Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

hello-darknessAfraid of the dark? Nah! With this fantastic, illuminating friend, you can discover how much fun the dark really is! And if you’re still not convinced, join us for a glowing balloon bounce bonanza!

We read Orion and The Dark by Emma Yarlett (Templar Books, 2015). Orion is scared of everything, but he’s especially scared of the dark. Imagine his surprise when one night, the dark comes alive and drop right into his room! It turns out the Dark is actually a fun and playful friend. Together, they explore Orion’s house and town and he learns that the things he was afraid of…aren’t that scary. They’re actually kind of cool! In the grand finale, Orion and the Dark endeavor to conquer Orion’s final fear – outer space. Far from scary, outer space is simply magical. The friends return to Orion’s house just as dawn breaks. The Dark must go, but he promises to never be far away. In fact, he’ll be back every night for a visit!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large oatmeal container
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • Some tagboard or strong cardboard
  • Blue construction paper
  • A selection of foil star stickers
  • A pair of wiggle eyes
  • A small piece of white pipe cleaner
  • Glow-in-the-dark paint or glue
  • 1 paintbrush
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Hot glue

project-viewed-in-light

Begin by wrapping a large oatmeal container and 2 toilet paper tubes with blue construction paper. Set them aside for a moment. Cut a pair of oval feet (our were approximately 2.25″ x 3.75″), then cover the tops of the ovals with blue construction paper. Hot glue the feet to the bottoms of the toilet paper tube legs, toggle the legs a bit to get the balance just right, then hot glue them to the bottom of the oatmeal container.

Finish by adding a circle of blue construction paper to the top of the oatmeal container, construction paper arms on the sides, and foil star stickers everywhere.

Now to add the glow! We had a bottle of this non-toxic glow pigment in the cabinet, so we went with glow glue. I’m sure you’d also get great results with glow-in-the-dark paint as well (it’s sold at Michael’s Craft Store for $3 – $5 a bottle). We covered our work tables with paper, gave each kid a little cup of glue and a paintbrush, and let them create a night sky on their projects.

painting-the-projectThe neat thing about the glow glue is that it dried semi-clear, so there’s a bit of a dramatic reveal when it illuminates:

project-viewed-in-light-and-darkNotice how the eyes and mouth of the project are glowing too? Those are glow-in-the-dark wiggle eyes (available through Oriental Trading Company – a pack of 100 is $3) and a snippet of white pipe cleaner painted with glow glue. We were dubious at first, but the glue stuck to the pipe cleaner very nicely and dried quickly. It also stuck to Katie’s hands, giving her awesome alien fingers.

glow-fingersWhile the kids’ projects were drying on the tables, we decided to capture the spirit of the book by having lots of fun in the dark. We blew up a bunch of LED balloons (which you first encountered in this post), turned out the lights, blasted some Enya, and had a big, glowing balloon bounce party.

glow-balloon-partyWe also had a little black light closet set up, so kids could get a preview of what their creations would look like later than night.

inside-glow-room

one-glow-designtwo-glow-designSome of the balloon revelers ended up in the black light closet too. Because why not?

balloon-in-black-light-room

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.

City of Light

city of lightThe minute I picked up Dusk by Uri Shulevitz, I knew we had to create a city full of color and light at our story time. It’s a simple project with truly magical results.

We read Dusk by Uri Shulevitz (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013). A boy, his grandfather, and their dog go for a wintertime walk. As the sky fades to dusk, the lights in the city go on one by one. People stroll and shop, and windows glow in a city that is light as day. This book is set during the holiday season, and includes Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa imagery (without mentioning any of them outright). The gorgeous illustrations and lyrical text pull you right into the story. I wanted to capture that beauty and ambiance in our story time project.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box with a clear lid
  • A piece of tagboard or brown poster board (big enough to cover the box’s lid)
  • A box cutter
  • A selection of cellophane
  • A selection of tissue paper
  • Glow sticks
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

Admittedly, this project can get pricey. Especially the glow sticks (more on those later). It also requires a box with a clear lid or window. I bought my boxes online from Nashville Wraps (they’re “clear lid display boxes” that measure 2″ x 8.75″ x 11.25″). They cost $32.50 for 20, and that doesn’t include the cost of shipping. But just look at the nice, big, clear lid on that box!

box with clear lidIf you’re looking for a cheaper option, you might consider a sheet cake or pie box at your local supermarket or bakery. So long as the box has a window on one side, you’re good.

On to the project! Use scissors to cut a city skyline out of tagboard or brown poster board (we tried black paper, but brown turned out to be a much mellower color). Use a box cutter to add windows, shutters, doors, and doorways. We added a couple of elongated rectangles and triangles as well.

cut cityUse markers to decorate the exterior of your city (Crayola metallic markers look especially fantastic). Tape pieces of cellophane and/or tissue paper behind some (or all) of the windows and doors. If you’d like, use dark brown paper to add silhouettes in the windows and doorways.

finished cityAnd now, we come to the priciest part of this project. Glow sticks. Our 11.25″ boxes illuminated best with six, 4″ sticks inside them. I bought my sticks at Party City (a pack of 25 costs $10). So I spent $40 on glow sticks. Dang. Daaaang. You could definitely make do with fewer sticks and a smaller box to reduce the cost.

By the way, not all glow sticks colors have the same intensity. White, for example, is very weak (and actually light purple, not white). Yellow is strong, orange and red are somewhat in the medium range. For our project, we used yellow, red, orange, and white.

Activate your glow sticks, arrange them in your box, and secure them in place with tape.

light table 2Put the lid back on the box, and use pieces of tissue paper, cellophane, and tape to create “dusk” on the box lid. When you’re done with the sky, tape the city onto the box lid. Below, you can see my finished box with its dusk-filled sky:

finished city boxAnd here’s what it looked like in a darkened room!

finished glowing cityFor the “dusk designing” portion of the program, I turned most of the gallery lights off. There was a big gasp as kids discovered that they had their own personal light tables to work on.

light table 1Eagerly, kids experimented with different cellophane and tissue arrangements, developing the perfect little dusk. I set up a small table in a closet so they could see the full effect of their illuminated cities when they were finished. Just look at these gorgeous glowing cities!

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Later, when the glow sticks have faded, you can remove the box lid and place your city on a bright windowsill. Instant suncatcher!