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

Rockin’ Rhino

rockin-rhinoWant a pet rhino? Of course you do! But pet ownership is a tremendous responsibility. Get prepared with a customized accessory bag that contains a water dish, rhino snacks, and a cozy fleece blanket.

We read Rita’s Rhino by Tony Ross (Andersen Press, 2014). Rita wants a pet, but her mom insists on something small. Like a flea. Or a tadpole. Unimpressed, Rita heads to the zoo and invites a rhinoceros home. She’s thrilled, but there are some problems. Like coaxing the rhino into the elevator, cramming him into her family’s small apartment, paying for heaps of specialized rhino food, and dealing with the enormous piles of poop that must be hidden in the park every day. Rita’s rhino is a good sport about his new, cramped life. Until he’s mistaken for a bouncy castle during a visit to Rita’s school. That does it. The rhino heads back to the zoo. But Rita and the rhino miss each other. So they agree to meet up, every summer, for a little beach vacation.

You’ll need:

  • 1 large box (mine was 4.5” X 4.5” x 9” – a large tissue box works too)
  • Light blue poster board
  • A rhino body template, printed on 11 x 17 paper
  • White poster board
  • 1 small rectangle of tagboard or poster board (approximately 1.75″ x 3″)
  • 1 piece of yarn (approximately 29″ in length)
  • A pair of wiggle eyes
  • 1 paper bag
  • A rectangle of felt or fleece (approximately 11 x 15.5″)
  • 1 paper cup
  • A rectangle of blue cellophane (approximately 4″ x 5″)
  • 1 small drawstring bag (or a small paper bag)
  • A bit of paper crinkle
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

The rhino basically is a pull string toy, and we wanted it to glide effortlessly across the floor on its leash. So we attached wheels to the bottom of our boxes. We used the same plastic wheels assemblies from this crêpe cart project (and if you’re interested in purchasing the wheels, you’ll find info in this post). Tape shortened drinking straws to the bottom of the box, thread some bamboo skewer axles through the straws, then stick the plastic wheels on the ends of the skewers.

rhino-wheelsYou can also use cardboard wheels or skip the wheels entirely and simply slide the box across the floor. Now for the rest of the rhino! Fold a large, 7.5″ x 28″ piece of light blue poster board in half. Cut the rhino body from the template, then place the nose of the rhino template against the fold in the poster board. Cut the template out of the poster board, leaving the nose fold intact.

rhino-body-step-1Cut a rhino horn out of white poster board and hot glue it inside the fold. Hot glue 1″ of the entire front of the fold together as well. This gives your rhino the appropriate muzzle shape. Tape or glue the rhino body to the box, making sure the leave about 1″ of space between the rhino body and the bottom of the box.

rhino-body-step-2Cut a piece of light blue poster board to fit the back section of the box. Round the top of it and tape or hot glue it to the box. This is your rhino’s rump. Again, leave about 1″ of space between the rhino body and the bottom of the box. And don’t forget to add a tail!

rhino-body-step-3

Attach a pair of ears, a pair of wiggle eyes, and 4 legs. Our legs were 2″ x 3.5″. We bent them slightly so they wouldn’t drag on the ground or rub against the wheels. Use markers to add nostrils, a smile, and toenails. Decorate two strips of white poster board (ours were 1″ x 6″) and attach to either side of the neck to create a collar.

rhino-body-step-5

Did you notice the red yarn leash in the above photo? To make a leash, cut notches in a 1.75″ x 3″ piece of tagboard or poster board, then knot a 29″ piece of yarn around it.

rhino-pull-string-knotAttach the leash assembly to the front of the box (under the rhino’s the “chin”). Keep the assembly towards the bottom of the box. If it’s up too high, your rhino will keep tipping over.

rhino-body-step-4That’s it for the rhino, now for your accessories! Our paper accessory bags held a water dish, a bag of African grass, and a fleece blanket (we offered a choice of pink, blue, or purple).

rhino-care-kitThe water dish was a shortened paper cup  with blue cellophane taped to it. In the book, Rita’s rhino eats African grass, so we hot glued labels to the front of a small drawstring bag (left over from this Viking event). The kids colored in the labels and stuffed the bags with a green paper crinkle.

african-grass

You’ll notice the paper bag and the water dish have the rhino’s name emblazoned on them. You can write directly on the paper bag, but we used address labels for the water dish. I loved this part of the project. The names were so creative! A few of my favorites? Bluebell, Giga, Bubba, Trix, Tany, Twinkle, and Baki. You gotta love Twinkle the rhino.

Next Stop, Cannes

next-stop-cannesReady, and…action! This fantastic camera shoots in 3 different screen modes, so you can exercise your complete creative freedom and film a breakthrough masterpiece. Add a fabulous movie poster, a plot synopsis, and you’re totally Oscar bound!

We read Young Charlotte, Filmmaker by Frank Viva (Harry N. Abrams, 2015). Charlotte carries her camera everywhere she goes, preferring her black and white world to the world of color. One day, her parents take her to the Museum of Modern Art and Charlotte meets Scarlet, who works in the film department. They bond over their mutual love of film. Inspired, Charlotte shows Scarlet her latest creation and Scarlet insists that it be shown at a museum screening. The big day arrives and Charlotte, sitting in the theater, is worried what the audience will think. Her film ends and there is total, awful silence. Then…applause! They loved it!

You’ll need:

  • A small box (mine was 4″ x 4″ x 4″ – a small tissue box works too)
  • Black paper
  • A strip of black poster board (approximately 1.75″ x 8.5″)
  • A selection of colored masking tape
  • 4 foam beads
  • 1 round container to act as a camera lens (more on this later!)
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • 1 bendy drinking straw
  • 1 screen slides template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 3 rectangles of tagboard or black poster board (approximately 2.5″ x 3″)
  • Hole punch
  • 1 box cutter
  • 3 small rectangles of different color cellophane (approximately 1.75″ x 2″)
  • 1 movie poster template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

movie-cameraFirst, wrap a small box with black paper. Tab both ends of a strip of black poster board, then attach the tabs to the box with hot glue (or tape). Use colored masking tape to add some snazzy accents to the camera. Hot glue 3 foam beads to the top of the camera (these are your “operating” buttons) and 1 to the front (this is your “light”).  For the lens, I found these fantastic 2″ mini containers with clear lids at Oriental Trading Company:

mini-container-with-clear-lidWe hot glued a circle of silver mirror board to the bottom of the container to make it extra reflective. Then we popped the lid back on and wrapped the perimeter of the container with black masking tape. We attached it to front of the camera with hot glue. The containers cost $8.50 a dozen, which can get a little pricey. A cheaper option? A shortened toilet paper tube.

The other side of the camera has the viewfinder and the screen slides. The viewfinder is a toilet paper tube wrapped with black paper and hot glued to the side of the box. The screen slides slides cover one end of the viewfinder. Each slide has a different color cellophane taped to it. Simply rotate the slides up and down to adjust the color you’re seeing through the camera’s viewfinder.

movie-camera-with-screen-slidesTo make the screen slides, cut 3 screen slides from the template. You can either use them directly from the template, or trace them onto something sturdier, like tagboard or poster board (we used tagboard). Punch a hole in the top of the slide, then use a box cutter to cut away the rectangular window in the center. Tape a small piece of cellophane over the  window (we offered choices of orange, red, purple, blue or green).

lens-cellophaneNext, cut the top section off a bendy drinking straw (i.e. the section right above the ribbed segment). Make sure to leave the ribbed segment untouched.

cutting-the-strawsThread the 3 screen slides onto the opposite end of the straw, sliding them down towards the ribbed segment. Don’t slide thread them over the ribbed segment. The ribbed segment is what keeps the slides from falling off the straw later. You want this to remains as rigid and un-squished as possible.

lenses-on-the-strawPlace the straw on top of the toilet paper tube viewfinder and adjust the screen slides. The slides shouldn’t be packed together – they need plenty of room to rotate upwards and downwards. Once you’re satisfied with your spacing, cut the straw down and hot glue it to the viewfinder. Note! The straw should be slightly shorter than the viewfinder. Excited kids are going to be putting their eye right up to the viewfinder, and you don’t want them getting poked in the eye with a straw.

screen-slides-straw-on-cameraThe camera is done! Slide your hand through the strap, select a screen slide, place your eye against the viewfinder, and start filming! Here’s the view of the different screen slides through the viewfinder:

screen-slidesThat last screen slide might look like clear cellophane…but it’s not! It’s a plastic lens from a pair of prism glasses. You can get these paper glasses from Educational Innovations (a pack of 10 costs $9). When you look through them, they diffract light into its spectral components. In other words, you see lovely rainbows everywhere.

rainbow-lensesIn addition to making a camera, we also made movie posters with plot synopsis on the black. Print the movie poster template on white card stock. Draw your poster on the front, and write your synopsis on the back. Here’s my poster:

escape-from-monkey-island-movie-posterAnd here are a few kid posters I managed to snap…

a-funny-movie-posterghostbuster-movie-posterpurple-hair-movie-posterfairies-movie-posterthe-falling-book-movie-posterJust in case you can’t read that last poster, the movie is plot is “A book falls from the sky, hits a dinosaur, and a volcano erupts AND a sky monster comes from it, and the dinosaur swims in the water and the monster can’t swim because he has no gills. THE END.”

So, how did this project go over? Oh wow. Oh wowie wow wow. They LOVED it. The gallery was filled with kids filming everything. Siblings, parents, puppet shows, inanimate objects. I had a little band of paparazzi following me around as well.

filming-dr-danaOne filmmaker marched into our offices and captured Ian’s best angles. You’re a shoe-in for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, Ian!

ians-cameo