Winter is Coming

winter is comingIt’s a diorama, a keepsake box, a mini exhibit, AND a lesson in ecology! Open the lid of this winter landscape and you’ll find the creatures that hibernate, burrow underground, and tunnel underneath the snow, complete with an information card!

open woodland boxWe read Over and Under the Snow, written by Kate Messner, and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal (Chronicle Books, 2011). A father and child ski over the deep snow in the woods. Even though it’s a world of white, signs of life are everywhere – squirrel, owl, deer, snowshoe hare, and fox. But under the snow is yet another world. Shrews and voles run in tunnels. Bullfrogs burrow in the mud, bears hibernate, and a queen bee sleeps, waiting for the first signs of spring. The book ends with the child in a cozy bed, dreaming of nature. An absolutely beautiful book, with gorgeous, bold illustrations set against snowy white.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box with a lid
  • Brown construction paper
  • 1 woodland template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • An oval of blue construction paper (approximately 2.5″ x 4.5″)
  • An oval of silver mirror board (approximately 2.5″ x 4.5″)
  • A rectangle of brown wrapping paper (approximately 7.5″ x 10.5″)
  • A smaller rectangle of brown wrapping paper (approximately 3.75″ x 4.5″)
  • White cotton balls
  • 4 small clear plastic rhinestones (optional)
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Metallic markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

First, find a box with a lid. I used white cardboard pencil boxes with hinged lids from Discount School Supply (a dozen cost $17 so a bit of a splurge). To give the outside of the box a little pop of color, we put a strip of patterned tape around the perimeter, but this is optional (or, just use markers to decorate!).

Line the inside of the box (including the underside of the lid) with brown construction paper. Glue an oval of blue construction paper on the right side of the box lid. Cut and color the bear, bee, vole, shrew, and bullfrog from the template, and glue them inside the box. Use markers to draw burrows, dirt specks, and tree roots (we used metallic markers, and they looked great on the brown paper!). Glue the information card to the inside of the box as well.

open woodland boxClose the lid of the box, and glue an oval of silver mirror board to the right of the box, directly above the blue construction paper oval. If you don’t have mirror board, use tin foil.

Now for the tree! Use a brown marker to draw vertical lines on a tall, 7.5″ x 10.5″ rectangle of brown wrapping paper. Then squish, crinkle, and wrinkle the paper. The more wrinkly it gets, the better!

woodland tree step 1Roll the paper into a tube and secure it with tape. Cut 4 tabs in the bottom of the tube (each tab should be about 1.5″ long). Fold the tabs outwards. Later, you’ll use these tabs to attach the tree to the box lid:

woodland tree step 2Cut 5-6 tabs in the opposite end of the tube (these tabs are much longer, about 5″). Fold them out gently, then twist them to create the branches of your tree.

final steps woodland treeHot glue (or tape) the tree to the lid of the box. If you’d like to add a log to your landscape, use a brown marker to draw horizontal lines on a 3.75″ x 4.5″ rectangle of brown wrapping paper. Crinkle the paper, then roll the paper into a tube and secure it with tape. The final length of the log should be 3.75″. Set the finished log aside for a moment.

Glue white cotton ball “snow” to the lid of the box. Then cut and color the squirrel, owl, deer, snowshoe hare, fox, and tree leaves from the template. Glue these items, plus the log, to your winter landscape.

winter is comingFor some extra sparkle, I hot glued 4 small clear plastic rhinestones to the edge of the lake. But this, of course, is optional.

frozen lakeYour winter landscape is complete! Well, maybe not quite complete…

jon snowBet you a 33 pound chocolate dragon egg he’s coming back in season six.

Great Snakes!

great snakesYou’re walking through the jungle when, suddenly…a snake slides onto your shoulders. Stop! Do NOT panic! It’s perfectly safe. This snake is made out of self-adhesive foam!

You’ll need:

First, trace the 2 halves of your snake onto a 9″ x 12″ sheet of self-adhesive foam (I purchase my sheets from Blick Art Supplies and Michaels Craft store). The “head” half of my snake was approximately 11″ long. The “tail” half was approximately 12″ long.

Cut both snake halves out, but don’t peel the backing from them just yet. The next step is to cut, peel, and stick little pieces of foam to your snake’s body. I did a triangle pattern, but stripes also look fantastic. And don’t forget the eye!

snake halvesWhen the snake is decorated to your satisfaction, peel the backing off the big pieces and stick them to the front of your shirt. It looks best if you wrap the ends a little past your shoulders.

finished shoulder snakeIf you’d like to add a tongue to your snake, fork one end of a 2″ piece of curling ribbon, and stick it to the underside of the snake’s head.

snake tongueIt’s important to note that the snake doesn’t go all the way around your neck. This foam doesn’t do too well on long, uneven curves. I didn’t want it to buckle, pop off, and tangle in (or stick to) longer hair.

snake from the backI tested the foam on plain t-shirts, as well as shirts with embroidery, plain decals, and glitter decals. All of them were fine, with the minor exception being the glitter decal. The foam did take some glitter off with it, but no more than comes off when you rub the decal with your fingers. However, when I peeled the foam off a mesh sports jersey with vinyl numbers, bits of the foam ripped off the snake and stuck to the vinyl numbers! So if you’re wearing a mesh sports jersey, peel slowly, and know that you might have to do a little extra peeling where the foam sticks.

And there you have it! A super easy shoulder snake, ready for your next story time. May I suggest Snake, His Story by James Marshall? It’s one of my favorites!

Kitty Karaoke

kitty karaokeThe roar of the audience, the flashing lights, the first strains of your big number thrumming through the arena…grab the mic…it’s time for some kitty karaoke. We made rockin’ oatmeal container cats and then hit the stage to sing our hearts out. But, given the feline nature of this rock star, you could only sing in “meow.”

We read Cats Got Talent by Ron Barrett (Simon & Schuster, 2014). Hal, Dora, and Geneva are cats. Once, they had homes and owners, but there were issues. Hal has a tendency to shred curtains and destroy furniture. Dora lived in a dress store where she admired all the pretty frocks. Until she tried to become one herself. Geneva was surrounded by love, but the starlet who owned her went broke, and out Geneva went. Now, living in an ally, the three friends decide they’re going to make a new start and form a band. Opening night arrives, and the cats give it all they’re worth! Soon, they are showered by the audience’s “avid” reactions to their singing. But those fish heads, old shoes, and wilted flowers? They’re exactly what each cat is looking for – food, fashion, and adulation. So… who’s ready for an encore?

You’ll need:

  • 1 large oatmeal container
  • A selection of construction paper
  • A selection of self-adhesive foam pieces
  • 2 pieces of twisteez wire (each approximately 5.5″ long)
  • Rock star decorating supplies (more on those below)
  • 1 small rectangle of black poster board (approximately 0.75″ x 2.5″)
  • 1 small rectangle of silver mirror board (approximately 1.25″ x 1.5″)
  • A black permanent marker
  • 1 rock star stage (more on that below)
  • Tape, scissors and glue for construction
  • Metallic markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

finished rock star catWrap a large oatmeal container with construction paper, then add an additional strip of black construction paper around the middle for a “jacket.” To make whiskers, tape 3 Twisteez wires to front of the oatmeal container:

cat whiskers step 1Then peel and stick an oval of self-adhesive foam over the tape.

cat whiskers step 2In the above photo, you’ll also notice how I used self-adhesive foam shapes to make eyes and a pair of lips (but you can also just use markers).

Use construction to make hair, feet, arms, paws, ears, and a tail for your cat. To glam up our cats, we offered rhinestones, embossed foil paper, metallic dot stickers, iridescent fabric shapes, and the the Bling Bin. We also used paper crinkle for hair, and it was WAY popular.

The final step is to make a microphone! We prepped these in advance. Taper the bottom of a rectangle of black poster board. Round, and then taper, the rectangle of silver mirror board as well. Hot glue the two pieces together. Use permanent marker to add some “mesh.” Hot glue (or tape) the microphone to the cat’s hand.

cat microphoneNow for the concert! We made our stage out of an old archive box. As you can see in the image below, we hot glued the lid to the base (and reinforced the connection with packing tape). The stage lights are toilet paper tubes wrapped in black construction paper with black masking tape wrapped around one end. The stage lights are attached with hot glue, then reinforced with a bit of packing tape.

stage from the sideWe used black and fuchsia poster board, mirror board, and a ton of metallic dot stickers to create a sparking wonderland of rock-stardom. Oh. Yeah.

stage from the frontFor the final touch, we wrapped two LED floor lights with purple and blue cellophane, and pointed them at the stage. You certainly don’t have to go this elaborate. A shoe box wrapped with tin foil, a sparkly scarf on the floor, a section of carpet with a light shining on it. Really, it all works!

For the concert potion of story time, we closed the shades, turned off most of the lights, and had the audience sit in front of the stage. Then, kids were invited up to sing with their cats. Singing was, of course, optional. Some of the shyer kids preferred to just watch, even though many of them warmed up and gave it a go in the end.

There were many performance styles. There was facing outwards to the audience…

singing 1Facing inwards to the stage…

singing 2Facing inwards to the stage with backup singer…

singing 3The power duet…

power duetYou might notice the kids are using a real microphone! I use a wireless amp for my story time programs, so I busted out a hand-held microphone and let kids experience the power of amplification. A cheaper (and less noisy) option is to make a paper and tin foil microphone. You’ll find instructions for that right here.

And what would this post be without some concert footage?

 

Here’s an awesome “Down By the Station” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” mashup:

 

Bring it home Marissa!

 

[Raises lighter] Woooooooooooooooooo!