Yes, They Do Float

coconut experimentI’m talking about coconuts of course. If you’re ever stranded on a tropical island and need to make an escape raft…yes, coconuts do indeed float. This experiment was part of To Be Continued, our reading program for 6 to 8 year-olds. You can read about some of our other activities here and here.

We read Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr (Yearling, 1999). Nim is a little girl who lives on a beautiful, yet isolated, tropical island with her scientist father, Jack. When Jack leaves for a three day research trip at sea, Nim is left alone on the island with her friends Fred the marine iguana, Selkie the sea lion, and Chica the sea turtle. The family hut is equipped with a laptop computer, and Nim is delighted to learn that Alex Rover, world-famous adventure novelist, has written Jack to inquire if it is possible to build a coconut raft. So far, so good…but…Jack doesn’t return as expected, days pass, and Nim finds her surivival skills put to the test. Her correspondence with Alex (i.e. Alexandra!) Rover continues, and another story begins to unfold. A story about facing fears, courage, and love.

The kids asked many questions during the reading of this book (more on that below), but the one that intrigued me the most was – do coconuts really float? I decided that we needed to find out.

coconut Finding coconuts wasn’t difficult. Whole Foods Market carries them in their produce section, as did Wegman’s, a local grocery chain here. I never realized how cute coconuts were – in a hairy sort of way.

I put the coconuts in one dish tub, and filled another dish tub with water. The experiment was ready!

coconut experiment set upBut before we embarked on some coconut science, I set a tropical mood by handing out colorful leis and putting on an Echoes of Nature: Ocean Waves CD (Delta Music, 1993).

leisI let everyone pick up the coconuts and examine them. Then we took a vote. Who thought the coconuts were going to float? Why? Who thought they were going to sink? Why? Coconuts are very hard and rather heavy. So they’re going to sink, right? I rolled them into the water. They floated!

they float

Then we moved to a different table to try yet another coconut experiment – a taste test!

coconut waterCoconut water is all the rage these days. It’s the actual liquid that comes from inside a coconut (as opposed to coconut milk, which is made from the grated meat of the coconut). This is the stuff Nim drinks in the book, so we tasted it! The reactions to the flavor, as you can see, were a bit mixed…

taste testBut everyone gave it a good try (one little girl even asked her mom if she could get some for home!). Typically, I don’t do food in my programs (you can read more about this in my food allergy post). And, in fact, one of the kids participating in this program did have a food allergy to dairy. But the connection to the book was so fabulous, I decided to put in some legwork to make it possible.

First, I checked Vita Coco labels to see if there was any potential contamination with dairy products (there’s not, it’s actually a vegan product). I doubled checked with the company. Then, the week before the activity, I approached the mother of the child with the food allergy and explained what I wanted to do and what I had learned from the company. I brought the Vita Coco packaging with me so she could check the label herself. After Mom gave the OK, we were good to go!

Having floated coconuts and tasted coconut water, we had one more connection to make. In the books, Nim plays coconut soccer with Fred, Selkie, and Chica. Unfortunately, it was raining outside so we couldn’t try our version of it, but we did try coconut bowling!

coconut bowling 2Basically, I set up two sets of 6 toilet paper tube “pins” and let ‘em rip! And there you have it. Three fabulous Nim’s Island activities, all inspired by the humble, yet surprisingly versatile, coconut!

A few of the other questions that came up during this book were:

  1. What’s a machete?
    A quick trip to Google images solved this one.
  2. What does a marine iguana, sea lion, and sea turtle look like?
    Google images again!
  3. What’s the difference between an ocean and a sea?
    A sea is part of the ocean partially enclosed by land (from National Ocean Service)
  4. Are coconut pearls real?
    Apparently, they’re a myth. Boo.

Find Somebunny

find some bunnyEvery magic show needs a rabbit…unless that rabbit pulls an unplanned disappearing act! Luckily, some glittering stars will help you find your friend!

We read The Magic Rabbit by Annette LeBlanc Cate (Candlewick, 2013). Ray is a street magician, and Bunny is his faithful assistant and best friend. The two friends do everything together. One day, however, Ray’s magic act is interrupted by a passing juggler. In the chaos, Bunny is chased by a dog and lost. Bunny searches and searches, but he just can’t seem to find his friend. As darkness falls, Bunny begins to despair. Enticed by a bag of popcorn, he suddenly notices a glittery star on the ground. It’s one of Ray’s stars! One by one, bunny follows the stars until he sees a very familiar figure on the subway platform. Reunited, the two friends walk home together.

You’ll need:

  • 1 large oatmeal container
  • White construction paper
  • A square of white poster board for feet (approximately 6.5″ x 6.5″)
  • 2 rectangles of white poster board for paws (approximately 1.75″ x 3.25″)
  • 6 twistez wire (or pipe cleaners) for whiskers (approximately 3.5″ long)
  • 2 wiggle eyes
  • 2 white cotton balls
  • 1 medium pom-pom for nose (mine was 1″)
  • 2 white construction paper rectangles for the ears (approximately 2″ x 6.75″)
  • A rectangle of construction paper for hair tuft (approximately 2.5″ x 3″)
  • A strip of felt, any color (approximately 1.25″ x 4.25″)
  • 1 large pom-pom for tail (mine was 1.5″)
  • A magic star template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • A black plastic top hat (optional)
  • Scissors, tape, stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

This story time project involves making a rabbit, decorating some magical stars, and then finding your glittery stars in our gallery. We’ll start with…the magic rabbit.

finished rabbitWrap the oatmeal container with white construction paper. Cut feet from the square of white poster board. I recommend rounded feet with like the ones below (I used marker to add some “toe lines”).

feetHot glue the feet to the bottom of the container. To make whiskers, curl one end of each twistez wire (or pipe cleaner), and tape them to the front of the container like so:

face step 1Then hot glue two white cotton balls over top of the whiskers. Hot glue a small pom-pom on top of the cotton balls, and top everything with two hot glued wiggle eyes.

face step 2Next, cut paw shapes out of the small rectangles of white poster board, and draw little toe lines on them. Tab the ends and hot glue (or tape) them to the front of the rabbit.

paw stepsFor ears, round the ends of the 2 rectangles of white construction paper, use markers to add some color, then staple at the bottom. Hot glue (or tape) them to the rabbit.

ear stepsFor a snazzy bow tie, knot a strip of felt and round the ends with scissors if needed. Hot glue to the rabbit.

bowtieFinish everything off with a jumbo pom-pom tail, also adhered with hot glue. I had some extra black plastic top hats lefts over from this project and this project, and they worked really well as rabbit carriers. Set your rabbit aside for the moment.

Next up, magic stars! Each kid received 4 blank magic stars, printed from the template. Then I brought out the Bling Bin and encouraged kids to use markers and the Bling Bin materials to decorate the stars. As you can see, the results were VERY magical.

lots of magic starsWe collected all the stars, sent the kids off to a secluded part of our gallery, and asked them to cover their eyes while we hid all the stars in the gallery. Apparently, those plastic top hats made for some pretty good blindfolds!

waiting in treeWhen the stars were hidden, kids and rabbits went star-seeking in the gallery! Then the rabbits, hats, and stars went home for more games of magical hide and seek.

Perhaps you’re ready to try a magic show of your own? Look no further than this post!

Team Cupcake

team cupcakeMmmm…is there anything more enticing than a cupcake? How about four cupcakes artistically decorated with delightful toppings? Oh cupcakes, you complete me.

finished cupcakesWe read Cupcake by Charise Maricale Harper (Disney-Hyperion, 2010). One day, a cupcake is born. Topped with a plain creamy frosting top, Vanilla Cupcake is eager to meet his brothers and sisters. There’s Happy-Face Cupcake, Chocolaty Chocolate Cupcake, Pink Princess Cupcake, Rainbow-Sprinkles Cupcake, Stripy Cupcake, Polka-Dot Cupcake, and Fancy Flower-Top Cupcake. At the end of the day, however, only Vanilla Cupcake is left on the platter, completely overlooked. A plain little candle hears Cupcake weeping and can definitely empathize – what with his large and colorful family (there’s Number Candle, Stripy Candle, Letter Candle, Super-Long Candle…). Candle decides that Cupcake just needs something special on top. It’s not pickles, pancakes, peas, or a squirrel. Hmmm…I wonder what it could be?

You’ll need:

  • 1 white paper plate
  • 1 6″ white paper doily (optional)
  • 1 white paper cup
  • A selection of patterned tape
  • A 21″ piece of shimmer ribbon
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • 4 rectangles of construction paper (approximately 1.5″ x 6″)
  • 4 coffee filters (the standard size, 7.5″)
  • A small handful of polyester fill
  • A selection of dot stickers
  • A selection of iridescent fabric shapes
  • A selection of mini pom-poms (mine were 0.5″)
  • A selection of self-adhesive foam shapes
  • A selection of fabric flowers
  • A selection of eye stickers
  • Scissors, tape, white glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin with your cupcake stand! It’s very simple. Cut a scalloped edge into your paper plate like so:

plateThen, flip a white paper cup upside down and wrap pattered tape around it.

cupHot glue the paper plate to the top of the flipped cup, and tie a piece of shimmer ribbon around where the cup and plate meet. For extra fanciness, glue a white paper doily to the top of the paper plate.

standThe stand is done, now for the cupcakes!  Decorate 4 construction paper rectangles with markers and patterned tape. We gave kids 4 choices of “cupcake colors.” Namely, yellow, brown, white, and pink. Cut the toilet paper tubes into four, 1.5″ pieces. Wrap the decorated construction paper rectangles around the tubes.

To make frosting, use the markers to decorate 4 coffee filters. You only need to decorate the center of the filter, not the entire thing.

frosting 1Flip the filter over and drop a bit of polyester fill in the center.

frosting 2Bunch the filter together around the polyester fill like a little bag. Then trim about 1″ of filter off the top.

frosting 3Push the gathered end of the bag into a tube and secure it to the interior of the tube with tape.

frosting tapeYou now have a cupcake with frosting…

frosting 4Which you are free to decorate with markers, dot stickers, iridescent fabric shapes, mini pom-poms, self-adhesive foam shapes, and fabric flowers. The final step is to add some eye stickers.

frosting doneThe thing I loved best about this story time was  how much personality the cupcake creations had. Here are a few I managed to capture with my camera!