Quill Pens

quill pensNeed a simple project for a big event? Perhaps these quill pens will do the trick!

Last Saturday, Cotsen hosted a table at Princeton University’s Community & Staff Day event. Because of the big crowds, we needed something simple, fun, fast, and literary. Last year, we made flying books. This year, we decided to make Harry Potter-esque quill pens.

We were, of course, dressed in hats and robes. Even though it was 85 degrees out. Because comfort never comes before costuming, am I right?

wizard robes   You’ll need:

First, twist a sparkle stem into the desired shape. We offered 3 different shapes to choose from (even though some kids made their own shapes of course):

stemsPlace the sparkle stem on top of the feather. Then use masking tape to attach the feather and the sparkle stem to the the top of the pen. You can continue covering the pen with tape if you’d like (just make sure you don’t accidentally tape the cap on). Done!

pen from sideBelow you can see the layout of our event table, including a display pen floating in the upper right-hand corner of the photo. It’s always a good idea to have an example of the project displayed somewhere. That way, kids can see what to expect and grown ups can get a jump on gathering the appropriate supplies.

table side 1On the opposite side of our event tent was a mirror activity. Here, kids could use their newly-created quill pens to do some inverted writing and try their skills at mirror mazes.

table side 2The mirror activity is very simple to put together. We duct-taped 6 bookends to the back of an inexpensive door mirror and stood it up on the table.

mirrorSince we weren’t able to staff the mirror activities during the event, we printed up some display instructions (here are my mirror writing instructions). I put the instructions in a double-sided plastic display stand.

instructionsWe stacked practice paper and 4 types of mazes (which we found using Google images) on either side of the mirror. The mazes were really popular, even with older kids!

boys writingLooking for a few more simple Harry Potter crafts? Try these PVC pipe wands, or this wrist owl (scroll to the bottom of the page to see the owl example). Defense Against the Dark Arts enthusiasts might enjoy this boggart!

Pan Pipes

groverGet your Grover on with these simple pan pipes necklaces! I designed them for a large-scale Lightning Thief event (you can read more about the event, and our awesome Mythomagic deck here). The pipes were part of a “Pan Pipes & Pythagoras” table hosted by Music Together Princeton Lab School. Since we needed to create several hundred sets of pan pipes (event attendance was around 5,000) I needed something inexpensive that would give kids a little taste of tone and pitch.

I considered PVC pipe, empty marker tubes, empty pen tubes…but they were either too expensive, impractical, too hard to cut, couldn’t produce a satisfactory sound, or required way too much prep time. Happily, the solution came when I stopped by Fruity Yogurt, a local frozen yogurt place. In addition to soft serve, Fruity Yogurt does bubble tea, which naturally comes with a bubble tea straw.

strawsBubble tea straws are thicker than your average drinking straw. I tested a few and they were perfect! Not to mention inexpensive and they come in jolly colors!

You’ll need:

  • At least 4 bubble tea straws
  • A small craft stick (for a 4-straw set of pipes, you’ll need a 3″ craft stick)
  • A 28-29″ piece of yarn
  • A ruler
  • A Sharpie permanent marker
  • Scissors and tape for construction

Start by folding the bottom of each straw up and taping it very tightly (some bubble tea straws have pointed bottoms – you can trim the point off if you’d like).

taped straw Place the folded straw next to a ruler, and use a permanent marker to mark the desired  length of the straw. I cut my straws in 0.5″ increments. So the first straw was 5″, the second straw was 4.5″, the third straw was 4″, and the fourth straw was 3.5″.

marked straw I did some experimenting with how long or how short a straw can be before it starts losing its tone. Based on my experiments, I wouldn’t go any longer than 7.5″ and no shorter than 2.5″. Beyond those lengths, the straws seem to lose their ability to hold a note.

Next, knot the yarn on both ends of the craft stick, and reinforce the knots with tape.

attached yarnLine all your straws next to each other in ascending order. Make sure the top (i.e. the open ends) of the straws are even with one another. Secure them with a piece of tape.

taped pipesThen flip the pipes over and tape the craft stick on the other side! Done!

finished pipes

Lights, Camera, Action!

a star is bornWhether you’re covering a celebrity event or conducting an in-depth interview, you’ll need the right equipment to get the job done. Namely a camera, a handheld microphone, and a boom microphone!

We’ve successfully “filmed” story time fashion shows, spoken with future presidents, covered red carpet entrances, and chatted with entomologists about a new bug species they’ve discovered. We’ve also let kids take over the equipment. It’s guaranteed to hold up to even the most enthusiastic documentarion.

You’ll need:

  • Black paper or paint
  • 2 cereal boxes (one extra large, one small)
  • 1 packing tape core
  • A 4″ x 4″ square of mirror board
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • A selection of dot stickers (optional)
  • 2 paper towel tubes
  • 2 black pipe cleaners
  • 1 black jumbo pom-pom (mine was 1.5″)
  • A 38″ piece of PVC pipe
  • A roll of black masking tape
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Hot glue

 CAMERA

cameraWrap the cereal boxes, packing tape core, and toilet paper tube with black paper (we used a roll of bulletin board paper, but you could also use black paint). Hot glue the 2 cereal boxes together. Katie glued a “Channel P” sign to the side of the small cereal box as well.

To make your camera lens, cut the mirror board to fit the circumference of the packing tape core, then attach the mirror board to the core with hot glue. Hot glue the core to the front of the extra large cereal box.

camera other side Hot glue the toilet paper tube “viewfinder” to the extra large cereal box. Put dot sticker “buttons” on the small cereal box (or draw your own button panel on white paper and attach to the box). Here’s a bird’s eye view of the camera with all of its parts in place.

camera topMake sure the viewfinder is on the opposite side of the camera from the small cereal box. Otherwise, you won’t be able to hold the camera on your shoulder!

HANDHELD MICROPHONE

microphoneCut a paper towel tube down to 8″ then wrap with black paper (or use black paint). To make the spiral cord, curl a black pipe cleaner around a marker. Then tape the pipe cleaner inside the bottom of the tube.

For the microphone’s “windscreen,” bunch pieces of tin foil into a bulbous cone shape. It should look like this:

mic foil 1Layer more piece of tin foil on top of the bulb so the windscreen bulges over the rim of the paper towel tube. Then hot glue the foil to the tube.

mic foil 2Feel free to add some dot sticker buttons if you like. Your microphone is ready to record!

BOOM MICROPHONE

boom micThe camera and the handheld mic are great, but the boom mic REALLY makes this set!

First, wrap the paper towel tube with black paper (or use paint). Then hot glue a jumbo pom pom on one end. To make the cord, curl a black pipe cleaner around a marker. Tape one end inside the tube. Tape the other end of the pipe cleaner to the outside bottom of the tube.

boom mic extrasTo create the boom, wrap a 38″ piece of PVC pipe with black masking tape. Use scissors (or a box cutter) to make a hole in the middle of the tube. Insert the PVC pipe into the hole, and keep pushing until the pipe touches the interior of the tube. Secure with black masking tape.

boom mic stepsYour set is complete! When covering a news story, I sometimes throw on a coat and matching fedora. To make things more official, you know.

news crew