Constructing your very own Cambrian Critter
       Probably one of the most engaging projects in Earth Science is constructing your very own “Cambrian Critter”.  These creatures simply defy description and it is hard to believe that they actually existed at all given their unusual shapes, behavior and body designs.  They were weird, REALLY weird but they formed the foundation for all body designs that exist today in the animal kingdom.

       Here is what you are being asked to do.  Select a Cambrian Critter that appeals to you.  Your creature might be one that has already been discovered or you may wish to add some personal touches of your own.  Your creature will be constructed from a variety of materials found at any art supply store, Home Depot, Michael’s, The Rag Shop or Chez Target.  You are limited only by your imagination.  Here are some useful dos and don’ts:

*   Do design a creature with an average length of about 18-24 inches.  Creatures should not exceed three feet in length.

*   Do consider using FOAM.  It is extremely versatile and can be cut and sanded very easily.  Large sheets are available in the building supply center at Home Depot or you can use floral foam found at Michael's.  Be forewarned, floral foam can be more expensive.

*   Do plan on using such craft materials as foam, yarn, pipe cleaners, tooth picks, fabrics, balsa wood and more foam.  Use your imagination!

*   Do paint your critters but remember that some aerosol paints will eat away at foam so you must use a spray paint designed for foam.  Krylon Primer and many auto body primer spray paints will work on foam.

*   Do NOT use clay.  It is too heavy and your creature creations may be suspended from the ceiling.  Anything heavy will not resist the force of gravity.  Crayola Model Magic clay is okay to use but check with Mr. T before using.

*   Do plan your project first before you have purchased any materials.  This is really important.

* Art supply stores have lots of goodies like bug eyes, numerous foam shapes, special adhesives and paints designed for foam and fabric.

*   Use toothpicks to attach one piece of foam to another.  I HIGHLY recommend shish ko bob skewers found at Publix.  These wooden gems are available in two lengths- five inches and twelve inches.  Pin the foam using the skewers and apply a small amount of white, or carpenter’s glue to secure the two pieces together.

*   Do NOT use any type of perishable food.  It will rot or attract ants.  One student used gum drops which looked great for the first two or three days until the sugar oxidized and attracted swarms of gnats.  Gross.

*   Paint a foam ball or body part with a light coat of white glue and then wrap the body part with color yarn.  This creates texture and color.  The glue dries clear and the creature comes to life.  Always use small amount of glue.   Hot glue guns work really well but be careful on smaller parts made from paper.

*   Balsa wood is available at many hobby shops.  It is easy to cut, sand and glue together.  It is also very lightweight.  Wooden dowels in a wide range of diameters can be found at Home Depot and make excellent spines.

 Some final comments...     
       Generally this project takes approximately two weeks to complete.  However, the first step for students is to warn their parents that the project has been assigned.  Do NOT wait until two days before the project due date to let your parents know that you need to tour the malls in search of materials and ideas for your project.  You may find yourself wrapped in duct tape, hanging from your ceiling as another example of “living art”.

    Finally, you are being graded on your effort.  Pure and simple.  Some of us are gifted sculptors, painters, fabricators and animators while some of us are not.  This is okay.  It will be obvious to your teacher as to how much effort you spent in the research, preparation and completion of your Cambrian Critter project.  Imagination and innovation will be richly awarded, and not how much money you spent or the fact that your creature drools on command.

 Construction Tutorials: (Click on the picture) 

         Constructing a Walking Cactus from PVC

         Constructing a Wiwaxia
Constructing an Anomalocaris
         Working With Foam
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