Train Time

train timeAll aboard! This splendid stream engine pulls a passenger coach on masking tape tracks, making a number of stops to take on coal, water, and passengers before heading through a mountain tunnel!

train stuffWe read Chugga Chugga Choo Choo, written by Kevin Lewis, and illustrated by Daniel Kirk (Hyperion, 1999). A toy engine chugs through his day in the playroom, collecting freight, going through mountains, over bridges, across rivers, and finally relaxing in the roundhouse. Cleverly, the landscape is entirely made of toys (I especially like the bridge over the fish tank). It’s a sweet, simple story that was oft-requested in our household.

You’ll need:

  • 1 large oatmeal container
  • Construction paper, any color
  • Construction paper, black
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • A box cutter
  • 2 small craft sticks (mine were 3″ long)
  • A 36″ piece of curling ribbon
  • 1 small box (mine was 4” x 4” x 4” – a small tissue box works too)
  • name tag stickers with gold borders (optional)
  • engine wheels template printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 4 toilet paper tubes
  • 1 drink lid
  • 1 small l (optional)
  • A selection of foil star stickers (optional)
  • 1 tissue (i.e. Kleenex)
  • 1 large box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9” but a large tissue box works too)
  • 2 passenger car templates, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ pieces of white card stock
  • Train track & stops (more on that later!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Start with the engine! Wrap a 9″ x 11″ piece of construction paper (any color) around half of the oatmeal container. It won’t reach all the way around the container but that’s good. You want the uncovered section of the container to slide smoothly over the floor.

engine step 1Use colored masking tape to make three lines on the construction paper. Again, it’s best if they don’t go all the way around the container.

engine step 2 Cut a 4.5″ diameter circle out of black construction paper and use tape loops to attach it to the bottom of the container. Important! The bottom of the container is NOT the end with the lid. It is the plain cardboard end.

We’ll pause in exterior engine building for a moment to construct your train’s pull string. Hot glue two small craft sticks together in a cross. This creates the anchor for your pull string. Knot one end of curling ribbon around the anchor.

anchor steps 1 and 2Next, use a box cutter to cut a small slit in the bottom of the oatmeal container, about 1.5″ from the top edge. This is where your pull string will come out.

slitUse scissors to enlarge the slit. Then take the lid off the oatmeal container, reach inside, and poke the free end of the curling ribbon through the slit. Keep pulling the ribbon through until the anchor is snug up against the bottom of the container. Replace the lid and tape it closed.

anchor insideNow for the engine’s tender! Cut a small box down to 3″ high. Hot glue it to the lid of the oatmeal container and reinforce the connection with tape. Since this box is what keeps the oatmeal container from rolling around, make sure part of the box comes in contact with the floor, and that it’s really attached well.

attached tenderThe engine’s cab is next. Fold the edges of a 3″ x 9″ piece of construction paper inwards to create two, 0.25″ folds:

cab foldsCurve the folds under and hot glue (or tape) them to the back of the engine (i.e. the end with the tender). Gently pinch the curvy top of the cab to make two more folds, giving the cab a flat roof.

cab stepsHot glue (or tape) a 3.25″ x 3.25″ square of black construction paper to the roof of the cab. I also added some file label sticker windows. You can do this, or draw the windows on with markers. You can see the finished cab in the image below.

For your engine’s chimney (or “stack” as they sometimes call it) wrap a toilet paper tube with black construction paper and hot glue it to the top of the engine. Cut a second toilet paper tube down to 2″ and wrap it with black construction paper. This is your engine’s “dome”. Hot glue it behind the chimney. Tape a piece of tissue inside the chimney for smoke. cab dome chimneyColor and cut out the engine wheels template. Hot glue (or tape) them to the sides of the engine. Crumble up some pieces of black construction paper to make “coal” for your tender. I added some gold-bordered name tag stickers to the sides of the tender, along with some gold foil stars.

finished engine

Finally, hot glue a drink lid to the front of the train for a light (we stuck a gold foil seal inside it for some extra shine).  We added some gold foil stars to the front of the engine as well (whoops, I didn’t put the chimney on exactly straight did I?).

front of trainFor the passenger car, simple color and cut the passenger car templates and hot glue (or tape) them to the sides of a large box. Some kids cut the lid off their boxes, and some left the lid intact. Totally up to you! Just don’t let the wheels of the train car extend past the bottom of the box, or it won’t slide on the floor!

passenger carTo couple your passenger car to your engine, cut two, 15″ pieces of masking tape (I used black masking tape, but any color will do). Lay one piece on top of the other, with the sticky sides facing each other. Hot glue this masking tape “strip” to the bottom of the train. Make sure to leave a 1.5″ gap between the tender and the passenger car.

couplingYour train is done! You can stop there, or you can go a step further like we did and make a track and “stops” for the train. If you’re up for that, read on…

For the tracks, use masking tape to make the two rails. Then connect the rails with more masking tape “ties.” It’s simple to do, but it takes time. Especially because we laid a whole lotta track all over the gallery (just look at the tape blob that resulted from clean up)! Here’s Katie, who is, quite literally, “working on the railroad.”

katie workingNext, Katie made a couple different elements for the railroad: a station (a copy paper box lid with a box station and some accoutrements); a water tower (a small oatmeal container, a small box, some construction paper, and a pipe cleaner); a big container of extra coal (little crumbled up pieces of black construction paper); a couple of toilet paper tube passengers (I’ve named them George and Martha); and a crossing gate (white cardboard wrapped with red masking tape hot glued to a box).

train stuffThe morning of story time, I made the tunnel. It was 2 huge pieces of cardboard taped to the railings of our gallery bridge. Once they were secured, I covered them with a brown sheet.

tunnelReady to see the whole route in action? At the starting line, Katie shoveled extra coal into each engine’s tender. Then the trains were off, chuffing down the track!

engineer sets off The first stop was the water tower, where kids pushed two blue cotton balls into the train’s dome to feed the boiler.

water tower stopNext the train encountered a crossing gate. I was operating this particular mechanism (I do a very convincing “ding ding ding ding”).

crossing gate stopAfter that, the trains headed around a long bend to the station, where kids loaded 2 toilet paper tube “passengers” into their passenger car (we had a bin sitting nearby with extra tubes for them to take home and color in later).

station stopThen it was off to the mountain tunnel. I made sure that the train route would lead kids uphill in the tunnel (because it’s hard for kids to navigate, stare at a train, and duck into a tunnel without also having to balance downhill).

tunnel stopAfter the tunnel, it was a quick trip to the finish line. All the while, the little engineers were being serenaded by my Rare Books colleagues AnnaLee and Kelly, who performed a most excellent rendition of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” THANKS LADIES!

annalee and kelly

Wish Fish

wish fishA goldfish is a lovely pet…unless, of course, you had your heart set on a pony. But what if the fish could talk and grant you a wish?

We read The Birthday Fish by Dan Yaccarino (Henry Holt and Co., 2005). More than anything else, Cynthia wants a pony for her birthday. Every year, she wishes for a birthday pony, and every year, she gets something else. This year, as Cynthia blows out her candles she wishes for a pony called Marigold. She gets a goldfish. Upset, Cynthia is about to pour the fish down the drain when it speaks! The birthday fish will grant her wish, but first she must take it to the lake and set it free. So Cynthia loads the fishbowl in her toy stroller and departs for the lake. During the journey, they meet and overcome many obstacles (bumpy roads, hungry cats, hot sun, etc.). At last, they arrive at the lake and…Cynthia decides she’d rather keep her new friend. She names him Marigold.

You’ll need:

  • 2 large clear plastic plates (mine were 10″ in diameter)
  • 1 small tissue box
  • A couple cups of uncooked rice (or aquarium gravel)
  • fish and castle template printed on a piece of 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 2 small paperclips (mine were 1.25″)
  • 1 large paperclip (mine was 2″)
  • Green construction paper
  • Fish decorating supplies (I used orange & yellow construction paper, cello sheets, crepe paper streamers, embossed foil paper, and patterned paper
  • A 5″ piece of clear elastic beading cord
  • Scissors, tape, glue stick and stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating

We’ll begin with your fabulous fishbowl! Place 2 clear plastic plates rim-to-rim like this:

rim to rim plates Then tape the lower half of the plates together. Don’t tape the entire thing because you still need to put things inside your fishbowl!

taped platesNow for the base. Cut a small tissue box in half. Recycle the bottom half. You now have a 2.5″ base with an opening at the top.

tissue box cut downIf there is any plastic around the opening of the tissue box, remove it. Then, on both sides of the box, cut from the opening to the edge of the box. Then cut diagonally downward into the sides of the box. This leaves your base looking like this:

cut baseDrop your fishbowl into the base. You might have to do a little cutting and adjusting to get the fishbowl to sit upright snugly. Secure the fishbowl to the base with tape. Pour some uncooked rice in the opening at the top of the plates. This is the “sand” for your fishbowl.

rice in baseNow for some fish-friendly decor! Both the castle and the aquatic plant are anchored in the rice by paper clip “stakes.” We’ll start with the castle. Color and cut the castle from the template. Make sure you keep it in once piece (later, you’ll fold it so it can be viewed from both sides of the fishbowl).

Flip the castle over and tape two small paperclips to one side. You’ll notice that I taped just the very tops of the paperclips to the castle. This is so there would be plenty of paperclip  to stick into the rice. Fold the castle in half and tape it closed.

castle tapedTo make the aquatic plant, cut 3 curvy plant pieces out of green construction paper. Make sure they don’t exceed 6″ in height (otherwise, they start to tip over in the fishbowl). Staple the 3 pieces together, then tape a large paperclip to the bottom.

stapled and taped plantOpen the top of your fishbowl and gently push the castle and aquatic plant paperclip stakes into the rice. I recommend placing the castle all the way to the right, and the plant all the way to the left to make room in the middle for your dangling fish.

And now…the fish! Cut and color the fish from the template. Like the castle, the fish is double-sided. So leave it all in one piece.

Flip the fish over to the blank side and decorate. I offered construction paper, cello squares, crepe paper streamers, embossed foil paper, and patterned paper in hues of orange and yellow. When you’re done decorating, tape a piece of elastic beading cord to one side of the fish:

fish with taped cordThen fold your fish over and tape it closed (to make my fish plump, I taped it shut using tape loops). Next, dangle your fish in the fishbowl, adjust for height, and tape the free end of the cord to the outside of the bowl. Tape the top half of the fishbowl closed. Done!

wish fishIf you have a little extra time, I suggest playing “Pin the Tail on the Goldfish” before taping your fishbowls completely closed. I whipped up a simple game poster and made some construction paper fish tails. A white bandana served as our blindfold (and kids who didn’t like things over their eyes had the option of simply closing their eyes).

pin the tail on the fishThe prize for playing – regardless of where the tail was pinned – was a lovely little sea shell for your fishbowl. The shells were dropped in and THEN we taped the fishbowls securely closed. There was some spilled rice, but a quick vacuuming took care of that.

Still hankering for a pony? Perhaps you should check out this post.

Lights, Camera, Action!

a star is bornWhether you’re covering a celebrity event or conducting an in-depth interview, you’ll need the right equipment to get the job done. Namely a camera, a handheld microphone, and a boom microphone!

We’ve successfully “filmed” story time fashion shows, spoken with future presidents, covered red carpet entrances, and chatted with entomologists about a new bug species they’ve discovered. We’ve also let kids take over the equipment. It’s guaranteed to hold up to even the most enthusiastic documentarion.

You’ll need:

  • Black paper or paint
  • 2 cereal boxes (one extra large, one small)
  • 1 packing tape core
  • A 4″ x 4″ square of mirror board
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • A selection of dot stickers (optional)
  • 2 paper towel tubes
  • 2 black pipe cleaners
  • 1 black jumbo pom-pom (mine was 1.5″)
  • A 38″ piece of PVC pipe
  • A roll of black masking tape
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Hot glue

 CAMERA

cameraWrap the cereal boxes, packing tape core, and toilet paper tube with black paper (we used a roll of bulletin board paper, but you could also use black paint). Hot glue the 2 cereal boxes together. Katie glued a “Channel P” sign to the side of the small cereal box as well.

To make your camera lens, cut the mirror board to fit the circumference of the packing tape core, then attach the mirror board to the core with hot glue. Hot glue the core to the front of the extra large cereal box.

camera other side Hot glue the toilet paper tube “viewfinder” to the extra large cereal box. Put dot sticker “buttons” on the small cereal box (or draw your own button panel on white paper and attach to the box). Here’s a bird’s eye view of the camera with all of its parts in place.

camera topMake sure the viewfinder is on the opposite side of the camera from the small cereal box. Otherwise, you won’t be able to hold the camera on your shoulder!

HANDHELD MICROPHONE

microphoneCut a paper towel tube down to 8″ then wrap with black paper (or use black paint). To make the spiral cord, curl a black pipe cleaner around a marker. Then tape the pipe cleaner inside the bottom of the tube.

For the microphone’s “windscreen,” bunch pieces of tin foil into a bulbous cone shape. It should look like this:

mic foil 1Layer more piece of tin foil on top of the bulb so the windscreen bulges over the rim of the paper towel tube. Then hot glue the foil to the tube.

mic foil 2Feel free to add some dot sticker buttons if you like. Your microphone is ready to record!

BOOM MICROPHONE

boom micThe camera and the handheld mic are great, but the boom mic REALLY makes this set!

First, wrap the paper towel tube with black paper (or use paint). Then hot glue a jumbo pom pom on one end. To make the cord, curl a black pipe cleaner around a marker. Tape one end inside the tube. Tape the other end of the pipe cleaner to the outside bottom of the tube.

boom mic extrasTo create the boom, wrap a 38″ piece of PVC pipe with black masking tape. Use scissors (or a box cutter) to make a hole in the middle of the tube. Insert the PVC pipe into the hole, and keep pushing until the pipe touches the interior of the tube. Secure with black masking tape.

boom mic stepsYour set is complete! When covering a news story, I sometimes throw on a coat and matching fedora. To make things more official, you know.

news crew