Houston, We Have a Squeaker

houston we have a squeakerBoldly go where no mouse has gone before. We created a rad rodent rocket, then flew it across the library on a mission to the moon! If you are ever looking for an excuse to bust out a pair of walkie-talkies at story time, this project is for you.

We read Mousetronaut, written by real-life astronaut Mark Kelly, and illustrated by C.F. Payne (Simon & Schuster, 2012). Meteor is smaller than the rest of the mice training at NASA. Imagine his surprise when he is selected for the next mission! From floating in zero gravity to gazing at Earth in the distance, Meteor loves everything about his journey. But when the key to the control panel is stuck between the monitors, the mission is in peril. Luckily, undersized Meteor can squeeze in and save the day. When the crew returns to earth, Meteor is given a hero’s welcome and a new title…Mousetronaut! Aspiring astronauts should definitely check out Mark’s essay in the back of the book. I especially enjoyed the bit about space bathrooms (including space showers, air toilets, foamless soap, and dry shampoo!).

You’ll need:

  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • Grey construction paper
  • 1 mouse spacesuit template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • 3 piece of string for whiskers (mine were 1.75″ long)
  • 1 mini pom-pom
  • 1 box (I used a 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9” box, a large tissue box works too!)
  • A box cutter
  • 1 cone water cup
  • A 5oz cup
  • A 9oz plastic cocktail cup
  • 1 rocket wings template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • Red and yellow squares of cellophane (approximately 5″ x 5″)
  • A selection of metallic dot stickers
  • 1 Moon Mission game (more on this below!)
  • A selection of foil star stickers
  • Scissors, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

First, the mouse! Wrap a toilet paper tube with grey construction paper. Use extra bits of the paper to fashion some ears. The uniform from the template gets colored in, then wrapped around the tube as well. Draw the eyes and mouth with markers. If you’d like whiskers, tape 3 pieces of 1.75″ string to the tube. Then hot glue a pom-pom nose on top (you can also just draw the nose and whiskers with markers).

finished space mouseSet the mouse aside for a moment. It’s time for the rocket!

finished mouse rocketThe trickiest part of constructing this rocket? Finding the right plastic cups for the “seat” and “cockpit.” The seat cup needs to hold mouse snugly, while still allowing it plenty of head room. I found some 5oz plastic cups that were just perfect.

mouse in cupUse a box cutter to cut a square hole in the lid of your box (if you’re using a tissue box, flip the box over and cut the square in the bottom). You want the hole to be big enough to slide the cup into, but not so big that the cup is in danger of dropping through (mine was 2.5″ x 2.5″). Slide the cup into the hole, then secure it to the box with tape. Place your mouse in the cup.

hole for seat cupThe cockpit cup needs to be wide enough to cover the hole, yet tall enough for your mouse’s ears. This 9oz clear plastic cocktail cup did the job very nicely.

mouse in cockpitIn the image above, you’ll notice that the cockpit cup is attached to the box with a single piece of tape. This is so you can open and close the hatch of the rocket. If you’d prefer your mouse to be sealed in, add more tape. Next, print and cut the wings template, fold along the dotted lines to create a tab, and attach the tab to the side of the box with tape or hot glue.

tabbed wing for mouse rocketTo make the rocket’s boosters, twist squares of yellow and red cellophane together, then tape the twists inside a pair of plastic cups (I used white, 3oz plastic cups). Hot glue the cups to the back of the ship.

boosters of mouse rocketThe nose of the rocket is a cone water cup. We hot glued our cones to unused, 3.5″ paper lids (the kind you get when you buy hot soup). But you can just go with the cone if you’d like.

nose of mouse rocketDecorate the ship with metallic dot stickers, colored masking tape, and whatever else strikes your fancy (we flashed things up with silver holographic tape). Also, did you notice the awesome bubble tea straw pipes down the side of the rocket?

finished mouse rocketBut wait, what about those red foil star stickers along the top of the rocket? Ahhhh! The star stickers were the prize for playing our Moon Mission game! Here’s how the game worked. Marissa made a big moon (22″ in diameter) out of poster board and a silver metallic marker (to make sure it stayed upright, I taped it to a plastic display stand – a book end might work too).

poster board moonMarissa also crafted this awesome Moon Base out of a tissue box, poster board, a sparkle stem, and a mini tin foil pie plate. Stashed inside the moon base were strips of foil star stickers, waiting to be claimed.

moon baseMarissa and I equipped ourselves with a couple of walkie-talkies. Marissa was Mission Control, stationed in the story time area…

marissa at ground controlAnd I was at Moon Base, waaaaay across the library’s cavernous lobby. Marissa and I couldn’t see each other and definitely couldn’t hear each other without using walkie-talkies. This was intentional. We wanted the kids to feel like they were traveling far away.

dr. dana at moon base

The astronauts (and mousetronauts) lined up at Mission Control.

ready for take offOne-by-one, they were treated to some “walkie-talkie space banter:”

Moon Base, do you read? This is Mission Control. Over.

Moon Base here, roger that Mission Control. Over.

Astronaut (kid’s name) is ready for take-off. Over.

Roger that. Good luck (kid’s name). See you on the moon! Over.

There would be a countdown and then the rocket would blast off out of the gallery, exit our library’s front door and enter the vast regions of outer space (i.e. the main library’s lobby)…

mouse in flightThe rocket would navigate the long journey across space…

the vastness of spaceAnd successfully touchdown at Moon Base! The pilot could then could select some star stickers to further decorate his/her rocket. I radioed back that the mission had been a success, and requested that the next astronaut prepare for launch.

touch down at moon baseOf course, while waiting for my next rocket to arrive, I couldn’t help treating Marissa to a few songs through the walkie-talkie: This is Ground Control to Major Tom…You’ve really made the graaade!

Because you know the folks at NASA sing in their headsets like that. And are Bowie fans.

Everyone’s an Engineer

everyones an engineerGet ready to create, build, and innovate. Today, everyone’s an engineer and the sky’s the limit!

We read Rosie Revere, Engineer written by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts (Harry N. Abrams, 2013). At night, young Rosie Revere designs gadgets, gizmos, and fabulous machines…and then hides them. She’s an engineer, but due to an unfortunate incident with her Uncle Fred (a zookeeper who mistakenly laughs at a cheddar cheese spray hat designed to keep pythons away), she’s keeping her light under a bushel.

However, when Great-Great-Aunt Rose comes to visit and expresses her life-long wish to fly, Rosie puts aside her fears and builds her a flying machine. The machine flies…and then promptly crashes. Rosie gives up. But wait! Great-Great-Aunt Rose has something to say. Failures are part of engineering, but the true failure is if you give up and stop trying. Don’t forget to check the last page for a sweet illustration of Rosie’s ultimate success!

This story time cost zero dollars because I used materials that were already in my art cabinet and storage closet. You could do something similar by sending out a call for recyclables at your library, school, workplace, or neighborhood (more about that here). Another option is to announce the story time theme in advance and invite families to bring recyclables and surplus art supplies from home to contribute.

Here’s a list of the materials I offered:

  • White matte boxes in various shapes and sizes
  • Pastry boxes (you can see the exact ones I used on this project)
  • Tissue boxes, assorted sizes and colors
  • Oatmeal containers
  • Toilet paper tubes
  • Paper towel tubes
  • Wrapping paper tubes
  • Corrugated cardboard bases (leftover from this project)
  • Bulk CD cases (the kind that look like big plastic tubs)
  • Paper plates
  • Plastic cups
  • Paper cups
  • Different lengths of PVC pipe
  • Some cone water cups
  • Pieces of tagboard
  • Assorted beverage caps
  • Film canisters
  • A variety of tea tins
  • Black plastic top hats
  • A selection of sparkle stems
  • A selection of pipe cleaners
  • A selection of craft ties
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • Aluminum foil
  • Construction paper
  • Poster board strips (regular and metallic)
  • Metallic paper
  • Clothespins
  • A variety of craft sticks
  • A selection of twisteez wire
  • A selection of large plastic buttons
  • A few spools of metallic tie cord
  • Plastic drinking straws
  • A few spools of britelace
  • Some marabou boas
  • A selection of dot stickers and star stickers
  • The Bling Bin
  • Scissors, tape, hole punch, and glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • A box cutter
  • Hot glue

One building supply I didn’t list above are these…the round plastic guides at the ends of large rolls of paper. Pop them out and you have some excellent tires:

tube tiresTo prep for story time, I piled everything onto side tables, plugged in the hot glue gun, and invited everyone to make a machine. No additional prompting was needed!

Here are a few fabulous creations, beginning with…”The Dollycopter”

dollycopterWhen you pull the craft sticks on top of this computer, they jiggle the strings of buttons inside the monitor.

cone computerAn “alien” computer with with furry frame and space scene!

furry computerThere were plenty of robots, widgets, rockets, and flying mechanisms…

table robot robot 1robot 2 Remember the enthusiastic young fellow who started this post off? He designed a “Police Train” and believe it or not, the thing actually rolled when you pulled it!

train walksGuess we’ll be seeing him at MIT in a few years…