Who Will You Be?

who will you beYou’ve donned the cap and gown, walked the stage, and received your diploma. Your bright and beautiful future awaits! Only one question remains…who will you be when you grow up?

We read Owliver, written by Robert Kraus, and illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey (Simon & Schuster, 1987). Young Owliver the owl like to act. He can become a hummingbird, a flamingo, even a bat! While Mother Owl is definitely up for an actor or playwright in the family, Father Owl thinks Owliver would make an excellent doctor or lawyer. When Father gives his son doctor and lawyers toys, Mother gives him acting and tap dancing lessons. Both are completely convinced that they’ve successfully nurtured Owliver’s future career. Time passes and Owliver grows up. Is he an actor, a playwright, a doctor, or a lawyer? Turns out he’s none of the above. Owliver’s a fireman!

We made oatmeal container owls, then filled an owl-sized briefcase with the tools said owl would need to follow his/her chosen profession. Then our owls walked the graduation stage for caps and diplomas!

completed owl projectYou’ll need:

  • 1 large oatmeal container
  • White construction paper
  • 1 owl parts template, printed on 8.5 x 11 white card stock
  • A rectangle of tagboard (mine was 4.25″ x 6″)
  • Brown construction paper
  • 2 circles of yellow construction paper (approximately 1.75″ in diameter)
  • 2 black dot stickers
  • A small triangle of orange self-adhesive foam
  • A selection of natural feathers
  • 1 manilla file folder
  • 2 small squares of tagboard (approximately 1.75″)
  • 1 strip of black poster board (approximately 1.5″ x 8″)
  • 1 square of black poster board (approximately 3.75″)
  • 1 small strip of yellow construction paper (approximately 0.25″ x 3.25″)
  • 1 diploma template, printed on 8.5 x 11 white paper
  • A scrap of ribbon to tie the diploma
  • Scissors, tape, white glue, and stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

The owl is first! Wrap an oatmeal container with white construction paper. Add a circle of construction paper to the top of the container’s lid if you like.

Cut the owl parts from the template, then use the individual pieces to trace a pair of feet onto tagboard (or poster board), the “tummy feathers” onto brown construction paper, and a pair of wings on white construction paper. Hot glue the feet to the bottom of the container, and glue or tape the tummy feathers to the front. Add a pair of yellow construction paper eyes with black dot sticker pupils (or just draw the pupils in with markers). Use a triangle of orange self-adhesive foam (or orange construction paper) for a beak.

Use white glue (or tape) to attach feathers to the wings, then hot glue the wings to the oatmeal container. Add some feather eyebrows, and you’re done!

owlNext is the briefcase! I cut a 3″ x 4.5″ piece from the folded bottom of a manilla file folder. Unfold the piece and lay it flat (the unfolded piece will measure 4.5″ x 6″). Cut a pair of “briefcase handles” from 2 small squares of tagboard, and hot glue (or tape) the handles to the sides of the paper like so:

briefcaseUse markers to draw the tools your owl will need in his/her future profession. Here’s mine:

writerSome paper, books, a pencil, a pen, and a laptop. Yup, my owl wants to be a writer! Here’s a sampling of some other briefcases…

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Finally, the graduation cap and diploma! To make the cap, circle and staple a strip of black construction paper (my circle was 2.25″ in diameter). Hot glue (or tape) a square of black poster board to the top of the circle.

For the tassel, hot glue (or tape) one end of a small strip of yellow construction paper to the center of the square.Fold the strip over the edge of the hat, then fringe the free end. You can cover the top of the tassel with a small square of black post board (as seen below), but that step is purely optional.

cap and diplomaCut a diploma from the template, roll it, and tie it with a ribbon. The diplomas on my template say “Congratulations! You Rock!” but you can customize your diploma however you like.

We prepped the caps and diplomas in advance. And, with “Pomp and Circumstance” playing on my iPhone, the owls marched across the graduation stage (i.e., a piece of white poster board with gold embossed foil seal “footlights”) and received a cap and diploma.

Way to go, class of 2015!

Spring Chicken

spring chickenNo spring chicken? We got your spring chicken! The drinking straw “sticks” on this little bird puppet allow it to flap its wings and soar across the big blue sky! I designed the project for a weekend story time event for 50 kids. It needed to be inexpensive, appealing to ages 2 – 6, constructed without white glue or hot glue, and easy to put together with minimal adult assistance. For the full effect of the bird’s flight, check out the video clip at the end of the post!

You’ll need:

First, cut the bird’s body and wings from the template and color them with markers. Tape a jumbo craft stick to the back of the bird’s body (an 8″ craft stick work best). Make sure to leave approximately 1.5″ of space above the craft stick. Later, you’ll need that space to attach the bird’s wing.

bird on craft stick  with typeYou could also wait until the end of the project to tape the craft stick in place, but I found that the early placement of the stick helped kids attach their wings in the right place (i.e. close to the top of the bird’s body instead of the middle).

Next, fold each wing downwards along the dotted line, then attach the wings to the body with long pieces of tape. It’s important that the entire fold of the wing is covered with tape. I used orange masking tape to demonstrate this in the image below, but I used clear tape on the actual project.

taped wingNow stick an additional piece of tape over the bird’s back and wings like a “tape saddle.” Again, I used orange masking tape to demonstrate it below…

tape saddleUse tape to add feathers to the head, tops of the wings, and tail. Finally, tape the short end of a flexible straw to the underside of each wing, close to the wingtips (if the straws are too close to the body, the wings won’t flap properly). Use scissors to trim the ends of the straws so they don’t extend past the wings.

taped drinking straw with typeTo operate your bird, hold the craft stick in one hand, then gather the two drinking straws in your other hand. Holding the straws straight behind the bird, use them to flap the wings of the bird up and down!

Since my audience was primarily preschoolers, I read Birds, written by Kevin Henkes and illustrated by Laura Dronzek (Greenwillow Books, 2009). It’s a lovely book with simple text and plenty of opportunities for audience participation (such as naming the colors of birds, naming the types of birds, and yelling “Surprise!” on one of my favorite pages). The illustrations are colorful, pretty, and, in some places, extremely imaginative and delightful.

La Cucaracha

cockroach pizza boxDon’t panic! Those are FAKE cockroaches winding their way through a pizza box maze. The roaches crawl beautifully, thanks to a hidden magnet wand positioned underneath the box. This project is from To Be Continued, our story time for 6 to 8 year-olds. It was a big hit!

We read Measle and the Wrathmonk by Ian Ogilvy (Harper Collins, 2004). Young Measle Stubbs lives in a grim house on an abandoned street. His legal guardian, Basil Tramplebone, is a very strange man. He always wears black. His skin is ghostly pale. And oddly, whenever Basil goes outside, a raincloud follows him. But up in the attic of Basil’s horrible house is the world’s most amazing train set, and Measle desperately wants to play with it. He throws together a wild plan to get into the attic – and gets caught. While Measle certainly expects Basil to be angry, he doesn’t expect Basil to shrink him down to a half an inch and put him in the train set! Measle soon discovers he’s not the only victim trapped on the set. Can Measle and his gang put together a plan to defeat Basil?

I won’t give away too much, but there are some terrific giant cockroach chase scenes on the train table. For the project, I toyed with the idea of making a miniature train set obstacle course inside a box top. But then opted for something simpler and quicker to construct – a drinking straw maze. Building off a marble maze project I spotted on Pinterest (you can see it pinned to my board here), I decided to replace the marble with a magnetic plastic cockroach.

plastic cockroachYou’ll need:

  • 1 pizza box
  • 1 plastic roach (I purchased mine on Amazon – a set of 12 was $4.58)
  • 2 button magnets
  • 1 wine cork
  • Drinking straws
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

To make your magnet “wand,” hot glue a button magnet to the top of a wine cork, then hot glue a second button magnet to the bottom of the plastic cockroach.

cockroach magnet corkAfter some trial and error, we determined that using 2 different sized button magnets (0.5″ and 0.75″) worked best for our roaches and pizza boxes.

Slice Between, a local pizza shop, gave us a deal on 2 dozen pizza boxes (a copy paper box lid would work too, but I thought pizza boxes would be a better match for the creepy cockroaches). During the story time workshop kids cut, arranged, and taped drinking straws into maze configurations. Some kids expanded the maze to both sides of the box!

double box topTo navigate your cockroach through the maze, place the cockroach on top of the box. Hold your cork magnet wand against the underside of the box, directly underneath the cockroach. The two magnets will connect through the cardboard and you can mosey your cockroach through the maze!

Two hints for this project:

  1. When attaching the straws to the box, keep the tape as flat as possible. Bumps or raised bunches of tape might hinder your roach’s movement through the maze.
  2. When guiding your roach through the maze, move the cork wand slowly. If you go too fast, the magnets tend to break their connection.

I had markers handy in case anyone wanted to decorate their boxes (or make “Start” and “Finish” lines for their mazes), but some kids used the markers to create some fan art. Here’s Basil, his stinky Wrathmonk breath, and an indication of what happens to him later in the book:

wrathmonk fan art 1And here’s yet another portrait of Basil, with a little hint about his ultimate fate:

wrathmonk fan art 2Measle and the Wrathmonk (and its sequels) are fantastic. They’re fun, scary, creative, and even though Wrathmonks are horribly evil, they’re terribly funny too. Ian Ogilvy was a well-known English actor before he became a children’s author, and it shows in his talent for dialogue, pace and characterizations. Measle and the Wrathmonk is delightful to read aloud and had the kids hooked right from the beginning. Honestly, you could hear a pin drop when I was reading certain sections of the story!