PS/IS 686 | Brooklyn, NY

301: Relief Maps Plus Learning to Negotiate

Half of you probably had a colorful salt clay relief map come home yesterday, and everyone should have gotten to see and admire a brochure that described some of the highlights of your child’s continent. Half of the children, however, had to accept not taking home a relief map – yet at the end of the day, everyone seemed happy. Curious how we managed that?

In Morning Meeting, map partners who had already found a way to determine who would take their map home shared their strategies. Eli and Isabel had traded; one took the extra clay in exchange for the other one getting to take the map home once it was finished. Aleksander and Diana said that they played five rounds of rock, paper, scissors, and Aleksander said that even though he lost, he was okay about it, because he’d had an equal chance of winning. Some generous partners said that they’d just let their partners have the map.

Still, disappointment is a feeling you can’t just will away. So then we talked about how you could feel better about being the one who didn’t get the map. One student shrugged cheerfully and said, “I didn’t mind letting my partner have it  once I thought about what my parents do with my projects; I knew they’d just throw it out.” Another suggestion was taking a special photo of you with the map. And then the truly magical idea came up: you could make your own map at home. I said that I’d be happy to share the recipe for the salt clay, and that I even still had extra cardboard – and leftover flour, for that matter.(Please, someone take it off my hands!) Then I crossed my fingers and sent them off to negotiate who would take the map. It was wonderful to see how quickly and peacefully they all worked it out!

So as promised, here’s the recipe for the salt clay. Yes, it’s a little messy, but the children truly loved making it and then working with it.



  • 4 cups of flour
  • 2 cups of salt
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar

Using your hands, mix together the flour, salt, water, cream of tartar. Adjust by adding more flour or water to get a good, moldable texture. Knead the dough until soft. Makes enough for 3 small maps, so you could probably cut the recipe in half with no problem. If you’re not going to use it right away, seal it into a ziplock bag; it keeps well. 

And also as promised, the photos of the partners with their maps: