the seed needs to completely cover the surface of the soil. (Don't just sprinkle it.)
Step 6: Cover seed with a very thin layer of your mud mixture.
Step 7: Bring your dish garden inside and put it in warm sunlight. I put mine on a metal TV tray next to our sliding door. Having it up off the ground is a good idea when you have little tots running around. Remember, the terra cotta is porous so it's going to leak some moisture. Don't just set it on your coffee table! Put a tray, plate, etc. underneath it.
Step 8: WATER! For the first 3-4 days you will need to spray and water your hill three times per day. So if you are heading out for the weekend, wait to do this project until you get home. Before the seeds take root, the soil will run off pretty easily...(think erosion) so at first you will mainly need to rely on using a spray bottle to irrigate...
Once the grass takes root and matures, you'll be able to slowly drizzle water on it, without losing your hill. Now that my hill is fully mature, I stick it in the sink, turn the water on VERY low and then use my little sprayer hose to water.
Also note that when the seed first starts to grow, it will actually "push up" some of the soil as seen here. Check out the crack above. Just drizzle water, spray and gently press the soil back down. You don't want it to dry out and just fall off.
Step 9: Watch it grow! Within 2 days you will probably see small white roots shooting out.
Step 10: Make three crosses out of collected sticks. I used hot glue to hold them in place and then wrapped raffia around to secure it and hide glue. Note that the grass will grow faster and higher than you think. Make your crosses a little bit "jumbo" sized because they will need to be nestled down in the grass and yet, you still want to be able to see them.
Where is Jesus?
He has risen! He has risen, INDEED!
Lessons from the Hill of Calvary:
As you work on creating the project, watering, etc. talk about the Easter story with your child. This is whole Mustard Seed thing in action--planting God's truth--while you are literally planting.
Anne and I had a particularly good conversation as we made the crosses. She wondered why there were three crosses instead of just one for Jesus. We got to talk about how there where two other men who died on the hill with Jesus, but they had actually done some bad things. Jesus was pure and did nothing wrong. He died on the cross for OUR sins.
"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:21
Other questions followed:
Anne: "Why he didn't just get down? I would have helped him get down."
Me: "Well, he did it just for us. He knew what we couldn't be with him because of OUR sin, so he died on the cross for OUR sin."
Good, profound truth happens when you are crafting/gardening sometimes.
Other teaching ideas:
We love this wonderful book. Oh my! I love robins, but now I love them even more!
The book tells the legend of why the robin's breast is red...
I love this part... "I know this man, thought the robin. All earth's creatures, except humans, recognized Jesus--the Creator-God come to earth."
"The thorn gave way. And as it came out a drop of Jesus' blood fell onto the robin's breast, staining it red from that day to this."
These would be very cute at each place setting on your Easter table.
"Some people say there are no snakes in Ireland because Saint Patrick drove them out, just as he had driven out sin. Patrick got rid of the snakes by beating a drum hard and fast. The snakes couldn't stand the noise so they slithered into the sea." -Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland, by Tomie dePaola
What you need:
Paint your stick.
Let it dry.
Glue on your tongue.
Find some eyes. I didn't have googly eyes on hand, so we used sequins...
Anne wanted girl-y flower eyes.
Then, play St. Patrick and the snakes. We went outside and tried to scare all the snakes into the sea.
St. Patrick's Day is next Thursday. You can learn more about this Christian saint here. We especially love this children's book by Tomie dePaloa. It tells the story of St. Patrick and then also about several legends and stories that surround him.
One story that I especially love is how St. Patrick used a shamrock to teach people about the Holy Trinity. One day, while he was teaching, the people were having a hard time understanding how the Trinity worked/functioned/existed. Patrick looked down at his feet and saw a shamrock. He plucked it up and explained that the Trinity is like the shamrock: Each leaf represents one part--father, son and holy spirit--but they all share one stem are and are one being.
Consider making shamrock potato prints to illustrate the concept with your little ones.
Also, just want to use this opportunity to say how great dePaola's books are....here are a couple of other Irish-themed books.