Eat a country, build a country

Cooking a meal from Nauru, way out in Oceania? What about creating the island nation of Nauru as a supplemental learning project? This interactive sand box is a phenomenal learning tool that utilizes Xbox technology and sand to build topographic models on the fly. As kids push sand around, mountains and rivers are formed. You can even make it “rain” by holding your hand over the land – the rainwater flows realistically down hillsides.

Here are some kids playing with it and…

… Here’s more of an explanation of how it works.

I did some digging and found the directions for how to make the interactive sand box are available to anyone with a bit of coding know-how thanks to the developer, Oliver Kreylos (@okreylos) – a faculty member and self-proclaimed holodeck builder at the University of California Davis.


For those who are serious about bringing this project to their home, school, or local children’s museum: a few resources are available here and here. At the time of writing this article, Oliver Kreylosr’s opensource code page was down (a side effect of going viral, I’m sure) but here’s the link for when it comes back up.

Until then you can also build your countries the old-fashioned way – with balled up newspaper, more paper, and glue…


Tips for how to build an old-fashioned paper mache landmass or volcano:

1. To make a mountain, use paper, Elmer’s glue, and water. For a volcano, you’ll also need an empty water bottle.

2. To build your landmass: Make the glue really watery. Dip strips of paper in the glue and lay them across balled up paper and around the water bottle, if using. Leave the top of the water bottle clear of any paper so you can make it erupt later.

3. Let dry for a day or two, then decorate with paint and whatever else suits your fancy.

4. To make the volcano erupt: Add 2 Tbsp baking soda to the water bottle. Mix 1/4 cup vinegar and red food coloring (if desired) – pour into the bottle and watch her blow!

Here’s Ava with her tropical volcano last summer. We decorated it with flowers, grasses and moss from the garden. And, yes, you can watch it erupt (and see which “people” survive the lava flow).


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