Behold, Yon Shield

sword and shieldAdventure calls! But before you gallop off into the wild woods, arm thyself with a sturdy shield and magnificent foam sword! We made these as part of To Be Continued, our story time for 6-8 year-olds. The book we read? Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke (Chicken House, 2006).

On the eve of her twelfth birthday, Igraine’s biggest problem is that she’s never had an adventure and will therefore, never become a knight. But danger is about to descend upon her home, Pimpernel Castle. Osmund the Greedy and his castellan, Rowan Heartless, have declared war. They want to capture Pimpernel Castle and claim its magic singing books. Igraine’s parent (who are both tremendous magic-workers), could typically handle such an intrusion but…they’ve accidentally turned themselves into pigs while finishing Igraine’s birthday gift (an enchanted suit of armor). Now Igraine must sneak past an invading army, gather the ingredients for the reversal spell, and return to save the castle!

There’s also a Ancient Greek variation for this project. Just scroll to the bottom of the post to check it out!

You’ll need:

  • A 10″ x 14″ rectangle of corrugated cardboard (I used a cake pad)
  • A selection of
  • 2 strips of heavy-duty poster board (approximately 1.75″ x 12.5″)
  • Hole punch
  • A box cutter
  • 2 brass tacks
  • 1 shield emblems template, color printed on 2 pieces of 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 1 foam sword (more on that below)
  • Scissors for construction
  • Hot glue

First, use the colored tape to decorate one side of the shield. If you don’t want to use tape, simply use markers (or use both). Cut the desired shield emblems from the template, and hot glue them to the shield.

To make your shield’s arm straps, circle both strips of heavy-duty poster board around your forearm. Don’t make the straps too snug! You want your forearm to be able to slide in and out of the straps easily. Tape both of the loops closed, then punch a hole in the middle.

arm loopUse the box cutter to cut two slits in the front of your shield, right in the middle. Push brass tacks through the slits.

front of shieldSlide the holes of the arm straps onto the brass tacks, then open the brass tack’s prongs to secure the straps in place.

back of shieldFinally, use masking tape to cover the prongs and secure the arm loops.

taped shieldAll you need now is a foam sword, and you can find instructions to make a super easy (and super inexpensive) foam sword right here.

We did an Ancient Greek variation of these shields at a Lightning Thief event. I purchased bulk cases of 16″ cake circles. Kids used metallic ink pads, shape stamps, and metallic markers to decorate them. The arm straps were rigged in exactly the same way as the knight’s shield described above.

shield tableWe called the table “Story Shields” and used the art activity to introduce hoplites, the citizen-soldiers of Ancient Greece. A soldier’s armor typically included a helmet, breastplate, greaves, sword, spear, and a circular shield called an aspis or hoplon. Often, the shields were colorful and emblazoned with family symbols, tributes to the Gods or heros, or they bore the symbol of the hoplite’s city-state

We invited kids to design their own personal shields. The activity was wildly popular…we went through over 750 cake circles!

greek shieldLooking for more connections? Lightning Thief fans can try this game of Mythomagic, or these awesome pan pipes. Brave knights can find dragons, herbal amulets, or how about a comedic sidekick?

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

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’s a pdf 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 libraryIf you’re looking for another Lightning Thief project, how about these simple pan pipes?