A Little Batty

a little battyThis terrific poster board bat can hang just about anywhere, thanks to its paper clip foot. The bat is a little science lesson too – open its wings and discover a mini exhibition of bat information!

bat wings openYou’ll need:

  • 1 rectangle of brown poster board (approximately 6″ x 13.25″)
  • 1 bat template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 1 jumbo paperclip (mine was 2″ long)
  • 1 bug template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • Bat facts templates (more on those below)
  • Scissors, tape, and glue stick  for construction
  • Black marker

Fold a rectangle of brown poster board in half (we used brown because brown (and red) bats are the most common bats in NJ). Use the template to trace 1/2 of a bat onto the folded poster board. Use a black marker to draw eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Next, fold each wing inward, across the bat’s body.

bat stepsUnfold the wings and glue bat facts and bugs to the bat’s body. Two important things to remember: 1) Since the bat hangs upside down, you’ll want to attach the facts and bugs upside down as well; and 2) Keep the things you are gluing out of the creases in the wings. Otherwise, your bat’s wings will not fold as nicely.

We offered 4 different types of bugs (here’s the bug template again) and 6 different bat facts. Kids could pick and choose which bugs and facts they wanted to add to their bats. The facts are listed below, along with their templates.

I’m not blind, but I don’t use my eyes,
to navigate through the dark night skies. ECHO! Echo! echo!
bat fact 1 template

If life is fair and food is plenty,
I’ll live to the ripe old age of 20!
bat fact 2 template

Nature’s #1 bug zapper!
bat fact 3 template

“Flying mice?” That’s not very nice.
What’s more true?
Bats are more like YOU!
bat fact 4 template

I’m a bug muncher all right,
I eat half my weight every night!
bat fact 5 template

See me swoop and spin and fetch?
I grab some bugs with a one-arm catch!
bat fact 6 template

Once your facts and bugs are glued, grab a jumbo paperclip. Bend the inner part upwards until the paperclip forms a 90 degree angle.

paper clip footTape 1/2 of the paper clip to the back of your bat, right at the very bottom:

taped paper clipOK, your bat is ready to hang! Place the free end of the paperclip onto a shelf or tabletop. If you’d like to hang the bat on your shirt, on a nail, or on a garland with other bats, adjust the paperclip accordingly.

I designed this project for a “Bats in Your Backyard” table at a library event in 2013. The table was hosted by the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. The foundation put together an amazing table packed with information about bats. And check out the bat houses on display!

conserve wildlife foundation of nj That’s MacKenzie Hall in the above photo. She’s a researcher, conservationist, wildlife educator, and author of the fabulous rhyming bat facts. This month, along with two other women, she won the Conserve Wildlife’s Foundation’s “Women and Wildlife” Inspiration Award. You go MacKenzie!

Royal Pie

royal pieThe challenge…to make a pizza that will please Her Royal Highness. The prize? To be proclaimed the finest pizza maker in the land and be adorned with a gold pizza making medal!

We read The Princess and the Pizza by Mary Jane and Herm Auch (Holiday House, 2002). Princess Paulina’s father has decided to give up his crown and open a wood-carving shop. Paulina does her best to adjust to her new life, but she misses things like princess-waving from carriages and walking peacocks. But Paulina perks up when Queen Zelda of Blom announces that her son, Prince Drupert, is to marry. Paulina arrives at the palace (along with a crowd of other hopeful suitors) and passes a number of princess tasks (sleeping on a pea, fitting into glass slippers, writing an essay about the virtues of the odious Queen Zelda). The final task is to prepare a royal feast, but Paulina only has flour, yeast, water, tomatoes, a chunk of cheese, a bit of garlic, and some herbs. So she invents…pizza. Paulina’s pizza wins the contest, but she no longer wants to marry the prince.  Instead, she opens “Princess Paulina’s Pizza Palace.” And guess who her most loyal royal customers are?

You’ll need:

  • A large circle of brown wrapping paper (mine was 22″ in diameter)
  • An oval of red construction paper (mine was 12″ x 13″)
  • An oval of yellow construction paper (mine was 11.5″ x 12.5″)
  • Extra red, green, yellow, and brown construction paper for pizza toppings
  • A strip of yellow poster board for crown (approximately 4.25″ x 22″)
  • A selection of large gemstones (optional)
  • Stapler, scissors and glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating

crownWe started off by making beautiful bejeweled crowns. Cut crown points out of the top of a strip of yellow poster board. Then decorate the crown with markers. I used Crayola glitter markers. They were awesome.

glitter markersOnce you’ve decorated the crown, circle it around your head and staple it closed. Use hot glue to add some jewels if you like. You are now fully prepared to make a royal pizza…

pizzaLay a 22″ circle of brown wrapping paper on a tabletop. Slowly roll the edges of the paper inward, rotating the circle as you go. This creates your pizza “crust.”

pizza crust stepsGlue a red construction paper oval to the crust. This is your “sauce.” Glue a yellow construction paper oval (i.e. “cheese”) on top of the sauce. Finally, cut a variety of construction paper toppings and glue them to your pizza. We offered pepperoni, green pepper slices, brown mushrooms, and little scraps of extra cheese. We also offered black olives, which started as reinforcement labels:

reinforecement labelsReinforcement labels are used patch up torn holes in pieces of paper. But when you color them with a black Sharpie marker, they make an awesome set of pizza olives!

pizzaTo make the pizza-making portion of the program extra fun, we placed the toppings in different areas of our gallery. Then we drew a map of “The Magnificent Kingdom of Pizza.” Kids journeyed to the “Mushroom Cave,” the “Well of Endless Cheese,” “Pepperoni Pond,” “Green Pepper Fields,” and the “Black Olive Forest” to collect their toppings. Then they  glued them to their pizzas.

While the kids were traveling around the gallery, Katie and I suited up in our Medieval garb. I was the queen, and Katie was the herald. Placing a hefty leather chair in the gallery, Katie proclaimed it to be the throne. Then she announced that when the queen arrived, all kids would present their pizzas to Her Royal Highness. If she approved, they would be declared Royal Pizza Makers. I emerged from a side door, sauntered over to my throne, and was seated.

One by one, the kids were announced (loudly) by Katie. Each kid walked up and presented me with his/her pizza. I examined the pizza and then decreed (equally loudly) “This pizza doth please me very much. I hearby appoint you Royal Pizza Maker of the Realm!” I put a pizza medal around their necks, and used a plastic sword to tap their shoulders and head.

royal pizza makerThe pizza medals were similar to the medals from this snail race. Attach a large gold embossed foil seal to a circle of poster board, and hot glue a ribbon between the seal and the poster board. The only change we made was to glue a picture of a pizza on top of the poster board circle.

medalMany thanks to the costume shop at the Lewis Center for the Arts for loaning us the splendid costumes! Katie looked especially impressive.

katie with pizzaAnd speaking of Katie, you might have noticed some mysterious photos appearing on our Instagram with the hashtag #whereiskatie. Well folks, Katie is in Europe. For a year. A YEAR! Her husband went on sabbatical, and the family decided to go with him. So Katie’s going to keep sending shots of splendid places, and I’ll keep popping them into Instragram while growling softly with envy.

steen castleBut now I have the distinct pleasure of introducing you to Marissa, who will be my assistant while Katie is away! Marissa has rolled her sleeves up and jumped right in – crafting pigs in majorette uniforms, mixing batches of fake blood, researching math activities, and dressing up as the White Rabbit. Here is the official “passing of the crown” ceremony we had at Katie’s cupcake sendoff!

crowning marissaWelcome aboard Marissa! Katie, send me some chocolate already! Geez!

Postscript: I am happy to report that Katie DID sent me a big box of European chocolate the week after this post went live. I dutifully shared some, and then scarfed the remainder.

Tin Foil Regatta

tin foil regattaHoist the sail and glide down a tin foil waterway! You can race another boat, or simply bob along at your own pace. This project was designed for a story time at my community pool. The project had to be simple, creative, and appeal to a wide age range. Since there were 50 kids at the program, the project also needed to be inexpensive and easy to assemble, with minimal adult assistance.

We also needed a super fun book. And I knew just the one to read!

We enjoyed The Old Pirate of Central Park by Robert Priest (Houghton Mifflin, 1999). In an apartment in New York City, an old retired pirate builds a model of his former ship. Excited, he take the ship to the Central Park Sailboat Pond. The Laughing Dog sails the waves beautifully, and the Pirate is delighted. But then a retired Queen arrives with her ship, the S.S. Uppity Duchess. The Queen’s ship races around the pond, being rude and swamping other boats. When the Pirate tries to put a stop to the rampage, the Queen’s ship opens fire! The Laughing Dog fires back and the “infamous battle of Central Park” begins (very funny, you must read it). Finally, in need of a nap, the Queen declares an end to the battle and proposes a truce. The Queen and the Pirate shake hands and peace returns to the pond. Now the Queen and the Pirate are friends, they enjoy the sailboat pond together – the two “Old Retirates” of Central Park.

You’ll need:

Begin by hot gluing 4 corks together. Then, hot glue 4 craft sticks on top of the corks. Finish by hot gluing a wooden bead to the center of the craft stick deck. Your boat’s base should now look like this:

boat bodyWe prepped 50 of these boat bases in advance of the program. We also prepped the sails by punching holes in the top and bottom of a triangle of white construction paper.

holes punched in sailI made a dozen extra sails in case some ripped, got dunked the water, got lost in the fray, or someone made a coloring mistake and wanted to start again (and all four things happened at the program, multiple times!).

Insert a wooden coffee stirrer into the hole of the wooden bead. If necessary, stabilize the coffee stirrer with hot glue or colored masking tape. Make sure to have extra stirrers on hand, in case the first one you grab doesn’t fit into the bead’s hole.

sailboat mastDecorate the sail with markers, then slide it onto the coffee stirrer

sail on mastTo make the sailboat’s flag, wrap a section of colored masking tape around the top of the coffee stirrer. You can leave your flag square, or trim the sides with scissors to make it triangular.

flag stepsYour boat is finished! I managed to snap a few photos of boats at the program. Look how much personality they have!

We also had this fantastic non-boat creation…a pair of fish made out of tin foil and colored masking tape. Awesome.

fishNow for the waterway! The waterway idea is from FamilyFun magazine (they called it “The Tinnissippi River.” How cute is that?). Basically, you use a whole lot of tin foil to make a long, high-sided tray (I recommend doubling up the tin foil to make it extra strong). Then you fill the tray with water. Our waterway was 10-12 feet long. I didn’t get a good photo of the waterway during the program, so I recreated a shorter version of it for this post:

full tin foil sheetAlas, our waterway sprung a leak during the pool program. But quick-thinking Katie filled up several dish tubs with water. The kids were just as happy to float their boats in the tubs, so if you don’t want go the tin foil route, just grab a couple dish tubs and set sail. Or haul that old baby pool out of the garage and fill it up!

tub alternativeIf you want to turn this activity into a riveting regatta, give the kids drinking straws and instruct them to use the straws to blow their boats down the waterway. First one to the end wins!