The Eager Entomologist

the eager entomologistPolish up your binoculars! Today, we’re discovering a new species of bug…and rumor has it a local news crew is in the area, ready to chat with you about your latest contribution to science!

news crewWe read Big Bug Surprise by Julia Gran (Scholastic Press, 2007). Prunella is excited about bugs, excited to tell people about bugs, and excited to bring a special bug to show-and-tell at her school. But her enthusiasm for spouting bug facts is meet by a repeated “Not now, Prunella!” from her parents, bus driver, and teacher. However, when a swarm of bees invades the classroom, Prunella saves the day with her quick thinking and vast knowledge of insect behavior.  

For this project, we made binoculars, designed bugs, and created a habitat for said bug. Later, we hid the bugs outside the library for kids to “discover.” Then our camera crew interviewed the budding entomologists about their new find.

You’ll need:

First, the binoculars. Wrap 2 toilet paper tubes with black construction paper. Then tape the top and bottom of the tubes together.

binnoculars step 1Punch a hole in the top of each tube and knot a ribbon through each hole to create a strap. Finish by wrapping the top and bottom of the tubes with colored masked tape. Done!

binnoculars step 2Now for the bugs! We made a few inspirational bug models in advance…

bugsBug-building was very simple. First, we offered kids a choice of bug body (a toilet paper tube or an orange juice container cap). Then we turned everyone loose on the art supplies. I had a hot glue gun ready to attach wiggle eyes (and whatever else was needed).

It’s difficult to see in this picture, but I had a lot of success layer iridescent cello over white construction paper to create sparkly bug wings. Quite a few kids replicated this.

wingsWhen the bugs were finished, we handed out the boxes and got to work on habitats.

bug boxes openIn addition to fabric leaves and flowers, we prepped a few “leaves” and “sticks” using brown and green construction paper.

leaves and sticksWhen the habitats were finished, we collected the bugs and headed outside to the library plaza. While the kids waited with me, Katie placed the bugs in various locations. Then the search was on!

bug huntDiscovered bugs were gleefully discovered and tucked carefully into their habitats by eager young entomologists.

caughtI switched into my coat and “news” hat and assembled the camera crew. Mic in hand, I asked questions like “What is your bug’s name?” “What does your bug like to eat?” “Can you tell me a little more about its habitat?” “What sound does your bug make?”

news crew 2You’ll find instructions for making this lovely handheld microphone, camera, and boom microphone set here (snazzy “News” fedora not included).

Fair Trade

wagon and goodsPack your wagon and get ready for a long journey! We made a little covered wagon and 2 sets of goods to go inside it. Then, we traveled to the story time store to do some good old-fashioned trading!

We read Ox-Cart Man, written by Donald Hall and illustrated by Barbara Cooney (Viking Juvenile, 1979). A farmer prepares for a journey, packing his ox cart with all the surplus things his family has produced throughout the year – wool, mittens, brooms, apples, etc. Then he sets off on a ten day journey to Portsmouth, where he sells everything (including the ox and the cart) and purchases items for his family especially (and this was very important when I was a little kid) 2 pounds of wintergreen peppermint candies. Pockets still full of coins, he returns to his farm and the beautiful cycle of seasons, work, and life begins again. It’s a lovely, lovely book.

For the wagon, you’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”)
  • An 8.5″ x 14″ piece of tagboard (optional)
  • 1 wagon wheel template, printed on an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of white card stock
  • 1 piece of string (approximately 37″ long)
  • An 8.5″ x 11″ piece of white card stock
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • Scissors, glue stick, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

For the goods, you’ll need:

  • 1 quilt template, printed on an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of white paper
  • craft sticks (mine were 4.5″ long)
  • 2 rectangles of brown construction paper
  • 1 brown paper lunch bag
  • 1 small bunch of polyester fill
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 2 pieces of twine (mine were 57″ long)
  • 2 paper baking cups
  • Red & brown pom-poms (mine were medium-sized, about 0.5″ in diameter)
  • Scissors for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • 1 trading post (more on this later!)

Begin with the wagon! Cut the top of the box off, and cut the sides down to about 3″ high.

wagon 1The next step is optional (but fun). Cut strips of tagboard to fit the sides of the box, draw wood grain patterns on each of them, and use tape, a glue stick, or hot glue to attach them to the sides of the box. Or you can go super simple and draw wood grain on the sides of the box. Or skip this step entirely and leave the box blank.

wagon 2Next, color and cut the wagon wheels from the template and tape or hot glue them to the box.Make sure the wheels are flush with the bottom of the box. Otherwise, the wagon won’t slide very well.

wagon 3Time for the pull string! It’s important to really attach this well, so you don’t have any pull string fails during your long journey. Cut a slit in the front of the wagon. Then, knot the end of the string (I used heavy kite string) and slide the knot into the slit. Tape the string to the inside of the box, and then put another piece of tape above the knot it’s really secure.

pull string stepsThe final step for the covered wagon is…the cover! Use colored masking tape to create two “bows” on the piece of card stock “canvas” (the bows are the wooden ribs that hold up the canvas on a real covered wagon).

bowsNow hot glue (or tape) the ends of the card stock canvas to the insides of the wagon. Be sure to adhere it no lower than 1″ from the top of the wagon (if the canvas is too low, it makes it hard to get the stuff in and out of your wagon).

attaching canvas topYour wagon is finished…now for the goods! Remember, you’ll be making two of each item (with the exception of the bag of wool). For the quilts, use markers to decorate and cut out the quilt template.

quiltsFor the broom, fringe 2 rectangles of brown construction paper, then wrap them around the bottom of the craft sticks. Attach the construction paper to the craft sticks with colored masking tape.

broomFor the bag of wool, cut the bottom off the paper lunch bag. You want the sides of the bag to be no taller than 3″. Open the bag and pop the polyester fill inside it.

woolFor the rope, simply coil and knot the two pieces of twine. Or don’t coil them and leave them loose. Plenty of kids did!

ropeFor the sacks of produce, fill two baking cups with red and brown pom-poms to represent apples and potatoes. Your wagon is ready to roll!

The ox-cart man traveled quite a long way to get to the market, so I decided to replicate that experience. I  set up a little store at the end of the an exhibit gallery that is adjacent to the entrance to our library. It’s a looong gallery, and I tucked the store off to one side, so I marked the way with red arrows made of colored masking tape.

The store consisted of a copy paper box lid stocked with some fun doodads – shells, spotted feathers, large gemstones, finger puppets (left over from this program) tiaras made out of pipe cleaners, gro-dinosaurs, and cake erasers left over from this story time.

trading postKids could trade 3 things in their wagons for 3 things in the store. With 20 kids at story time, did a pretty brisk business that day.

shoppersThen, laden with goodies, the wagons headed off home (sorry the photo is a little blurry, but you get the idea)!

wagons heading home

Love Is In The Air

cupidA cupid on a ladder, some strewn hearts, a sweet little keepsake box…

valentines box

 Some love letters…

love letters

You don’t have to wait until Valentine’s Day to make someone feel special. “I love you” is all year round!

We read Love, Ruby Valentine written by Laurie B. Friedman and illustrated by Lynne Avril Cravath (Carolrhoda Books, 2006). Ruby Valentine and her pet bird, Lovebird, absolutely LOVE Valentine’s Day. As the holiday draws near, Ruby goes into a frenzy – baking, wrapping gifts, making cards, curling ribbon, and choosing the perfect outfit. Unfortunately, she’s so exhausted by her preparations that when she stops to rest she accidentally sleeps through Valentine’s! When she awakes, she’s horrified and saddened to realize she missed it. Fortunately, Lovebird convinces her to carry on. Ruby makes her deliveries a day late and…no one seems to mind! Ruby learns that you don’t have to wait until Valentine’s to tell someone you love them. Go ahead and tell them all year round!

Kids were a little surprised when I told them that it was Valentine’s in July, but once they heard the story and understood its message, they eagerly joined in the fun.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”)
  • A love letters template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of white card stock
  • Red, pink, purple, and yellow construction paper
  • A selection of patterned paper
  • Paper doilies
  • A selection of patterned tape
  • Paper baking cups
  • Heart stickers
  • A selection of curling ribbon
  • A selection of fabric ribbon
  • A selection of craft tie
  • A selection of pipe cleaners
  • A selection of sparkle stems
  • A selection of small feathers
  • The Bling Bin
  • A ladder (ours was 8′ high)
  • Scissors, tape, glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

We started by decorating the boxes. This was a free-form art supply “buffet” that kids could pick and choose from. In designing my box, I went for a classic red and white number.

valentines boxIn addition to the art supplies in the list above, I told kids that if there was something else they wanted, to please come and ask. Only one kid took me up on this offer. A little girl who, for some reason, wanted wiggle eyes on her box. To say “Eye love you” perhaps?

wiggle eyesAs the final touches were put on the boxes, I handed out the love letter templates, instructing everyone to decorate them, cut them out, and put them in their boxes to take home. Later, they could use them to infuse their homes with some L-O-V-E.

And now for the main event – the strewing of the hearts. I prepared for it by cutting a slew of construction paper hearts (about 2″ high) from red, pink, purple, and yellow construction paper.

hearts ready to goIMPORTANT! After you finish cutting a heart, make sure you soft fold it down the middle. Unlike a hard fold, where you push the paper down so the sides meet (and run your finger along the fold to create a sharp crease), a soft fold consists of gently folding the paper, but not letting the sides touch.

heart foldThis step might seem superfluous, but after some testing I determined that a soft folded heart will flutter and fall better than a non-folded (or hard folded) heart, making it easier for kids to see and catch.

We gave Mr. Ian a pair of cupid wings and sent him up a ladder, where he cheerfully strewed hearts to kids, who caught them in their boxes and hands.

spreading the loveThen, in a serenade of violins, cupid departed, taking his 8′ aluminum ladder with him…

cupid departs