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.

Kinetic Kites

kiteNo wind in the sky? No worries. With a little arm action, these kites fly indoors!

flying kiteWe read Ping-Li’s Kite by Sanne Te Loo (Front Street, 1998). Captivated by the beautiful kites in the sky, Ping-Li goes to Mr. Fo’s shop to purchase kite-building supplies. As he departs, Mr. Fo warns Ping-Li not to offend the Emperor of the Sky by flying an unpainted kite. But Ping-Li can’t resist a little test run. Unfortunately, his unpainted kite is spotted by the Emperor of the Sky, who hauls Ping-Li up to his dragon ship. Furious at the boy’s cheek, he demands that Ping-Li make the most beautiful kite in the sky or forever remain his prisoner. Clever Ping-Li paints a portrait of the Emperor on his bold and beautiful kite, winning both the Emperor’s admiration, and his freedom.

You’ll need:

  • 1 large rectangle of white poster board for kite (approximately 12″ x 19″)
  • Hole punch
  • Pieces of white poster board for decorative templates
  • 1 pencil
  • A selection of tissue paper (cut into 8″ x 10″ rectangles)
  • A selection of crepe paper streamers (approximately 23″ long)
  • 1 balloon stick
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • A length of string (mine was 45″)
  • Scissors, stapler, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

First, cut the kite shape out of the large poster board rectangle. After some trial and error, we determined that this shape works best. Note that the top is rounded. You don’t want any sharp corners on the top of your kite, lest it bonk you on the head!

kite shape 1Punch two holes on the right and left of the kite:

kite shape 2Now it’s time to decorate! I created a selection of poster board templates (tiger, butterfly, fish, bird, and dragon) and invited kids to trace their favorite onto the center of the kite with a pencil. When the tracing was done, they used markers to decorate the kite. I also circled the program area, Sharpie in hand, to add legs and wings to dragons, fierce eyes to tigers, antennae to butterfly, etc.

templatesWith the body of the kite decorated, select at least 3 crepe paper streamers, and staple them to the bottom (and only the bottom) of the kite. Then, fringe the tissue paper rectangles and tape them to the lower section of the kite.

fringesNot only do the fringes look great, they sound great! As the kite is circling around you, they pop and snap just like a real kite up in the sky.  If you’re interested in adding a tissue paper rosette, crumble up a tissue paper rectangle, then staple it to the bottom (and only the bottom) of the kite. Make sure to attach an even number of rosettes on the kite, so it remains balanced.

rosettePlace the kite face-down on a table. Thread the balloon stick through the two holes.

kite stick 1Wrap a 5″ piece of colored masking tape around the left-hand side of the stick.

kite stick 2Next, use your fingers to push the poster board up against the taped end of the stick. The goal is to make your kite curve away from the stick slightly (so it can get some lift when you swoop it around on the string). The curve should look something like this:

kite stick 3Keeping the poster board curved, wrap a 5″ piece of colored masking tape around right-hand side of the stick.

kite stick 4Then use scissors to cut off the excess stick.

kite stick 5The final step is to attach the kite string. I tried a couple different types of string and determined that this heavier string was easiest for kids to grip while still allowing the kite to fly.  Definitely don’t use yarn. It’s way too stretchy!

kite stringKnot one end of the string tightly to the center of the kite stick, then make a small “x” of colored masking tape over the knot. Fold each piece of tape down tightly to secure the knot.

string stepsReady to fly your kite? Go to a clear, open space (if you have lots of little kids, make sure they s-p-r-e-a-d o-u-t and don’t cluster together). If you are right-handed, use your right hand to hold the string approximately 1.5 feet from the knotted end. Hold the other end of the string in your left hand. If you are left-handed, reverse the above instructions. Extend your right (or left) arm (i.e. the arm closest to the kite) outward and:

  1. Twirl in a circle and watch the kite spin around with you.
  2. Use your arm to circle the kite around your head like a cowboy lasso.
  3. Swoop the kite in a criss-cross / infinity symbol motion in front of you.

All three methods of flying worked at our story time, even though the criss-cross / infinity symbol motion yielded the best results (as demonstrated by the talented Mr. Ian).

final kite