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!

Mythomagic

mythomagicFancy a game half-blood?

In 2011, the Cotsen Library hosted a large-scale event called Princyclopedia. The whole event was based on The Lightning Thief series by Rick Riordan (Disney-Hyperion 2006). We had tables featuring art, architecture, science, engineering, nature, dyslexia, ADHD, myths, the Greek language, and the Socratic Method. We had a professional harpist, Greek hoplites in full battle armor, and blue chocolate chip cookies. We had giant live snakes (Medusa’s lair), Minotaur rides (an inflatable mechanical bull woo hoo!), and a 1,400 lb. ice sculpture carved to look like a temple in honor of Poseidon.

In addition to these activities (and a few more – check out the 2-page event map!) we wanted to bring the game Mythomagic to life.

From the start, we knew there was no way we could develop something as detailed as Nico’s version in the books. Because the event was going to be crowded (5,000 people attended) we didn’t want a game that would run too long. Finally, since a wide range of children would be attending the event (ages 4 -14) so we needed something that could be understood quickly and easily.

After some research, we decided to base our version on War, a card game that moves quickly, is based on winning via hierarchy, and can be played with multiple kids at once. In addition to the traditional labeling of the face cards (Ace, King, Queen, Jack…) and suits (Hearts, Clubs, Spades, Diamonds) we added our own Greek labels and suits.

three cardsThe artwork for the cards was created by  April Lee, a talented Princeton University student. Using art direction from Greek myths and the book series, she also added her own funky manga twist!

three more cardsHere’s a quick breakdown of the 32 cards in the deck. We made it smaller than a standard deck to keep the production costs down, and we kept the same characters on all the number cards to avoid asking April to make 12 more drawings on top of the original 20 drawings, plus the 4 suit borders, plus the design on the back of the card,  PLUS keeping up with her rigorous academic schedule!

Fire Suit:

  • Ace: Kronos
  • King: Apollo
  • Queen: Artemis
  • Jack: Achilles

Air Suit:

  • Ace: Ouranus
  • King: Zeus
  • Queen: Hera
  • Jack: Hercules

Water Suit:

  • Ace: Oceanus
  • King: Poseidon
  • Queen: Amphitrite
  • Jack: Theseus

Earth Suit:

  • Ace: Gaea
  • King: Hades
  • Queen: Persephone
  • Jack: Jason

Number cards (4 in each suit):

  • 5: Ladon
  • 4: Aegis
  • 3: Cerberus
  • 2: Ophiotaurus

Here is a printable set of our Rules for Mythomagic.

We had the cards professionally printed, and – this really made the deck awesome – had the edges rounded like real playing cards. The results were fantastic. Best of all, the game lives on. I’ve brought Mythomagic out at a number of events and programs since. It’s always a hit.

A final shout out goes to the Princeton Public Library, who hosted the Mythomagic table at the event, playing it for 5 straight hours with the crowds. My hat (or helmet rather) is off to you!

princeton public library