Test Your Mettle

test your mettleOne of our regulars called this her “most favorite project, ever.” It’s amazingly simple to do, yet has fantastically beautiful results. Best of all, if you use the right markers, your metallic marvel of a dragon will illuminate under a black light! Get ready to test your metal at To Be Continued, our reading program for 6-8 year-olds.

glowing dragonWe read Lily Quench and the Dragon of Ashby, written by Natalie Jane Prior, and illustrated by Janine Dawson (Puffin Books, 1999). The town of Ashby Water used to be peacefully ruled by a King and Queen. But then the Black Count invaded, usurped the throne, tore up the botanical gardens, and built a grommet factory. Now the town is filthy, the river is polluted, and the people are suffering. To make matters worse, a dragon has landed on the grommet factory, and doesn’t appear to be leaving. Captain Zouche and Miss Moldavia (the baddies in charge), demand that young Lily Quench (a dragon slayer only by inheritance), defeat the dragon. But rather than slaying the dragon, Lily befriends it. With the help of Queen Dragon, Lily learns that there just might be a chance to defeat the Black Count, find a lost Prince, and rescue Ashby Water from ruin.

In the book, Queen Dragon explains to Lily that dragons eat metal, not people. In fact, gold is like rich chocolate to a dragon (mmmmm, gold chocolate). I wanted something dragon, metallic, and fiery for the To Be Continued kids to try. This project totally fit the bill!

You’ll need:

  • 1 dragon image, printed on white card stock
  • A piece of tagboard or cardboard
  • Tin foil
  • Tape
  • Sharpie permanent markers in assorted colors
  • Hot glue

Begin by printing a dragon image on card stock (I found my image as a free download here). Use tape to attach the image to a matching piece of tagboard or cardboard. This step really is important! You want a nice firm base for your image, since you’re going to be pressing down on it quite a bit.

This project looks best with lots of different crevices to color, so we made a few extra on the original image. Below, for example, you can see that we drew spines along the tail. Those weren’t on the original image.

metal dragon step 1Next, outline the image with hot glue. The more outlines you make, the better the final drawing will look.

metal dragon step 2Once the hot glue is dry, cover the drawing with tin foil. Secure the tin foil to the back of drawing with tape – not hot glue! The hot glue will create unwanted ridges later. Below you can see exactly what we presented to the kids – a mysterious sheet of metal for them to explore with their fingers.

metal dragon step 3Use your fingertips to gently, but firmly, press down on the tin foil. As you press, the hot glue ridges will pop out, revealing a raised outline of the the image underneath!

metal dragon step 4Here’s another shot that shows the ridges a little better…

metal dragon step 4 closerSome kids liked the idea of the image revealing itself from a “blank slate,” but other kids liked having an image to guide them. So have a few copies of the original image on your work tables, just in case.

Next, use Sharpie permanent markers to color the drawing (alas, non-permanent markers smear on the tin foil). Try not to press too hard, or your tin foil will rip. If it does rip, you can always put a fresh layer of tin foil over the drawing and start again.

finished dragon 2I was excited to learn that certain packs of neon color Sharpies fluoresce under black light (you’ll know because it says so right on the package). Awesome! I totally wish I had used them when we made this¬†dancing black light skeleton! The kids were already delighted to see their metal dragons taking shape, but the glowing highlights – just made it.

finished glowing dragonThe final step is optional. I punched a hole in the top of each project and looped a ribbon through it so kids could hang their metallic creations up at home.

Come On Get Snappy

get snappySnapdragon anyone? I’ve offered this simple project at a number of programs in the past, and it’s always well-received. “Snappy” has decorated the edges of a swamp at a Halloween party, hid in an Alice in Wonderland garden, and grown out of pots at a “Primordial Plants” event table!

event tableYou’ll need:

  • 1 paper cup
  • 1 small rectangle of green construction paper for head (approximately 1.5″ x 3″)
  • A sliver of red construction paper for tongue
  • 1 green pipe cleaner
  • Hole punch
  • Tape
  • Markers
  • Extra green construction paper for leaves

First, fold the green construction paper rectangle in half to form Snappy’s mouth. Tab the ends of the mouth, then cut out teeth.

mouth stepsMake sure to leave a gap in the lower teeth (this is where the tongue will rest later).

gapNext, punch a hole in the back of Snappy’s head…

punched holeThen thread a green pipe cleaner through the hole. Twist the pipe cleaner around and thread it through the hole once again. Pull gently to tighten, then curl the end.

stem steps Cut the sliver of red construction paper to look like a forked tongue and tape (or glue) it into the mouth.

tongueUse markers to draw eyes. I added my eyes at the very end, but younger kids might have an easier time drawing the eyes earlier, such as before they attach the head to the pipe cleaner stem.

close up of faceTape the pipe cleaner stem inside the paper cup. Use extra green construction paper to add foliage. Done! Perhaps you can test out your new Snappy skills with this garden story time?

Surely You Jest

court jesterIt’s comedy old school style with this jester motley (a.k.a. “cap ‘n bells”) and scepter (a.k.a. “bauble”). A scroll of hilarious jokes is included, such as: Why did Cinderella lose the football game? Because her coach was a pumpkin! Oh ho ho!

We read Serious Trouble by Arthur Howard (Voyager Books, 2007). Prince Ernest has very serious parents who expect him to proceed seriously through life and eventually rule the kingdom. Seriously. The problem is, Ernest wants to be a jester. But his occupational dream couldn’t come at a worse time, because the kingdom is being threatened by a terrible three-headed dragon. When Ernest sneaks out of the castle to practice some jokes, he unfortunately runs into the dragon. The grumpy dragon agrees to let him go if Ernest can make him laugh. Can the princely comic deliver? Of course he can (it helps that dragons are way ticklish)!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large poster board strip for hat band (approximately 2.5″ x 22″)
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 3 poster board triangles in different colors (mine were approximately 8″ at the base and 17.5″ tall).
  • 5 medium pom-poms (mine were 1″)
  • 6 jingle bells
  • 1 paper towel tube
  • 1 piece of construction paper, any color
  • Multiple pieces of curling ribbon
  • Multiple pieces of fabric ribbon
  • 1 small rectangle of construction paper (approximately 2.75″ x 6.5″)
  • 1 jester head template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • 3 small pom-poms (mine were 0.5″)
  • 1 set of Ye Olde Funny Jokes, printed on standard 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • Stapler, hole punch, scissors, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

jester hatStart with the hat! Decorate the large strip of poster board with colored tape. Then circle it around your head, remove, and staple to create a hat band. For the pointy part of your hat, use long poster board triangles that look like this:

trianglesTuck each triangle inside the hat band and staple into place. It’s absolutely OK if the bases of the triangles overlap. In fact, it looks rather snazzy.

overlap okNext, punch a hole at the end of each triangle. You want the hole to be close to the tip of the triangle, but not so close that the jingle bell might tear loose.

triangle holeThread a small piece of curling ribbon through each jingle bell, and then knot a bell through each hole. Don’t knot the ribbon too tight, or it will cut through the poster board!

bellFinish by hot gluing 5 medium pom-poms around the exterior of the hat band. Done!

hot glue hatNow for your scepter. Wrap a paper towel tube with construction paper, and use colored masking tape to add some stripes. Then, take a 5.5″ piece of colored masking tape and place it sticky side up on the table. Gently press the ends of the curling and fabric ribbon onto the tape. Include at least 3 pieces of curling ribbon.

ribbonWrap the ribbon tape around the top of the paper towel tube BUT…drop it about 1″ from the top of the tube.

wrapped ribbonTrim the ribbon if it seems too long, and then knot a jingle bell onto each curling ribbon (the fabric ribbon is too soft for threading). Next, cut a zig-zag pattern into the small rectangle of construction paper…

collarThen wrap it around the top of the paper towel tube. Like the ribbon tape, you’ll want to drop the zig-zag paper about 1″ from the top of the tube.

wrapped collarUse markers to color the jester head template, then curl the long tabs of the template around the top of the paper towel tube and fasten with tape. Finish by hot gluing 3 small pom-poms on the ends of the hat.

finished scepter All you need now are jokes! I printed the joke sheets in advance and used a piece of curling ribbon to turn them into scrolls. Then I hid the jokes around the gallery and turned it into a jester quest. The gallery was full of giggling, jingling kids. It was fabulous!

If you are in need of a dragon to accompany this project, try this fella!