Splashy Spelling

Get kids C-L-E-A-N with this simple alphabet activity for your bathtub. Rubber ducky not included, but you shoud T-O-T-A-L-L-Y get one!

You’ll need:

  • Cellophane
  • Scissors
  • Bathtub or tub of water

The concept of this project is simple. Cut a bunch of alpahbet letters out of cellophane, then float them in the tub during your next bathtime. Gently moving the different letters around, you can spell CAT, RAT, BAT, MAT or whatever combination you would like to try!

And if you try SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS, definitly send me a pic.

Cellophane is notoriously crinkly, so two hints: 1) Draw the letter template on a sheet of paper, lay the cellophane piece on top, then cut both; 2) If your desk scissors are tearing the cellophabe, use fabric scissors (seen below).

As you can see from the image that started this post, the cellophane floats easily on the water, sinking a bit as the bath progresses and the waters shift. However! I learned that not all cellophanes act like this!

I ordered some rainbow cello sheets from Amazon, wanting to use a fun assortment of colors for the letters. Well, I put them in tub and they just curled and melted like some sort of Wicked Witch of the West. And when I grabbed them, they stained the water AND my fingers pink! Noooooooooooo!

Luckily, I had another roll of blue cellophane in the house, purchased from Michael’s Craft store. Nervous, I laid the cellophane letters on the water…it worked! Floating, no curling, no staining! So if you want a pretty sure bet for this project, head to Michael’s to pick up some cellophane rolls. And test a sample of your cello before putting them in the tub with your child. This activity can also be done in a convinient dishtub or kiddie pool.

Happy splashing and spelling!

Bugging Out

bugging out_4I don’t know about ya’ll, but the Brood X cicada noises sound like someone is trying to remateralize on my street via a Star Trek transporter. Every day. Alllll day. Very LOUDLY. Katie, feeling similarly inspired (or perhaps crazed), put together today’s blog post featuring cicada connections and some of our awesome bug story times and projects!. Take it away, Katie!


Calling all entomologists! The Brood X cicadas (magicicada septendecim), the largest of the periodical cicadas that are endemic to the eastern United States, have awakened from their 17-year slumber. The swarm will spend the next month in the foliage, singing and mating before they bury themselves back in the ground, not to be seen again until 2038. It truly is a spectacle that is enjoyed by many (but feared by some!). Cicadas may be scary looking, but they are absolutely harmless to humans.

There is a fun musical connection to Princeton University and the 1970 Brood X cicadas, which were the inspiration for the tune “Day of the Locusts” by Bob Dylan. Dylan wrote the song to describe his experience receiving an honorary degree from Princeton. He was on campus for commencement and the cicadas were so loud, he could not hear his name being announced during the ceremony. April Armstrong, Deputy AUL for Special Collections, wrote more about Dylan and his degree on the excellent Mudd Manuscript Library blog.

Bob_Dylan_1970_AC112_Box_AD31_Folder_23

Bob Dylan (center) at Princeton University, June 9, 1970. Historical Photograph Collection (AC112), Box AD31, Folder 23.

Scientist and naturalist Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) is often regarded as one of the first people to document the 17-year cycle of the Brood X cicadas. He wrote and published a scientific almanac, where he specifically said about the cicadas: “Their periodical return is 17 years, but they, like the Comets, make but a short stay with us…” Learn more about Banneker, along with four other famous scientists, by visiting our virtual escape room, The Discovery Museum.

Scientist Museum cropped

And! for more buggy connections, try these fun projects…starting with the sweetest story about teamwork you’ll ever read with Horsefly and Honeybee

you complete me

An easy-to-make butterfly feeder from our Secret Garden event (and speaking of butterflies, you might also like this STEAM butterfly project/ magic trick).

champagne-glass-butterfly-feeder_cropped

A simple to assemble centipede puppet AND shoe store activity? Oh yeah!

you can never have too many shoesBudding young entomologists create a bug and tell our story time film crew about it here

news crew

Create a simple beetle and carrier with every day household items

bug jarAnnnnd a magnetic fake cockroach maze. Yes, you read that right…

cockroach pizza box

Finally, award-winning author Shaun Tan wrote and illustrated a beautiful and touching picture book titled Cicada. We talked to Shaun about Cicada (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2019) and his other amazing work during our interview for The BiblioFiles.

350 for 50

350 fo 50_2017Announcing the winners of our annual 350 for 50 writing contest!  This year, young writers were challenged to compose a short, 350-word story that included the sentence, “The numbers changed quickly.” Winners from our four age categories enjoyed a $50 shopping spree on Amazon. Congratulations to all!

Illustrations by Aliisa Lee


THE LOTTERY
by Sasha Greenfield, age 10, California

Amy chewed her bubblegum slowly. It was a hot South Carolina day and her visor stuck to her forehead. Her summer job at Joe’s Convenience Store was excruciatingly boring. The few times the door chimed the costumer who had opened it only wanted a soda or a lottery ticket.

Suddenly, Amy was pulled out of her dreamy state. The door chimed and a tall man walked through it. “Hello.” Said the Man. “May I purchase a lottery ticket?” He asked. “Sure.” Said Amy, further sedated with the dullness of the purchase . She scanned the ticket. “$2.99”. He handed her the money. The man walked out of the store; the door flapping closed behind him.

A few moments later the door chimed again. Then again. Soon the store was full of people, all wanting lottery tickets. Amy scanned and scanned. She looked at the screen of the cash register. The numbers changed quickly. A wide grin spread across her face. At this rate the amount she was going to be paid at the end of the week was enough to keep her out of work for the whole summer. She had really won the lottery.


KID IN A CANDY LAND
by Maddie Morris, age 11, Mississippi

Would you like to spend your summer vacation in a land comprised of candy? Where I come from, as soon as vacation starts, everything turns into sweets! Sugar flowers bloom, boulders become rock candy, and chocolate waterfalls flow. It’s a kid’s whimsical dream! I looked down hastily at my watch; time seemed to drag as the minutes counted down until summer. When the school bell finally rang, I practically flew like a bird down the front steps. This year, I want to do something extraordinary with my best friend, Maria.

I biked over to her house as quickly as I could manage. We had been pondering what adventure we should have this summer. I had an idea so earth shattering that I had to tell her immediately: we should build our own gingerbread treehouse. Maria and I decided on what additions we would make, and then we got right to work. What took the longest was baking the gingerbread. It took us a while to find an oven that big! Once that was completed, we built a Life Saver tire swing and an Airhead slide. When we finally finished, we gazed through the isomalt spyglass that permitted us to look down on the sugarscape of sweets below.

This was the best summer of my life! We had so many adventures, and I really felt free. At the end of summer, Maria and I devoured our candy treehouse. It took us some time, but we invited our friends and families to come help us with this impossible task. On the morning of the first day of school, Maria and I met at the spot where our treehouse once was before we ravenously finished it off. As we counted down the minutes til the end of summer, we remembered the fun times that we had. My favorites were climbing a tree made of peppermint bark and jumping a candy-floss rope. Suddenly, I glanced down. The numbers changed quickly! Five… four… three… two… one… and summer was over. We can’t wait until next summer, minus the stomachache.


REMEMBER THE PAST
by Rafael Ramos, age 14, New Jersey

Sitting at my desk, I typed vigorously. This ‘job’ I had was the worst, but I had to do it. I needed to. Typing a bunch of old stories on a computer was unsurprisingly boring when doing it for hours straight. News outlets stated that the world’s remaining governments ‘hired’ a ton of unemployed people because the rising sea levels stole homes, including mine, but in reality, it was enslavement. The previous generations neglected to look for solutions to their own problems and we paid the price. I’m not saying this generation of people is any better because my ‘employer’ decided we should leave for space. This is why I was typing.

From movie scripts to baking recipes, thousands of people with my job were creating an archive that would serve two purposes – they told us. One archive to send to the stars and another left on Earth for the unfortunate who are left behind. Oh yeah, only the elite would leave the place. World leaders, influential corporations, and some celebrities got to say “sayonara.” The rest of us were left here to suffer mother nature’s retribution. Talk about fairness.

Buzz. Buzz. Buzz. My sector’s lunch break started. My coworkers and I in our white jumpsuits all stood up almost simultaneously and headed to the cafeteria. We walked down a wide hallway with a counter above. It tracked every person who passed through it so we were accounted for like products, going up one per person. The numbers changed quickly. Armed guards and cameras watched our movements so nobody ever picked a fight. I sat isolated from others, the way I liked it, and ate. After lunch was over and I had to head back to my sector, I felt a hand on my shoulder while getting up. Before I could turn to see, a voice said, “I remember who you were in the past. I got a plan to leave this prison and I’ll need you.” I then whipped around only to see another white jumpsuit disappear into the crowd.


WHAT HAD ONCE BEEN PERFECT
by Karen Yang, age 16, New Jersey

What did you expect? It was never going to be perfect. You took a look at the machine and sighed. You had spent eons coding, working on this hunk of slow-moving computer, tweaking the controls until you could indicate a year and the computer would broadcast a memory about your family, your friends. Likewise, thanks to your efforts, the computer should’ve been able to show the lives of the people you had left behind.

But now, it was all for nothing. The machine would need years to recover from the pile of scorching red nuclear ramen noodles you had accidentally spilled. Though it was useless, you had wiped the oily noodles away, revealing a red film of fat where the computer glowed with the present year, 2081.

You started groaning but stopped when the computer began buzzing again, awakening from its hours long hibernation.The numbers changed quickly. 1994, 2004, 1990. Memories flashed on the screen; dances at Long Beach Island, Mom and Dad cutting a slice of peach pie as a baby (you!) watched on. You glowed as the computer continued to hum. Perhaps, in a miracle of all miracles, it had worked! You inched closer to the screen, eager to remember Maisy’s squishy pug face, to taste the texture of pistachio ice cream, to hear the song your friends sang in the underground library, to honor what was now gone.

You grimaced at the next number: 2021. The year you had left this all behind, this life that had once been perfect. The computer, as if understanding that your life had ended this year, decided to crash as well. It shut off, accompanied by your loud wail.

It was all futile then. There would be no speculating, no looking to see whether Mom and Dad were still well, still eating fruit pies in their salmon colored beach house. There would be no spying on Maisy, watching for her antics in the dog park. There would be no more memories, no more cathartic songs and orange juice the next morning. There would be no more guessing, no more you.