The Eager Entomologist

the eager entomologistPolish up your binoculars! Today, we’re discovering a new species of bug…and rumor has it a local news crew is in the area, ready to chat with you about your latest contribution to science!

news crewWe read Big Bug Surprise by Julia Gran (Scholastic Press, 2007). Prunella is excited about bugs, excited to tell people about bugs, and excited to bring a special bug to show-and-tell at her school. But her enthusiasm for spouting bug facts is meet by a repeated “Not now, Prunella!” from her parents, bus driver, and teacher. However, when a swarm of bees invades the classroom, Prunella saves the day with her quick thinking and vast knowledge of insect behavior.  

For this project, we made binoculars, designed bugs, and created a habitat for said bug. Later, we hid the bugs outside the library for kids to “discover.” Then our camera crew interviewed the budding entomologists about their new find.

You’ll need:

First, the binoculars. Wrap 2 toilet paper tubes with black construction paper. Then tape the top and bottom of the tubes together.

binnoculars step 1Punch a hole in the top of each tube and knot a ribbon through each hole to create a strap. Finish by wrapping the top and bottom of the tubes with colored masked tape. Done!

binnoculars step 2Now for the bugs! We made a few inspirational bug models in advance…

bugsBug-building was very simple. First, we offered kids a choice of bug body (a toilet paper tube or an orange juice container cap). Then we turned everyone loose on the art supplies. I had a hot glue gun ready to attach wiggle eyes (and whatever else was needed).

It’s difficult to see in this picture, but I had a lot of success layer iridescent cello over white construction paper to create sparkly bug wings. Quite a few kids replicated this.

wingsWhen the bugs were finished, we handed out the boxes and got to work on habitats.

bug boxes openIn addition to fabric leaves and flowers, we prepped a few “leaves” and “sticks” using brown and green construction paper.

leaves and sticksWhen the habitats were finished, we collected the bugs and headed outside to the library plaza. While the kids waited with me, Katie placed the bugs in various locations. Then the search was on!

bug huntDiscovered bugs were gleefully discovered and tucked carefully into their habitats by eager young entomologists.

caughtI switched into my coat and “news” hat and assembled the camera crew. Mic in hand, I asked questions like “What is your bug’s name?” “What does your bug like to eat?” “Can you tell me a little more about its habitat?” “What sound does your bug make?”

news crew 2You’ll find instructions for making this lovely handheld microphone, camera, and boom microphone set here (snazzy “News” fedora not included).

Fair Trade

wagon and goodsPack your wagon and get ready for a long journey! We made a little covered wagon and 2 sets of goods to go inside it. Then, we traveled to the story time store to do some good old-fashioned trading!

We read Ox-Cart Man, written by Donald Hall and illustrated by Barbara Cooney (Viking Juvenile, 1979). A farmer prepares for a journey, packing his ox cart with all the surplus things his family has produced throughout the year – wool, mittens, brooms, apples, etc. Then he sets off on a ten day journey to Portsmouth, where he sells everything (including the ox and the cart) and purchases items for his family especially (and this was very important when I was a little kid) 2 pounds of wintergreen peppermint candies. Pockets still full of coins, he returns to his farm and the beautiful cycle of seasons, work, and life begins again. It’s a lovely, lovely book.

For the wagon, you’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9”)
  • An 8.5″ x 14″ piece of tagboard (optional)
  • 1 wagon wheel template, printed on an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of white card stock
  • 1 piece of string (approximately 37″ long)
  • An 8.5″ x 11″ piece of white card stock
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • Scissors, glue stick, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

For the goods, you’ll need:

  • 1 quilt template, printed on an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of white paper
  • craft sticks (mine were 4.5″ long)
  • 2 rectangles of brown construction paper
  • 1 brown paper lunch bag
  • 1 small bunch of polyester fill
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 2 pieces of twine (mine were 57″ long)
  • 2 paper baking cups
  • Red & brown pom-poms (mine were medium-sized, about 0.5″ in diameter)
  • Scissors for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • 1 trading post (more on this later!)

Begin with the wagon! Cut the top of the box off, and cut the sides down to about 3″ high.

wagon 1The next step is optional (but fun). Cut strips of tagboard to fit the sides of the box, draw wood grain patterns on each of them, and use tape, a glue stick, or hot glue to attach them to the sides of the box. Or you can go super simple and draw wood grain on the sides of the box. Or skip this step entirely and leave the box blank.

wagon 2Next, color and cut the wagon wheels from the template and tape or hot glue them to the box.Make sure the wheels are flush with the bottom of the box. Otherwise, the wagon won’t slide very well.

wagon 3Time for the pull string! It’s important to really attach this well, so you don’t have any pull string fails during your long journey. Cut a slit in the front of the wagon. Then, knot the end of the string (I used heavy kite string) and slide the knot into the slit. Tape the string to the inside of the box, and then put another piece of tape above the knot it’s really secure.

pull string stepsThe final step for the covered wagon is…the cover! Use colored masking tape to create two “bows” on the piece of card stock “canvas” (the bows are the wooden ribs that hold up the canvas on a real covered wagon).

bowsNow hot glue (or tape) the ends of the card stock canvas to the insides of the wagon. Be sure to adhere it no lower than 1″ from the top of the wagon (if the canvas is too low, it makes it hard to get the stuff in and out of your wagon).

attaching canvas topYour wagon is finished…now for the goods! Remember, you’ll be making two of each item (with the exception of the bag of wool). For the quilts, use markers to decorate and cut out the quilt template.

quiltsFor the broom, fringe 2 rectangles of brown construction paper, then wrap them around the bottom of the craft sticks. Attach the construction paper to the craft sticks with colored masking tape.

broomFor the bag of wool, cut the bottom off the paper lunch bag. You want the sides of the bag to be no taller than 3″. Open the bag and pop the polyester fill inside it.

woolFor the rope, simply coil and knot the two pieces of twine. Or don’t coil them and leave them loose. Plenty of kids did!

ropeFor the sacks of produce, fill two baking cups with red and brown pom-poms to represent apples and potatoes. Your wagon is ready to roll!

The ox-cart man traveled quite a long way to get to the market, so I decided to replicate that experience. I  set up a little store at the end of the an exhibit gallery that is adjacent to the entrance to our library. It’s a looong gallery, and I tucked the store off to one side, so I marked the way with red arrows made of colored masking tape.

The store consisted of a copy paper box lid stocked with some fun doodads – shells, spotted feathers, large gemstones, finger puppets (left over from this program) tiaras made out of pipe cleaners, gro-dinosaurs, and cake erasers left over from this story time.

trading postKids could trade 3 things in their wagons for 3 things in the store. With 20 kids at story time, did a pretty brisk business that day.

shoppersThen, laden with goodies, the wagons headed off home (sorry the photo is a little blurry, but you get the idea)!

wagons heading home

Ship in a Bottle

ship in a bottleAhoy! Don’t toss that little plastic water bottle! This simple ship can be put together from supplies laying around any pirate den.

You’ll need:

  • An empty 8 oz plastic water bottle
  • A 4″ x 4″ square of standard white paper
  • 2 pennies
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

Remove the label from the water bottle. I used Poland Springs brand because it has a paper label that comes off easily. There was still some adhesive stuck to the bottle…

adhesiveBut it came off right away with some scotch tape. Press the tape to the adhesive, and then rip it off! Repeat until all the adhesive is gone and you have a nice clean bottle.

Now for the ship! For the step-by-step folding instructions below, I used marbled origami paper to better illustrate the folds. But you can definitely use plain old white paper for your ship. Start with a 4″ x 4″ square of paper.

ship step 1Now cut the paper in half, forming 2 triangles.

ship step 2Moving forward, you’ll just be using one of the triangles (give the other to yer shipmate). Orient your triangle like so…

ship step 3Then fold the lower right point up to the top of the triangle.

ship step 4Repeat with the left point. Your paper will now look like this:

ship step 5Open your triangle like so…

ship step 6Then fold the top point down to the base of the triangle like this:

ship step 7Fold the right point up again…

ship step 8Then repeat with the left point.

ship step 9Fold the bottom point up…

ship step 10Then gentle push it back down again. This creates the base that props up your ship.

ship step 11Your ship is done!

ship step 12Since you’ll be folding a ship using standard white paper, your ship will of course be all white. Therefore, your next step is to color the base of the ship with markers (and the sails too if you like).

colored ship baseThen turn the ship around and tape two stacked pennies to the base. The pennies are important. Not only do they keep the ship upright, they also anchor the bottle on its side  AND act as a counterbalance for the bottle’s cap.

pennies on baseReady to get that ship in the bottle? Gently fold the base upwards, and curl the sails loosely around it. Try not to pinch the ship too tightly.

rolled shipInsert the rolled ship through the mouth and neck of the bottle. Use your finger or a pencil to gently unroll the ship and straighten the sails. Twist the cap on your bottle, and you’re done!

finished ship in bottleThis project was a bit hit at a large-scale Treasure Island event we hosted. Even though the origami fold is relatively easy, we folded a fleet of ships in advance for very young children, who were able to jump right into decorating them. We also developed this extremely popular (and inexpensive) pom-pom cannon  for another event table.

We had a real cannon too, courtesy of the Pennsylvania State Navy historical reenactors.

cannonThese folks were amazing. The history, artifacts, and knowledge they brought to the event were absolutely top rate.

pa navyAnother amazing educator was this gentleman from the Trenton Old Barracks Museum, who portrayed Dr. Livesey. He brought all of his period medical implements and described them in great detail. And yes, before you ask – he did bring leeches.

dr livesey