Total Hogwash

total hogwashMessy muddy piggy problems? No worries. Just send the gang through the Hogwash! Our patented conveyor belt technology will carry your pigs through a soaking, soaping, scrubbing, rinsing, and drying. We clean everything but the oink!

We read Hogwash, written by Karma Wilson, and illustrated by Jim McMullan (Little, Brown, 2011). It’s spring cleaning on the farm! The industrious Farmer scrubs his way through the horses, ducks, cows, goats, cats, and dogs. But he hits a snag when he gets to the hogs. They don’t want a wash! He tries everything (sneaking, yelling, bribing, pretending to be a pizza delivery man) but nothing works. Finally, he loads his crop duster with water and shampoo and takes off. But plane crashes into the pig pen! Is the Farmer mad? Nope! He discovers that mud can actually be quite fun!

Because this project involves a conveyor belt, the measurements of the different pieces of really depend on the dimensions of your box. I’ll give a general supply list below, and provide the specific sizes we used in the photo instructions. Please adjust up or down for your box!

You’ll need:

  • 3 toilet paper tubes
  • Pink construction paper
  • Poster board
  • 3 small paper sample cups
  • Tissue paper
  • 1 large box (ours was 4.5” X 4.5” x 9” – a large tissue box works too!)
  • 1 paper towel tube
  • 4 bendy drinking straws
  • Blue cellophane
  • 4-6 strands of pink paper crinkle
  • 1 small piece of paper towel
  • 1 hogwash sign template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • 4 jumbo craft sticks
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

We’ll begin with the pigs and the conveyor belt, then proceed to the Hogwash! First, wrap a toilet paper tube with pink construction paper. Use extra snippets of paper to make pig ears, then draw the eyes and mouth with markers. You can also use markers to draw the nose (we used a cute little dot sticker). Repeat the above steps until you have 3 pigs.

hogwash pig participantThe conveyor belt is a long, narrow strip of poster board with 3 “seats” attached to it. First, hot glue 3 paper sample cups to the centers of 3 squares of poster board or tagboard (our squares were 2.5″ x 2.5″). Wrap each paper sample cup with a strip of tissue paper (our strips were 1.5″ x 16″). The tissue will keep the pig from popping off of the seat. Below are the 3 stages of seat construction – the sample cup, the tissue-wrapped cup, and the pig sitting on the seat.

conveyor belt seatsTape or hot glue each seat to a 1.25″ x 28″ strip of poster board. Note the placement of the seats on the strip. The first seat is placed 12.5″ from the front. Why? You need to be able to load the pigs on the seats, then pull them through the Hogwash smoothly without having to repeatedly reach inside the machine. The long strip allows you to do this (trust me, we tested it!). Here’s what the finished conveyor belt looks like:

full converyor beltSet the pigs and the conveyor belt aside for a moment, it’s time to make the Hogwash! Cut the top and short sides off a large box. Leave .75″ of space at the bottom of the box for the Hogwash’s ramp.

hogwash step 1Cut a paper towel tube in half, trim the halves to fit inside the box, then push the halves together and tape them in place. There should be no gap between them.

hogwash step 2Slide a strip of poster board or tagboard under the box (our box was 9″ long, so our strip was 2.5″ x 14″).

hogwash step 3Lay a matching strip over top of the tubes and tape the ends of the two strips together.  This creates the “ramp” for your Hogwash.

hogwash step 4Here’s a different angle, You can see the ramp a little more clearly:

hogwash alt angle rampNext, arch 3 short strips of poster board or tagboard over the box (our strips were .75″ x 11.5″). Tape them in place. Important! Make sure the arches are high enough for your pigs to easily pass under. Our arches, for example, were 3.25″ above the top of the box.

hogwash step 5Next are the 5 cleaning components of the Hogwash: Spray, Soap, Scrub, Rinse, and Dry. In the below image you can see them in order from right to left.

hogwash wash components

  1. Spray Cut .75″ off the shorter ends of 2 blue bendy straws, wrap ends with fringed pieces of blue cellophane, then tape the straws to the inside of the Hogwash.
  2. Soap Tape a few pieces of pink paper crinkle to the underside of the 1st arch.
  3. Scrub Fringe a small piece of paper towel (ours was 2.5″ x 3.75″), then tape it to the underside of the 2nd arch.
  4. Rinse Fringe 2 more pieces of blue cellophane (ours were 1″ x 4″) and tape them to the underside of the 3rd arch.
  5. Dry Cut .75″ off the shorter ends of 2 red bendy straws, then tape the straws to the inside of the Hogwash.

You might have to do a little trimming and adjusting of these components when you start sending your pigs through. For example, our paper towel scrubbers were a little too long at first. They kept snagging the pigs and pulling them off their seats. We also added a “glass” roof to our Hogwash. It’s an 8.5″ x 11″ overhead projector transparency sheet. Cute, but totally optional!

hogwash glass roofFinish by cutting, coloring, and attaching the different signs from the template. The biggest sign goes on the front of the Hogwash. The smaller signs get attached to jumbo craft sticks and taped to the back (our craft sticks were 8″ long).

total hogwashThread the conveyor belt through the wash, get your pigs seated, then pull the long end of the belt to send them through the Hogwash. Behold! Squeaky clean piggies!

Don’t Try This At Home Kids

don't try this at homeA monkey on a unicycle rolls down a ramp towards a snake. The bar holding the snake drops, which causes a bag of peanuts to fall into a container that sends a cart down a ramp into a tennis racket rigged to a mechanism that touches a match to a cannon fuse and fires an acrobat through a ring of fire!

Rube Goldberg’s inventive cartoons have fascinated me since I was a kid. A few years ago, our library even hosted a Rube Goldberg program, complete with a behemoth of a page turner and other activities. So imagine my delight when I spotted Wonderology’s Rube Goldberg kits on the shelves at Target.

wonderology rube goldberg kitsIntended for ages 8 and up, Wonderology offers 6 different kits that cost between $10 – $20. Each kit contains a plethora of parts and a fully illustrated set of instructions. I purchased the Acrobat Challenge, the Garden Challenge, and the Speeding Car Challenge, then invited 3 kid testers (ages 6, 8, and 10) to try them out.

kid testers at workThe kids were very excited as they unpacked the kits. The parts are fun, bright, and nice quality plastic. Here, for example, are the various pieces of the Acrobat Challenge:

acrobat challenge kit partsHere are the kit’s illustrated instructions. They’re presented in classic Rube Goldberg format (they even use his special font!):

acrobat challenge instructionsBut as soon as construction started on the kits, well…that’s when things started to go wrong. Take the Acrobat Challenge, for example. In one part of the instructions, it clearly shows the yellow “monkey release” flag facing right. In two other sections of the instructions, it’s facing to the left! Also, either way I turned the flag, I never could get the monkey to work quite right.

problem with instructionsThere was a lot more of this I’m afraid – mechanisms not working like the instructions suggested, confusion with where to place the various pieces, the whole schbang toppling over when you tried to adjust it. Soon, there were shouts of frustration, explosive sounds of exasperation, creative G-rated cursing, and a box kicked across the floor (and it wasn’t just the kids doing all that).

Between me and the 6 year-old, we never did get the Acrobat Challenge to work. So our kid tester used it like a play set instead, creating and narrating an involved story about a monkey snake circus. Cool.

Meanwhile, things were looking a bit more promising at the Speeding Car Challenge. It was, against all odds, assembled with somewhat minimal adult assistance.

speeding car challengeBut…see that chicken? It’s supposed to get a feather “plucked” from its tail, which causes it to lay an egg, which triggers the tennis racket, etc. But the egg just wouldn’t stay under the chicken. It just kept dropping and triggering the rest of the mechanism. So you had to skip the chicken all together, which is rather disappointing.

Also, the 8 year-old kid tester wants you to know that the balloon on the car is a little tricky. Once you blow it up, you have to: 1) Block the tailpipe with your finger; 2) Rapidly remove your finger; then 3) Plug in a plastic cork in juuuuuust right. The seal on the balloon starts to leak pretty quickly too. But it was, he admits, a cool-looking car.

balloon car testSo that just leaves the Garden Challenge. This kit was particularly intriguing to me because it involves real water! Our 10 year-old tester managed to assemble it just fine.

the garden challengeBut we soon discovered a fatal manufacturing flaw. See the orange gutter at the top of the mechanism? It’s supposed to tilt downward and let the 8 ball roll down and hit the watering can. But there was a little plastic piece that wouldn’t allow the gutter to tip down far enough! Katie had to saw the piece off with a box cutter in order to get it to finally work.

bad partThen it was test, adjust, retest, adjust, curse quietly under one’s breath, test, adjust, and retest. It took dozens and dozens of attempts, close to an hour of concentration, and Katie’s sheer determination to get it to work. And yes, I did say work. Katie and the kid tester got it to work! Drumroll please…


OK. So maybe the ball bounced off that final ramp, but I’ll take it and call it DONE.

I really admire Wonderology’s concept. The kits are a clever idea, they look fantastic, and the quality of the plastic is good. However, they’re simply not for kids. Especially 8 – 10 year-olds (unless said 8 – 10 year-olds have the patience of saints and the hands of neurosurgeons). Heck, some of us adults had trouble getting them to work! Our testing group found them difficult and rather vexing. While we ultimately had success with one kit, we encountered enough flaws along the way that the ultimate take-away was more exhaustion than exhilaration. Alas, not recommended.

Science Friday

the eggbotWhile I certainly do my fair share of fiction-focused programs, I consider non-fiction programs to be (dare I say it?) just as much fun. And for today’s adventure in non-fiction, we’re talking science!

We’ve offered some interesting science programs in the past. Take, for example, the Chemistry of Magic, in which we demonstrated the real science behind seemingly magical reactions. Or this Rube Goldberg engineering program. Or even this humble preschool story time that featured the life stages of a butterfly. This week, to get a healthy dose of vitamin “S,” I dropped in on my friends at scienceSeeds.

scienceSeeds team

Team scienceSeeds: John, Michal, and Lindsay

ScienceSeeds is a local science enrichment center for grades K-8 . It was founded in 2008 by Michal Melamede. While raising her children, she noticed a lack of hands-on, age-appropriate, science and engineering opportunities. So Michal decided to establish a business that would encourage curiosity, exploration, discovery, and scientific thinking.

Visiting scienceSeeds is always fun. Especially when they let me play with their toys! Here are a few of their current favorites. Perhaps one or two will inspire a little science at your next program?

JOHN’S FABULOUS CANDELABRA

lamp 2I have to start with this one because I’m such a hot glue devotee. This is an LED lamp with hot glue stick shades! It was designed by John to demonstrate circuits, fiber optics and light behavior. He used a hot glue gun to hollow out the bottom of 5 hot glue sticks, and then rigged up a series of little LED bulbs on a simple circuit. Everything was attached to a foam core base, and then the base was wrapped with decorative duct tape. I love it.

HYDRAULIC BUTTERFLY

butterflyThis is another project designed by scienceSeeds staff to teach hydraulics. Using two water-filled syringes and tubing, the butterfly lifts its wings up and down. The syringes are from a medical supply company, the tubing is from a science catalog, the base is wood, the wings are made from foam board, and the butterfly’s body is a clothespin. A little duct tape here and there and you’re ready to go. They also have versions with an owl, a bat, and a dump truck!

FOAM BOARD AUTOMATAUN

star boxOne final project from scienceSeeds’ workshop! This one demonstrates how simple machines and mechanisms work. Turn the crank and the movement of the wooden gears and rods causes the star to spin. The base is made from foam board, the sticks are bamboo skewers, and the gears are little wooden circles purchased from Michael’s craft store. A little hot glue and duct tape seals the deal.  And just look at this sweet double gear version!

bee boxMark my words…I’m GOING to find a way to work a foam board automataun into a story time project. It shall be done. Oh yes, it shall.

THE EGGBOT

the eggbotThis is a recent acquisition at the workshop. It’s the EggBot, an art robot that can draw on round surfaces like eggs, light bulbs, ping pong balls, ornaments, etc. It hooks up to your computer and, with some lovely freeware, will take a design or image and put it right on your object! scienceSeeds is using it to teach CNC and automated design. Here are a couple test subjects…

lightbulbsAlas, an EggBot kit like the one above retails for $219, so it’s well out of my budget. The company that sells it is called Evil Mad Science LLC. Hah hah hah! Minions not included.

CONFETTI VACUUM CLEANER

vacuumThis is a modification of a cardboard kit the staff tested. They found that a 1 liter bottle and plastic propeller worked much better than a cardboard tube and propeller. The foam board base holds a simple circuit that connects to a motor. As the motor spins the propeller, it creates a wind tunnel in the bottle that sucks up pieces of confetti. It’s the perfect way to teach engineering and air flow. It’s wildly popular with the kids too.

THE 3-DOODLER

3-doodlerIt might be a little hard to see this in the photo, but this device lets you do 3-dimentional drawings! That thin green line you see isn’t drooping down from the tip of the doodler. It’s rising up from the piece of paper and standing on its own! You insert little plastic sticks of various colors into one end of the “pen.” The plastic emerges in liquid form out the other end, but quickly hardens. With some practice, you can “draw” amazing 3D creations like these:

popcafe everestrobotscienceSeeds likes to use the 3-Doodler for their 3D modeling workshops, sometimes in conjunction with their 3D printer. A 3-Doodler pen retails for about $100, and additional plastic sticks are approximately $10 for 25. I noticed that the pen makes a loud whirring noise while being operated (a little louder than an electric toothbrush). The staff also mentioned that after extended periods of use, you can smell burning plastic. The smell bothers some kids. But those things aside, it’s a cool little drawing tool.

I’ll leave you with a photo of scienceSeeds’ classroom space. Look at the cheerful red cabinets! The under-the-counter adjustable storage! The cool green chairs! Now imagine it packed full of kids creating, discovering, building, and innovating. Fantastic.

room shot