Perfect Parakeets

perfect parakeetsThese wrist parakeets are super simple to make, require very few art supplies, and…are amazingly adorable, yes? They’re also tough. Thanks to their sturdy pipe cleaner tethers, these parakeets really stay attached, even on the most active ornithologist!

You’ll need:

  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • Construction paper
  • dot sticker for eyes
  • 3 small feathers
  • 3 goose quills
  • 1 pipe cleaner
  • Scissors, tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hole punch

If you want to get a little fancier, you’ll need:

We’ll make the parakeet’s body first, and then proceed to perching it on your wrist. Here’s what a completed bird body looks like:

parakeet bodyWrap construction paper around the entire toilet paper tube. Then wrap a smaller strip of construction paper around the top – this will become your bird’s head. Yet another piece of construction paper becomes your bird’s colorful chest (it looks best if you round the top of the chest).

Draw eyes and eyebrows on the dot stickers, then stick them on the bird’s head. Tape (or glue) a small triangle of construction paper to the head for a beak. You can also use a triangle of self-adhesive foam for the beak (it gives the beak some really nice texture). Tape (or hot glue) 2 small feathers on the side for wing, and 1 small feather on top for the crest. The body is done!

To make the tail, gather 3 duck quills together, fan them out slightly, and wrap scotch tape around the points of the quills (if you don’t want to purchase duck quills for the tail, just use more small feathers). Tape the tail to the back of the bird.

easy tail stepsIf you want to get a little fancier, you can wrap scotch tape around the points of the quills, then cover the scotch tape with colored masking tape and hot glue it to the bird’s body.

fancier tail stepsThe final step is to tether the bird to your wrist! Punch holes in both sides of the toilet paper tube. Don’t punch the holes in the center of the tube. Punch them slightly more toward the front of the bird. The reason is this – with the tail in place, the bird actually sits slightly askew on your wrist. It needs to be tethered slightly towards the front in order to sit correctly on your wrist. When in doubt, just plunk the tube on your wrist and you’ll see where the holes need to go.

punched holeThread a pipe cleaner through the holes, sit the bird on your wrist, and twist the pipe cleaner under your wrist to secure the bird in place! Finito!

finished parakeetHeaded to Hogwarts? This project also works well as an owl!

owl

The Perfect Boggart

the perfect boggartNeed a boggart in a suitcase to transport to your next Defense Against the Dark Arts class? We can make that happen! Imagine a suitcase innocently resting on a tabletop (or handsome leather chair). But then, just when you least expect it, it jumps and bumps as the boggart inside tries to escape!

I created this suitcase boggart for a Harry Potter event my library hosted, and it was very much enjoyed. Best of all, it was super simple to make. The secret behind the boggart is this:

weazel ballMeet the “Weazel Ball.” It’s a pet toy with a rotating motor inside it that causes the ball to scoot around randomly, pulling and twitching the furry weasel on top. It’s meant to drive cats and small dogs crazy, but I knew it would be the perfect boggart. I purchased this one on Amazon for $6.

In addition to the Weazel Ball, you’ll need a suitcase or trunk. The 12″ X 18″ suitcase pictured in this post is made of decorative cardboard. I found it at Michael’s Crafts on the 40% discount shelf, so it cost $15. Woot woot!

My suitcase was smooth on the inside, but if you use something with a textured wood interior, you might consider removing the furry weasel from the ball so it doesn’t snag on the wood and slow the ball down.

interiorThe most important thing when selecting your suitcase (or trunk) is the ability to latch or padlock it shut. This will prevent young skeptics from pulling up the lid and shouting “Daaaaad! I told you there’s no boggart in here!”

latchesThe other thing you’ll need are spare batteries. If you haven’t heard from your boggart in a while, the battery may have run out (the Weazel Ball uses a single AA). Depending on how long the event is, you’ll want several on hand.

You could get ambitious and put more than one Weazel Ball in the suitcase (I’ve only tried one). But if the suitcase is threatening to bounce off the table, put some no-skid rug runners or self-adhesive foam pieces on the bottom to help it stay in place.

Need some more Harry Potter projects? Try these PVC wands and this fantastic wrist owl (scroll to the very bottom of the post for an image of the owl). If you’re in need of glow-in-the-dark glue or paint, you might consider this powdered pigment.

The Chemistry of Magic

chemistry of magicMove over Merlin, Gandalf, Harry, and Miss Price! It’s time for some science magic! That’s me having the time of my life igniting a hydrogen balloon soaked in aqueous barium chloride. Best. Time. Ever.

Last month, Cotsen collaborated with the Princeton Chemistry Outreach Program to create The Chemistry of Magic, a program that unveiled the science behind seemingly magical chemical reactions. The lecture and demonstrations were the brainchildren of Dr. Kathryn Wagner, who is standing to the right of the GIANT GREEN FIREBALL in the image above.

Some of my favorite demonstrations included “Elephant Toothpaste” (a hugely gloppy reaction created by mixing hydrogen peroxide, soap and potassium iodide solution), the “Ring of Fire” (igniting isopropyl rubbing alcohol within a water cooler bottle to produce a slow, licking blue flame), and the “Methane Mamba” (which basically involved holding a column of methane infused soap bubbles in our hand, placing a match in the middle, and enjoying a raging pillar of flames).

We also demonstrated a “Dry Ice Rainbow,” invisible ink, color change experiments, a Tesla coil, a blind spot optical illusion, homemade glow stick solution, liquid nitrogen fog, and a “Genie in a Bottle” (a reaction of hydrogen peroxide and manganese dioxide powder in a 2-liter soda bottle…the result being 8 feet of writhing steam).

Could you host such a program? Sure! There were a couple of high school science teachers in attendance. You might have one near your institution or library who would be willing to work some science magic. You can also talk with your local science center, university, or college to see if they might be interested a collaboration.

But don’t, however, try this at home. We were in a large chemistry lecture hall with proper ventilation, safety equipment, and under Dr. Wagner’s watchful eye. Don’t try this at home folks! Really.

So the next time a character in a book summons a fireball (Incendio!), we hope that readers will pause and reflect on the real fireball they saw at this program, and consider the awesome science that made it possible.