Out of This World

flying saucerMake 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!

You’ll need:

  • 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

finished saucerFirst, 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.

circled stripHot 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:

two plate saucerCut 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.”

attached tp tubesSet 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.

aliensPlace the alien on the top of your saucer, then tape a clear plastic cup over top of it.

undecorated saucer Next, bend the halves of a paper clip apart until it forms a right angle,

bent paper clipThen 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.

attached hookIt’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.

flames  Tape a flame inside each booster. Done!

attached flamesReady 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.

crafting wire

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.

pink saucer

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!

Up, Up, and Away

balloonYes, that is a chicken in a hot air balloon! Take a ride in the skies…and maybe you’ll pick up some interesting passengers!

We read Wings: A Tale of Two Chickens by James Marshall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003). Studious chicken Harriot must rescue her clueless friend Winnie when Winnie fails to recognize that the “kind” stranger who offers her a ride in his hot air balloon is actually a fox intent on a chicken dinner with dumplings.

The craft project involved creating a hot air balloon, making “you” the pilot, and then a flight to rescue a chicken of your very own!

You’ll need:

  • A box. I used a 4″ x 4″ x 4″ white box, but you can also use a tissue box
  • 2 paper lunch bags
  • 3 strips of white poster board (approximately 22″ x 2.5″)
  • 4 pieces of twisteez wire (or pipe cleaners)
  • 1 pipe cleaner
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • Markers and construction paper for decoration
  • Stapler, hole punch, and tape for construction
  • 1 long piece of brown raffia for the balloon basket (optional)
  • Red and yellow self-adhesive foam (optional)
  • 2 white feathers (optional)
  • If you want to “fly” the balloon, a long piece of yarn with paperclip hook

To get started, use the markers to decorate the strips of poster board. Staple one of the strips in a circle (about the diameter of a large oatmeal container). The remaining two strips become your balloon’s “framework” and get attached to the circle like so:

frame sequentialYou’ll notice the two striped framework strips are attached closer to the top the polka dot circle. This will give your balloon a better shape later.

Wait until the two strips are fully attached to the circle BEFORE you staple them where they intersect at the top of the balloon. Otherwise, you might get a lopsided framework.

Once the framework is secure, use your hand to squish it down. Do this twice. This will mold the framework into the desirable balloon shape.

squishNow for the balloon part! Slide the paper lunch bag onto your hand, and stick it up through the circle on one side. Staple the outer edge of the bag to the circle (leave the inner edge of the bag alone). Repeat with the second bag on the opposite side. Fluff them up if you’d like to achieve full balloon-ly-ness.

balloon sequentialFinally, use the hole punch to make 4 holes around the poster board circle. This is where your basket will attach.

Whew! That’s the hard part, done. On to the basket! Take your box and, if necessary, trim off the lid and side tabs (if it’s a tissue box, cut the opening out and perhaps shorten the box a little). Use the hole punch to make 4 holes around the box. If you’d like, you can wind the long piece of raffia around the box to resemble wicker (or use markers to decorate it).

When the basket is done, use twisteez wires (or pipe cleaners) to attach the basket the the balloon. Another pipe cleaner loops through the top of the balloons framework, creating a ring to hang the balloon from.

ring 2Now it’s time for you! Tape construction paper around the tube for your face, shirt and pants (I used patterned paper as well). I really love using multicultural construction paper for various skin tones. Draw the face with markers.

figuresWhen I did this project for my story time, I prepped all the chickens myself. But kids can certainly create their own. I used self-adhesive foam pieces for the chicken’s beak and comb, and white feathers for the wings, but you can also use markers to draw them on. Your passengers are done!

As an additional activity, I attached a paperclip hook to a super-long piece of yarn, went up a stairwell, and the kids took turns attaching the hook to their balloon rings and watching the balloon “fly” up to “rescue” a chicken. When the balloon reached me at the top of of the stairwell, I dropped a chicken in the basket and lowered the balloon back down to them.