Let's Build a Road:
When in Rome, Do as
the Romans Did
Today's Snack: Build a mini-road on a paper plate
connecting whole-grain crackers to each other with dabs of peanut butter.
A shallow cardboard
box such as the ones that hold 24 cans of pop
A drinking glass
A small amount of
Plaster of Paris, mortar or cement (optional)
The history of roads
revolves around the ancient Roman empire. The Romans were first in the world to
build a network of paved roads, beginning with the Appian Way four centuries
before the birth of Christ.
Appian way crossed marshes and made it possible for trade to take place between
Rome and countries far, far away. The Romans get a hold of timber to build ships;
silver and gold; grain to feed the growing population in Rome; wine; olive oil,
luxury clothing; leather; perfumes, spices and dyes.
though, the Roman roads were built to accommodate military traffic so that the
empire could be expanded; you couldn't move large numbers of men, horses and
machines over hill and dale. Paved roads made the process much faster and
Roman highway system grew the most in the first and second centuries after the
crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The roads were extremely well-constructed and were
famous for being kept in constant repair. A few are even still in use today!
roads radiated outward from Rome and reached as far north as the Rhine and Danube
Rivers in Germany; into Switzerland; to the highlands of Provence, France; into
Spain; into Syria; down the length of the Nile River in Egypt, and across North
Africa; find them on a map and you'll see the distance from Rome.
along each road were mileposts marking the distance from Rome, or the distance
to the nearest city in Rome's many provinces.
Roman engineers had no particular training other than "on the job" work. They
were known for building small models extensively, and in actual construction,
they made huge, elaborate wooden cranes worked by treadmills and pulleys to
move big pieces of stone and other heavy objects. They were especially good
with weights and measures.
are a few vocabulary words that have to do with roads:
Ballast - anything that makes things
steady; to get ballast is why people put sandbags in the trunks of cars in
winters where icy road conditions can happen; in roads, the Romans used smaller
rocks to make the roads last longer, provide drainage of rainwater, and spread
out the load-bearing
Culverts - a drainway under a road,
like a sewer
Embankments - dirt and rocks were
mounded under the roads so that rainwater would run down off the road quickly
nowadays, we have many powerful machines and technology that help us build
Logging trucks if trees must be cleared
Dynamite to clear away big trees,
stumps and boulders
Bulldozers to make the surface for the
new road as level as possible, filling in holes and smoothing away bumps
Loaders to dig up extra soil into a
Dump trucks to carry the soil to the
place it's needed
Graders, to make hills not so high and
curves not so steep, for safety reasons
Cement mixers to mix and pour cement
Curb-and-gutter machine, which is like
a giant Play-Doh factory to squirt out perfectly shaped sidewalk curbs
Compactor, to pack down the soil so
that it'll make a hard, smooth base, and get rid of air pockets
More dump trucks, to put a layer of
gravel, sand and cement to help rainwater drain away
Steamroller to smooth this base layer
Still more dump trucks, to pour hot
blacktop into the paver truck
Paver trucks distribute the blacktop
while moving for an even layer, repeating at least twice and then sealing
Another truck comes by sprinkling out
little pieces of crushed granite, which is a really hared rock, to keep the
road nice and tough; as the first cars go by, their tires will push the small
granite rocks into the soft blacktop permanently
huh? There's a lot to it!
Now imagine doing all that
by HAND, with shovels!
We'll try making a road
without machines, though our road will be extremely short.
To build a model road similar
to how the Romans did it, get a shallow cardboard box. Put crumbly dirt into
the box and pack it down hard by pushing a water glass into it. Then:
-- Dig a deep trench a
little wider than you want your road.
Lay a layer of flat stones along the road's path.
Fill in between the stones with smaller gravel and sand.
-- Next lay another layer
of stones in plaster of Paris, cement or mortar, if you have them, or just make
some more sand wet and lay the new stones in that.
-- Then lay more plaster,
cement, concrete or wet sand and small stones.
-- The final layer is one
more layer of plaster, cement, mortar or wet sand, with tiny gravel sprinkled
on top and pressed down gently.
Let dry before you run
your toy cars and trucks on it!