Metamorphical Magic

meta magicFeed the caterpillar some leaves, place it in a chrysalis, and watch it dramatically emerge as a colorful butterfly! Thanks to the hidden elastic cord, the butterfly appears to soar on it’s very own! It’s a super simple story time project that combines science, art, and magic all in one.

We read Arabella Miller’s Tiny Caterpillar by Clare Jarrett (Candlewick, 2008). While climbing trees, Arabella Miller discovers a tiny caterpillar. She makes him a shoe box home, feeds him cabbage and parsley, observes him shedding his skin, and finally watches him spin a chrysalis. When he emerges weeks later, Arabella Miller discovers that he is something quite new! As he flies into the sky, she calls out an enthusiastic good-bye to her special butterfly.

You’ll need:

Begin with the butterfly! Wrap a toilet paper tube with brown construction paper. Attach sticker eyes (or draw them on with markers) and a smiley mouth (I used a piece of self-adhesive foam, but you can use markers too). Curl an 8″ piece of twistez wire (or pipe cleaner) and tape on the inside of the tube for antennae.

butterfly front Turn the body around, and punch a hole in the back, near the top of the head.

butterfly backCut the butterfly wings from the template (we used manilla card stock, and it looked great). Hot glue your butterfly’s body to the wings – just make sure the wings don’t cover the hole you punched in the back.

wings from backNow decorate both sides of the wings! I offered glue sticks, cellophane, embossed foil paper, tissue circles, dot stickers, and markers.

When the wings are finished, thread a 27″ piece of elastic beading cord through the hole. Knot the ends together, and wrap the knot with a piece of colored masking tape. The taped knot is an important part of the magic trick, so make sure you don’t skip this step! Your finished butterfly is now dangling on an elastic cord loop, secured with a taped knot.

butterfly on cordWe set our butterflies aside so the glue could dry. Just look at these little beauties (Katie shot this with the panorama function on her phone)…

butterflies Next is the caterpillar! Wrap a toilet paper tube with green construction paper, add some stripes with colored masking tape, and attach eye stickers (or draw some eyes on with markers). Use a 4″ piece of twistez wire (or pipe cleaner) to make antennae. Attach the antennae with tape.

caterpillarFinally, we distributed construction paper leaves (which we prepped in advance) and brown paper bags. All that’s left is the magic trick! To work some metamorphical magic, load your butterfly in the bag. Keep the taped knot near the front of the bag where you can easily see it.

taped knotNow “feed” your caterpillar some leaves (the kids LOVED this part).

feeding the caterpillarWhen it’s “full,” place the caterpillar inside the bag (a.k.a. the “chrysalis”). Keeping your hand inside the bag, locate the taped knot. Put the looped cord around your wrist.

the loop Bring your hand outside the bag and grab the top. The cord should still be looped around your wrist.

grabbing the bagSay something like “Behold the magic of nature!” Pull your hand away from the top of the bag. The cord around your wrist will pull the butterfly from the chrysalis as if by magic!

the big reveal

Getting Campy

inside the tentAre you ready for the great outdoors? Enjoy a day of hiking, roast marshmallows over an open fire, and snooze under the stars in a tent. All you need is a sturdy backpack, a few camping essentials, and a couple of awesome outdoor badges!

let's camp

We read When Daddy Took Us Camping by Julie Brillhart (Albert Whitman & Co.,1997). One fine summer day, a Dad and two kids go on a camping trip. They set up their site, go on a hike, dine in the great outdoors, and drift to sleep amid the glow of fireflies. The next morning, still in their pajamas, they hike waaaaaay across the backyard to enjoy a pancake breakfast in the kitchen of their home. A small camping trip no doubt, but still tons of fun!

We made backpacks, loaded them with supplies, and then completed 3 camp activities to earn badges. I used recycled 9.5″ x 14.75″ archive folders to make the backpacks for this project, but you could also use legal-sized manilla folders.

You’ll need:

  • 1 legal-size manilla folder (approximately 8.5″ x 14″)
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • A box cutter
  • 2 poster board strips (approximately 1.5″ x 28″)
  • Hole punch
  • A 23.5″ piece of ribbon
  • 1 large button
  • 1 camping supplies template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 3-4 paper towel tubes
  • Red, yellow, and orange construction paper
  • 1 wooden dowel
  • 1 white cotton ball
  • Optional camping badges (more on these later!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

You need a backpack to start everything off, so here we go! First, cut the tab off the folder. 

backpack step 1Next, open the folder and cut a rectangle off the top left side (my rectangle was approximately 8.5″ x 5.75″).

backpack step 2Set the rectangle you just cut out aside (you’ll need it later). Use the box cutter to make 4 horizontal slits on the lower right side of the folder. Each slit should be about 2″ long (sorry, they’re a little hard to see in the photo).

backpack step 3Now cut a “scoop” out of the right side of the folder,

backpack step 4Close the folder,

backpack step 5And fold the top flap down over the scoop. You can also shorten the flap if you like (I cut about 1.75″ off mine).

backpack step 6The main part of the backpack is done, now for the straps! Run a piece of patterned tape down the middle of each strip of poster board (I used white poster board, but any color will do). To conserve tape, I only decorated the outside of the strips.

strapsOpen the folder and slide the straps through the slits, just as you see in the photo below.

backpack step 7Close the folder. Staple the open side and bottom of the folder closed, then line the sides of your backpack with masking tape. It’s important to use the masking tape to cover the staples on both sides of the backpack (because no one wants a staple scratch!).

Remember the rectangle you set aside earlier? This will now become the back pocket of your backpack. Cut the rectangle down until fits on the back of the backpack (mine was 3″ x 5″). Decorate the edges with a little patterned tape and then hot glue (or tape) it to the backpack.

pocketA few kids elected to tab their backpack’s pocket, making it stick out slightly from the rest of the backpack. This made it easier for some of them to load and unload the pocket. Here’s an example of a tabbed pocket:

another pocket Finish by hot gluing a button to the flap of the backpack. So here’s what the backpack should look like now: stapled, lined with masking tape, attached back pocket, and a button on the flap.

backpack final stepIf you’d like, you can also add a masking tape loop to the underside of the flap to keep it from flying open while you’re hiking.

Now for adjusting those straps! Press the backpack against your back. Curl a strap over your shoulder and under your arm. When the strap feels comfortable, staple it and cover both sides of the staple with colored masking tape. Repeat with the other strap.

securing strapsLast but not least – the chest strap. The chest strap really helps keep the poster board straps from constantly slipping off. Punch a hole on the outside of the left strap.

punched holeThread a piece of ribbon through the hole…

ribbonThen circle the ribbon around both straps and tie a bow in the front.

chest strapThe backpack is finished, now for the supplies! Color and cut the items from the camping supplies template and load them in your backpack. You’re ready to go!

I explained to the kids that they were going to earn 3 badges: “Hiking,” “Fire Starting,” and “Overnight Camping.” I whipped up the badges using Microsoft Word clip art and Avery sticker templates. I also used markers to add dotted lines around the stickers so the badges would look like they were “sewn” on the backpacks.

badgesThe kids double-checked the supplies in their backpacks, secured their backpacks to their shoulders, and got in line. I donned a floppy hat and old fishing vest (many thanks to Katie’s grandpa) and lead the campers on a hike!

going on hikeWe went outside, circled the library plaza, walked across a grassy area, and rested on some long stone benches. When the hike was finished, I stuck a hiking badge on each backpack.

In the meantime, Katie and Miss Joani (our recently returned student assistant) were back at the library setting up the fire pit. Basically, this was a ring of rocks (made from big pieces of crumpled paper) surrounding paper towel tube “logs.” Initially, we had planned to have kids tape orange, yellow, and red construction paper “flames” around the tubes like this:

fireBut we were running short on time. So the kids simply grabbed handfuls of construction paper flames and tossed them onto the logs, thus “igniting” the fire. Then we speared cotton balls on wooden dowels and “roasted” marshmallows!

roasting marshmallowsI doled out the “Fire Starting” badges and we proceeded…to the tent.

tentKatie’s family does quite a bit of camping, so she brought in one of her tents (complete with authentic campfire odor) for the kids to try. It was a 3-man tent but I we squeezed about 14 kids (and me) in there! We zipped it up and started snoring – thus earning our third, and final, badge for “Overnight Camping.”

The campers then departed, proudly displaying their badges. They got to keep the marshmallow on a stick too. Mmmm. Roasted marshmallows…

little camper

Ghostbusters

ghostbustersWhat do you do when your dream house is haunted? Call in a professional ghost remover of course! We decorated a ghost box, whipped up 4 tissue paper ghosts, and then went a-ghost huntin’ in this custom 4-story cardboard house.

exterior houseI hid each kid’s ghosts in various locations in the dollhouse and then invited him/her to find them and tuck them back in his/her ghost box!

ghost in atticWe read Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara (Square Fish reprint edition, 2010). A girl (and her cat) move into a new house but…oh my…the house is haunted by ghosts! The girl, however, happens to be a witch and quickly begins catching the ghosts. After a spin in the washing machine, the ghosts happily become curtains, tablecloths, and cozy blankets. This book was in the holiday section of my local library but it’s so sweet and fun, it really should be read year-round!

You’ll need:

  • A box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”)
  • Brown masking tape (or a selection of colored masking tape)
  • 2 small pieces of mirror board (approximately 1″ x 1.75″ and 1.25″ x 1.25″)
  • Black permanent marker
  • Box decorating materials – I offered embossed foil paper, patterned paper, construction paper (blue, black, gray, purple, orange, pink), mirror board, small feathers, fabric leaves, white 6″ doilies, foil star stickers, and fabric flowers.
  • 12 squares of white tissue paper (approximately 6.5″ x 6.5″)
  • 4 pieces of white yarn (approximately 6″ long)
  • 1 ghost house (more on that below!)
  • Scissors, tape, and glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin by decorating a box for your ghosts to live in. The exterior should be quite minimal (the interior is where you go a little wild). I went for an old-fashioned steamer trunk with a padlock:

box closedIf you’re using a patterned tissue box, you might want to cover it with construction paper or paint first. Then use brown (or colored) masking tape to create lines on the outside of the box.

To make a padlock, cut a rectangle of mirror board into an upside-down U shape. Use a black permanent marker to draw a keyhole on a square piece of mirror board. Hot glue (or tape) the U shape to the back of the keyhole square. Attach the padlock to the front of the box with hot glue (or tape).

padlockThe exterior of the box is finished, now for the interior! I decided to go for a classic “night sky inside a box” for my ghosts. I lined the inside of the box with black construction paper, added foil stars, and finished the look with a crescent moon.

box openSome kids replicated this look, but others used embossed foil paper, patterned paper, small feathers, fabric leaves, white 6″ doilies, and fabric flowers to whip up some amazing ghost domiciles.

With the box finished, it’s time for the ghosts! Take 2 squares of white tissue paper and lay them flat on top of each other like so:

ghost step 1Then crumple a third tissue square and place it in the middle of the flat squares.

ghost step 2Bunch the flat squares around the crumpled tissue and pinch tightly,

ghost step 3Flip the tissue bunch over and knot a piece of yarn around it to created your ghost’s neck. Trim off any excess yarn and use marker to draw a face. Repeat these steps until you have 4 ghosts.

ghost step 4You have a box, you have ghosts, now for the house! If you’d like to keep it super simple, hide the ghosts in different locations in a room, classroom, or library. You could even turn off the lights and use a flashlight for an extra spooky ghost hunt. However, if you’d like recreate our ghost house, read on!

My colleagues in Firestone Library know to call me if they’re about to dispose of any large or unusually shaped boxes (you can read more about our library-wide recycling program here). So this dollhouse began as a tall, 6″ x 33″ x 41″ box. I also had a couple old archive boxes to use up (you can see more of them in action in this post and this post).

just the boxFirst, Katie and I measured where the stacked archive boxes hit the tall box, and then cut a big hole in the tall box for the archive boxes to slide into. The leftover cardboard was used to make the roof (to which I added some tagboard shingles and a cardboard chimney).

Next, we sliced one of the archive box’s lids in half and hot glued the halves inside the two archive boxes. This created four “floors” in our ghost house. We finished by hot gluing the archive boxes inside the tall box, and added a few pieces of packing tape for good measure.

gluingTo keep the house upright and sturdy, we hot glued a 5.5″ x 17″ x 25.5″ box to the back as a base. We reinforced the connection with lots of packing tape too. We knew it was going to get bumped and bashed by the ghost hunters!

baseNext, Katie used pieces of corrugated cardboard to create the walls that divided the rooms, and tagboard to make the staircases. You can see the whole thing evolving here. And this is only the beginning of the mess we made that day. Oh yes it is.

dana and katie With the basic elements in place, we decorated the interior. For hours and hours. Katie’s son even stopped by at the end of the day to get in on the fun (my favorites are the laptop in the living room and the Angry Birds artwork in the kitchen). But rather than go into excruciating decorating details, here are photos of the different rooms of the house, as well as some ghosts demonstrating various hiding places.

Living Room

ghost in living roomDark closet under the “grand” staircase (spooky eye stickers courtesy of Katie’s son)

closet under the stairsSmall Staircases

ghost on stairsBedroom

ghosts in bedroomBathroom

ghosts in bathroomLaundry Room

ghost in laundry roomAttic (complete with Amityville windows)

ghosts in the atticAnd here is a photo of the tremendous mess we made during the building of the ghost house. Oh yeah.

tremendous messDuring story time, kids could play the ghost hunting game as many times as they liked. I came up with some pretty creative new places to hide ghosts (like the overhead light fixture in the kitchen, and the roof).

ghost on roofAt the very end of story time, interested parties put their names in a hat and the winner took home the ghost house! If, however, you’re still yearning for more dollhouses and miniatures, mosey on over here to see some truly spectacular Harry Potter creations.