Make a flying saucer and watch it whiz down a zip line! This project is the perfect blend of simplicity, creativity, and action. We even have a saucer flight video for you!
We read Space Case, written by Edward Marshall, and illustrated by James Marshall (Puffin Books; reprint edition, 1992). When a bright yellow saucer-shaped thing arrives from outer space, it doesn’t find the natives (a cow, a chicken, and a jack-o-lantern) to be very forthcoming in conversation. But then it encounters three trick-or-treaters, who mistake him for a new kid in the neighborhood. The quartet have a wonderful time trick-or-treating until Buddy McGee realizes that the thing isn’t wearing a costume. He invites it home, and even takes it to school the next day. But when the thing learns there will be no trick-or-treating that night, it prepares to depart. It promises, however, to return for Christmas!
- 2 sturdy paper plates
- 1 strip of poster board (approximately 1.5″ x 22″)
- A selection of dot stickers
- 2 toilet paper tubes
- 3 rectangles of grey construction paper (approximately 2″ x 6″ each)
- 1 jumbo pom-pom (mine was 1.75″)
- 1 large wiggle eye
- 1 clear plastic drinking cup (I used a 2.75″ tall hard plastic cocktail glass)
- 1 jumbo paper clip (mine was 1.75″ long)
- Flying saucer decorating materials (more on this below)
- 6 squares of yellow and/or red cellophane (approximately 5″ x 5″)
- A length of 24-gauge wire
- Scissors, stapler and tape for construction
- Markers for decorating
- Hot glue
First, decorate a strip of poster board with dot stickers “lights” (we used silver metallic poster board and yellow dot stickers, but any color combination will do). Circle the poster board strip around the bottom of a paper plate and staple (or tape) the circle closed. In the demonstration photo below, I used purple poster board so it would stand out against the white plate. For the actual project, the poster board was silver with white backing.
Hot glue the poster board circle to the paper plate. Next, squirt a ring of hot glue around the top rim of the poster board circle, then press the second paper plate on top. Your saucer will now look like this:
Cut 2 toilet paper tubes in half. Wrap 3 of the tube pieces with grey construction paper, then hot glue them to the bottom of the saucer in a triangular fashion. These are your saucer’s “rocket boosters.”
Set the saucer aside for the moment. Hot glue a single wiggle eye onto a jumbo pom-pom. This is your “alien.” We prepped a bunch in advance of story tine.
Place the alien on the top of your saucer, then tape a clear plastic cup over top of it.
Next, bend the halves of a paper clip apart until it forms a right angle,
Then tape the bottom part of the paper clip securely to the top of the cup. This is the “hook” that connects the saucer to the zip line.
It’s time to decorate your saucer! We offered tin foil, embossed foil paper, sparkle stems, dot stickers, and some foil confetti stars I picked up in the party section of Michaels craft store. Try to keep the art materials nice and light so they don’t weight the saucer down too much. Also, don’t let kids attach anything to the paper clip hook. Otherwise, the saucer’s flight down the wire might be hampered.
When you’re finished decorating, stack 2 squares of cellophane on top of one another (we used red and yellow). Pinch the middle of the cellophane squares together, twist them tightly, and secure with tape. Repeat the above steps twice more. You now have 3 “flames” for your saucer’s rocket boosters.
Tape a flame inside each booster. Done!
Ready to flying your saucer? You’ll just need some wire! I dug this spool of 24-gauge craft wire out of the supply closet. The smoother the wire, the better.
Katie and I stretched 25 feet of wire between the launch site and the landing pad. I handled the launches, Katie handled the landings. To help my grip on the wire, I wrapped my end of the wire around a wooden dowel. I slipped the saucer’s paper clip hook onto the wire, lifted my end of the wire to give the saucer a sliding start, and watched it fly!
Important: Katie and I tested the wire the day before the program. When we were finished, we lightly coiled it and set it on a table. Unfortunately, that was enough to cause the wire to kink. The next day, the first saucer on the wire got snagged on the kinks. We had to quickly unspool a fresh length of wire. After that, it was smooth sailing.
If you’re going to do this project with a crowd of kids, I suggest doing some prep ahead of time. Definitely prep the upper and lower halves of the saucers (i.e. hot glue the poster board circle to one paper plate, and the 3 tube boosters to the other plate). While the kids were decorating the top half with markers, we used a number system (similar to the ones used in delis and bakeries – we also used it on this project) to call them to the hot glue stations to get the bottom half of their saucer’s attached. Then they wrapped the boosters with grey construction paper, attached the cup, and proceeded to decorating.
Also, in our version of this activity, the kids brought their alien-free saucers to the launching site. I loaded an alien in it, taped the cup down, and then sent the saucer zooming down the zip line. If you decide to do this, make sure the kids attach the cup with just 1 piece of tape. This will allow you to easily lift the cup and place the alien on the saucer. But don’t forget to tape the lid down tightly after that!
Katie also prepped the cellophane flames in advance so there would be plenty of time to fly the saucers. Kids could take as many flights as they wanted.
It was…wait for it…a total blast!