I'd love to thank the old Mythbusters show for today's column. Currently on Wednesday, the business teacher has to provide mandated training to students on relationships, etc. Her class comes to my room and I've been showing one episode of Mythbusters. This particular episode explored the idea that you can't polish poop.
So they went off to a zoo to collect a bunch of poop from eight different animals. Once they had the poop, they dried it before deciding which ones were the best choices for the product. After a few days of struggling to polish the poop, they brought in a man who showed them how to make Dorodango Balls or balls made out of dirt and water.
I thought the same thing. You cannot create balls out of dirt but he has some beautifully shiny balls that looked so much like a natural substance you'd never have guessed they came from mud. This activity is done by elementary children in Japan and does not take much. Apparently, this dying art was brought back to popularity by a university professor used it to research how children played. You just need good dirt, water, and patience.
First mix enough water to the dirt to create a thick mud so water doesn't pool around it nor does it fall apart. It should be like a thick paste, almost like a dough. Shape this mixture into a sphere that holds its shape. While shaping the ball, you want to shake it occasionally to move pockets out of the way and make it more solid. Place in a plastic bag and let it dry a bit, anywhere from 30 min to a few hours.
Add a bit of dirt to the outside and sweep it off to begin creating an outer shell. Once its covered, put it back in a plastic bag and let it dry out more, about 20 minutes. During this time, the liquid will condense on the inside of the bag. Take the ball out and place a layer of dirt on it again and put back in the plastic bag.
Repeat the process until you have a nice surface that feels leathery. At this stage, you need fine particles of dirt or dust that you place on the outside of the ball and gently rub the ball with any that stick to your hand. Continue until the surface moisture disappears and it feels powdery. Place in a new plastic bag and let dry a bit before repeating. When particles no longer stick to the ball, it is ready to be polished.
Remove the ball from the bag and let it dry about 20 minutes before polishing with a soft cloth. If its not dry enough, the cloth could mar the surface. Once the ball is completely dry, polish it till its nice and shiny.
The Mythbusters used this technique to create beautifully shiny balls from dried ground up dung mixed with water and polished to a high gloss. Instead of leaving out in a plastic bag, they put the bag in the freezer for a few minutes between each step. I honestly don't know if you really need to use the freezer but it works.
This might make a cool summer project to experiment with. Imagine kids who get to play in the mud while creating a piece of art. Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.