Fair Trade

fair tradePack 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!

wagon and goodsWe read Ox-Cart Man, written by Donald Hall and illustrated by Barbara Cooney. 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

Island Science

islandThis charming little island really floats! Thanks to some well-placed wine corks, the island (and 2 little sailboats) will bob away in your bathtub, pool, or water table. This project is also a good way to introduce a some science terms to the story time set – namely, prediction, testing, saturation, buoyancy, and capillary action.

floating islandWe read An Island Grows, written by Lola M. Schaefer and illustrated by Cathie Felstead (Greenwillow Books, 2006). This non-fiction rhyming book follows the growth of an island from the first tremors of an underwater volcano to a busy and colorful island community. Don’t miss the last page which is full of the scientific information behind the book’s charming rhymes. 

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4” x 4” x 4”)
  • 1 box cutter
  • A selection of patterned paper
  • 3 small fabric squares (approximately 2″-3″)
  • 3 short pieces of thin ribbon (approximately 3″)
  • 1 small seashell (optional)
  • 1 paper towel tube
  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (approximately 8″ x 9″)
  • Green construction paper
  • Brown construction paper
  • White construction paper
  • Flower stickers (optional)
  • 20 wine corks
  • Scissors, tape, and glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin with your island home. Use the box cutter to cut a door and three windows in the sides of a box. Decorate the outside of the box with markers and add a roof of patterned paper (or construction paper). Use tape (or hot glue) to attach fabric squares to the insides of the box, right above each window. Knot a piece of ribbon around the fabric squares to create a window sash. Finish by hot gluing a small shell to the door to serve as a doorknob.

houseNow for your palm tree! Start by cutting 3″ off the top of a paper towel tube. If you’d like, you can use markers to draw rings around the tree. Next, cut 4 rectangles from the green construction paper (approximately 2″ x 5.5″ each). Cut each rectangle into a leaf shape, and make small cuts around the edges so it better resembles a palm frond.

palm leavesTape the palm fronds to the paper towel tube (I taped mine to the inside of the tube, but younger children might find it easier to tape them to the outside). To make coconuts, cut small circles out of the brown construction paper, then attach them to the tree with little loops of tape.

palm treeAt this time, I’d like to give a shout out to Anou, age 8, who came up with the coconut portion of our craft. I was in our library’s program area, trying to find a way to make three-dimensional looking coconuts that didn’t require hot glue. Anou walked up, offered the tape loop suggestion, and it looks great! Brilliant Anou, thanks!

With the house and tree complete, it’s time to make your base. Start with a 8″ x 9″ piece of corrugated cardboard (I cut ours from copy paper boxes). Use the glue stick to attach green construction paper to one side of the base. Then hot glue the house and the tree to the top of the base. It’s important to keep the house and the tree fairly close together in the center of the base. This will keep your island balanced while it’s floating on water.

fairly close togetherOnce the house and tree are attached, add a little landscaping with green construction paper fringes and flower stickers (or just draw flowers on the base with markers). We also used red file label stickers to create stepping stones leading to the front door of the house.

stepping stonesTo make your island and sailboats float, you’ll need 20 corks. Since we needed to prepare enough supplies for 24 kids, we needed lots of corks (480 to be exact). So we hit up a couple local wine shops and bars (thank you Public Wines, Cool Vines, Princeton Corkscrew, and Yankee Doodle Tap Room). But the real jackpot was a restaurant called Mediterra. They had THESE stashed in their kitchen. Woo hoo!

corks To make your island’s “cork stilts,” begin by hot gluing 4 corks together like this:

four corksRepeat this step three more times until you have 4 stilts (composed of four corks each). Hot glue the stilts to the bottom of the cardboard base like so:

cork stilts on baseWe had to do a little trial and error to determine the total number of corks needed to get this project to work. You can turn our experimentation into story time science by doing the following…

Fill a dish tub with water and set it on a table. Have three different bases prepped. The first base is cardboard with no corks.

base 1

The second base is cardboard with cork stilts. The stilts are two corks each.

base 2The third base has cork stilts too. These stilts are 4 corks each.

base 3

  1. Start by saying “Let’s take a look at these bases and predict which one will work best for our island.” After the kids make their predictions, say “Time to test them out!”
  2. Place Base 1 in the tub. It will immediately become saturated. Ask “What happened? What do we need to change to make this float and stay dry?”
  3. Place Base 2 in the water. It will float, but barely above the water. Eventually, water will begin saturating into the bottom and edges of the base. Ask “Is this any better? What’s the problem now?”
  4. Place Base 3 in the water. The base will float above the water, keeping the island dry. Say “It finally worked! Any guesses why?”

During the experiment, you can refer to the concepts of saturation, density and buoyancy. A cork floats on the water because it is less dense than the water. This gives the cork buoyancy, meaning that upward force on the cork is equal to the weight of the cork. The cardboard base, however, was just too heavy for the 2 cork stilts. As a result, Base 2 sunk down and got wet. But Base 3, the 4 cork stilts, did the trick! They gave the island enough buoyancy to lift the cardboard (and the house & tree) above the water level.

Time for sailboats! Cut a small sail (mine were about 2″ tall) out of white construction paper, and color both sides with markers. Hot glue the sail to one side of a cork (make sure the paper doesn’t extend below the cork). Then, hot glue a second cork next to the first.

cork boatWe discovered that, as the corks get wet, the water seeps up the sail, pulling the ink with it. This is capillary action…in action!

before and after boatsIf you’d like to turn the sailboat activity into a quick science lesson, create the boat you see in the “Before” photo above. For best results, make sure the marker extends all the way to the base of the paper sail. Fill a dish tub or plastic plate with water. Then:

  1. Show the kids the boat. Say: “This sailboat needs a little more decoration. Want to see a super cool way to decorate the sail – without drawing on it?”
  2. Place the sailboat in the water. It takes a few minutes to really get started, so you might have to go for a couple rounds of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” while you wait.
  3. Talk briefly about capillary action (i.e. the ability of water to flow up or though something – sometimes in defiance of gravity itself) and how they just observed the water moving up the paper sail, carrying the ink with it!
  4. If you’d like, you can prep a bunch of sailboats with different color inks, and see if the different colors move up the sail at different rates.

And that’s it! Your island and sailboats are complete! Float them in a bathtub, dish tub, baby pool, water table, or, in my case, the giant fountain outside of the Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs (that’s Ai Weiwei’ s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads you see in the background). The perfect place for an island getaway, yes?

fountainLooking for some more island experiments? Do you like coconuts? Check out this post!