How to Make an Easy DIY Plague Doctor's Mask with Lesson Ideas for Kids

Updated on October 6, 2016

A Middle Ages Classic

Using this method is really simple, but the mask looks really good. I couldn't find any help on the internet when I was researching how to make one. I had the idea that I wanted my children to have a hands-on activity and then write a set of instructions from it. So, I set about making my own mask and here are the instructions of how to do it.

Materials You Will Need

  • 2 x A4 pieces of card (Colour is up to you but I chose yellow)
  • 1 x Toilet roll holder
  • Scissors
  • Stapler
  • Sellotape or masking tape
  • Anything you need to decorate it

How Do You Make a Simple Plague Doctor's Mask?

For the Beak:

  • First, you take one of your A4 pieces of card. This piece of card should be folded in half along the longest side of the rectangle.
  • You then place it in the landscape position with the folded edge of the card at the bottom.
  • Starting at the bottom left-hand corner you need to draw a curve up to the top right-hand corner. (This is going to form the beak so a good round curve would be better here)
  • Once this has been done then you should cut along the line you have drawn. (If the children get this right then their beak should still be in one part)
  • Next, you need to secure this curved edge somehow - I used a staple and placed staples all the way down to the bottom of the beak. You could use sellotape or masking tape but I felt the staples would be more secure here. (Note the back edge of the beak where it is going to join the mask should not be touched at this point.)
  • Then instruct the children to place two fingers inside their beak. Model how they should then push down their fingers against the top of the table. This should create a 3D beak now but it will spring back into place once you let go.
  • The children should fold an edge along the line they have just created all the way down to the bottom of the beak.
  • If you tackle one side at a time this will be easier - staple along each fold they have created so the beak stays in the 3D shape. It is not necessary to go along the whole length; maybe 3/4 will do here.
  • Then do the same for the other side. You should now have three edges that have staples in and if you feel you want to staple the bottom of the beak then this will create a good effect too but it is not essential.
  • That is your beak made. Put this to one side until you need it again.

For the Goggles:

  • Take the toilet roll holder and flatten it on the table.
  • Cut it into three equal parts and discard one. (I used this part to help the class with the idea of sharing and recycling so they didn't just throw it away!)
  • Then take one of the cylinders and open it back up.
  • At the top, you need to cut down about a centimetre — this should be done all the way around the top to create flaps to make it easier to secure the goggles.
  • Do the same for the other toilet roll holder.
  • Place it to one side until needed again.

For the Mask:

  • Take the second piece of card and lie it down landscape on the table top.
  • Ask the children to fold this in half again along the longest side of the rectangle.
  • Leave this in the portrait position.
  • Start from 2/3 of the way up on the folded edge of the card and draw half a heart shape. (Start a curve that goes up and around to the top of the card, then it should come back down and around until it reaches the bottom right-hand corner of the card.)

  • Open it up and you should have a heart shape.
  • Next, you have to mark off the places which need cutting out (the google shapes and the beak shape.)
  • So first place the two parts of the toilet rolls in the place where you need them for the eyes. Get a pencil and while holding it in place, draw around the outside where it sits on the piece of card.
  • Get the beak and place this at the bottom of your mask - try to get it so that it fits with a nice continual line to help it look good. Then draw around the top of it on the piece of card.
  • After this is done you should cut out the goggles holes.
  • To cut the circles out I asked the children to fold the card in two and then just start to cut along the line. When they have a big enough hole to put their scissors in they should then open the card up and then place the scissors in the hole and continue to cut the circle out.
  • The beak shape should be cut out at the bottom too.
  • Turn over the heart shape and then poke the toilet roll holders through. Then secure the flaps at the back of this mask by folding them back and sellotaping them down.
  • Do the same thing for the beak shape — this can be secured with sellotape or staples, whichever you find easier. Note that if you secure it at the front of the mask then masking tape might be a better option so you can decorate it easier.
  • The next instructions would be to decorate it or to write instructions on how they made it, depending on what you wanted from the lesson.

Have a Look at the Results Below:

Please take a look at the display we created using them to see what they look like. The display has now been taken down and the instructions were done using smart notebook which I cannot open with this laptop. I will try and get more pictures of the results when I get my school computer back.

This Mask Can Be Adapted Easily

I looked at this mask and how we formed the goggles and then thought if the 'beak' was adapted we could easily make a gas mask for WW1 or 2 depending on your topic.

Instead of using the beak like I have described above, why not make a cylinder shape at the end of your mask? It would be easy to do and fix, and would look effective made from black card so you don't have to decorate it.

Where there is a plague doctor, there must be a victim.
Where there is a plague doctor, there must be a victim.

Lesson Ideas for a Plague Mask:

So you know how to make a simple plague mask now but what do you do with it?

There are a few lesson ideas of what you can do with this, here are a few.

Lesson Idea 1:

  • The first lesson would be to make the mask. This can be a simple you show and they follow step by step. Once the mask is made it would be up to them to decorate it with the resources you have provided. (When doing a lesson like this I prefer to have 4-5 different tables set up with different resources on like paints, colouring pens, paper for callage etc. A quick demonstration of each could be good here - reminding children of some simple tips like wait for the paint to dry before painting a different colour.

Lesson Idea 2:

  • A tailored this lesson for my class, in that I told them that they would be writing the instructions for making a plague mask in our next literacy lesson so with the scrap paper I had handed out, I told them to make notes on what they did and what I said when I modelled the task.
  • Then of course they had to write the instructions up in best using a template. There was no modelling from me in this lesson just an introduction into why we use bossy verbs and examples of what they could use.
  • This was then used as a display for the classroom.

Lesson Idea 3:

  • Once the mask has been made the children are to research what an actual plague doctor looked like. This research would probably be for homework.
  • Using this information we would then talk about how we could decorate the mask so it looks accurate.
  • Then using an art lesson I would model how they could create such a look (Remember this is from the children's ideas but of course with you enhancing their skills — if you need time to research how to do this before the lesson then do just that. A five minute talk after registration could do and then your next art lesson would be the time to try it out.)

A way you could do this is to allow the children to paint their models. Once this coat is dry they should coat it in a thin layer of glue and paint straight onto it again. The thinner the coat the smaller the cracks. The paint will then crack naturally and produce an old looking model.

Lesson Idea 4:

  • The masks can be used as a prop in a drama activity. This should be designed to aid their writing skills. After they have performed the drama ask the audience to describe the plague doctor and how he acted and looked - this should be scribed on the board for the next literacy lesson to aid them.

Lesson Idea 5:

  • Use this for a DT lesson. They can have a go at making the mask and then the children need to know why they were designed this way with the big beak having two functions:
  1. First was the design of a bird — the people of the age believed this would protect them. One theory was that birds spread the disease so if the doctors dressed as a bird they would leave them alone.
  2. The second reason was that this part would be stuffed with insense and spices to ward off the bad smells of the plague which were thought to have caused the plague.
  3. They had to disguise their identity so people didn't know who they were if something bad happened, i.e. if someone wanted revenge for a relatives death.
  • Once they have made this then they could have a go at making other masks of animals (there are plenty of animal mask templates on the internet you could research for this)
  • They then could have a go at designing their own and eventually making one before evaluating their work.

And of course, no matter how you want to teach this you should always make a great display out of their great work.
And of course, no matter how you want to teach this you should always make a great display out of their great work.

A More Difficult Option

More Ideas

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        jeff 

        7 weeks ago

        cool mask made one

      • profile image

        Carrie 

        20 months ago

        Thanks - I'll be using this idea with my class in the next week or so!

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