Go With the Floe

go with the floeHeading to the North Pole? South Pole? Or perhaps you’re on an unintentional grand tour of the globe? Hop on this convenient ice floe with some slightly puzzled penguins and polar bear and prepare to see the world!

We read Poles Apart, written by Jeanne Willis, and illustrated by Jarvis (Nosy Crow, 2015). One fateful day, the Pilchard-Brown penguin family depart for a picnic at the South Pole. But a wrong turn takes them to the North Pole and Mr. White the polar bear, instead. Mr. White kindly offers to help the penguins get home. Unfortunately, Mr. White’s sense of direction isn’t much better then the Pilchard-Browns. He leads them through the United States, England, Italy, India, and Australia. Finally, they arrive at the South Pole, where Mr. White must say goodbye and travel back to the North Pole. He’s feeling lonely…and that’s when he discovers a little surprise in his hat.

You’ll need:

  • 1 small box (ours was 2” x 4” x 4”)
  • White poster board
  • 2 sets of wheels (more on this below)
  • 1 piece of string (ours was 26″)
  • 1 packing tape core
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • Black and white construction paper
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

ice floe

First, the ice floe! This is a white poster board “floe” hot glued (or taped) to the top of a small box. Just make sure you make the floe large enough to carry the polar bear and all 3 penguins. The pull string attaches to the front. Here’s the underside of the floe:

underside of ice floeWe used plastic wheels from Kelvin Educational (originally purchased for this Richard Scarry program). But wooden spools also work. Cut 2 bamboo skewers to approximately 6″ (they might need an inch or two longer if you use wooden spools). Next, cut 2 drinking straws a few inches shorter than the skewers (my straws were 4″). Thread the skewers into the drinking straws, and slide wheels on the ends of the skewers.

Now for the polar bear and the penguins! For the bear, we wrapped a 3.5″ tall packing tape core with white construction paper. The earmuffs are a sparkle stem and two pom-poms attached with hot glue.

polar bear with earmuffsTo make the penguins, wrap 2 toilet paper tubes with construction paper. Cut one of the tubes in half to create the 2 small penguins. Attach wings, faces, and tummies. We also added ribbon scarves and a world map to our penguins trio (and if you want to be true to the book’s illustrations, attach the map upside down).

penguin family with mapPlace the polar bear and penguins on top of the ice floe and travel the world! Some kids opted to tape their passengers to the ice floe to keep them from falling off…

ice floe and trainI snapped this adorable traveling quartet en route to our gallery, but did you also notice the vehicle in the background? One little boy decided to create a “snow train” using project materials. The penguins are riding inside the engine. Fantastic!

Dragon = Fireworks

dragon equals fireworks

It’s party time at the castle as two dragons provide some colorful fireworks… just pull the paper dragon to get the firework to “launch” from the top of the castle!

We read Over at the Castle, written by Boni Ashburn, and illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Abrams, 2010). A mother and baby dragon await nightfall outside a bustling castle. Page by page, the numerous castle activities count down until it’s time for the grand finale – a firework show, provided by the dragons!

You’ll need:

top of firework castle

Construction of this castle is very easy. First, use a box cutter to cut a drawbridge in one of the small boxes. Hot glue the drawbridge box to the top of a cake pad. Cut the top off a second box, and hot glue it on top of the drawbridge box. Decorate the castle and its base with metallic markers. We added silver mirror board battlements and some silver metallic dot stickers as well. Next, the dragon fireworks!

dragon firework constructionFold 2 sparkle stems into a V shape, then tape them to the bottom of a bunched 10″ x 10″ square of cellophane, Secure with tape. Knot one end of a 10″ piece of clear beading cord around the bunch, then secure with tape. Repeat these steps to create a second firework. Color and cut the mother and baby dragon from the template, then tape them to the free ends of the firework cords.

To create the firework show, gently tuck the fireworks into the top of the castle, but let the attached dragons dangle down the sides the castle. Grab a dragon and yank it upwards, sending it – and the attached firework – flying into the air!

dragon fireworks


Many thanks to the Hopewell branch of the Mercer County Library System (proud home of Fang the Spider) for allowing us to do pop up story time while our library is under renovation! We really appreciate it!

Go Snail Go

racing snailOn your mark…get set…GO! The race is on with these fantastic pull string snails and tabletop race track. But it’s not speed that counts in this event. Sweet victory goes to the slowest snail in the race!

go snail goWe read Snail Boy by Leslie McGuirk (Candlewick, 2003). Meet Snail. He’s as big as a pony! Being big and extremely rare, Snail spends most of his days hiding from snail hunters. At night, he is plagued with nightmares about being captured. But one day he has an inspiration! If he can find just the right owner, he’ll be safe from snail hunters forever. Venturing to the park, Snail spots a boy and introduces himself. While the boy is reluctant to have a giant snail as a pet (snails are way too slow for his tastes), Snail finally convinces him by performing some excellent tricks. Plus, he has a private clubhouse on his back! The two friends ride off slowly, slowly, sloooowly together.

The boy in the story is reluctant to adopt Snail because of his lack of speed. I thought it would be fun to have super slow snail races to show that slow is just as fun as fast!

You’ll need:

  • 1 large rectangle of tagboard for snail body (approximately 2″ x 11.5″)
  • Hole punch
  • A 68″ piece of yarn
  • 2 small rectangles of tagboard for eye stalks (approximately 0.5″ x 2.25″)
  • 2 squares of white poster board (approximately 5.5″ x 5.5″ each)
  • 1 small box (mine was 4″ x 4″ x 4″)
  • A Bling Bin
  • 1 wooden dowel
  • Construction paper (we offered orange, green, yellow, red, and purple)
  • A selection of color masking tape
  • A 28″ piece of ribbon
  • A 2″ gold embossed foil seal (or use metallic paper)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

We’ll start with your snail! Round both ends of a large rectangle of tagboard. Fold the rounded rectangle twice – once to create your snail’s head, and twice to create your snail’s neck. Your snail’s body should now look like this:

snail step 1 Punch a hole in the snail’s body, right at the base of the neck. Thread one end of a 68″ piece of yarn through the hole, and tape it tightly to the snail’s body.

snail steps 2 and 3Round the ends of 2 small rectangles of tagboard and tape (or glue, or hot glue) them to the back of your snails head. Use markers to draw a pair of eyes on the ends of the stalks.

snail eyesNow for the shell! Round three sides of a white poster board square. Use a marker to draw a spiral on the shell. Repeat with the other white poster board square.

shell stepsHot glue a box to the top of your snail’s body, and then hot glue both pieces of shell to the sides of the box. The flat part of the shell pieces should align with the bottom of the box. Don’t let it extend beyond the bottom of the box, or your snail will have trouble sliding later.

snail shell step 2 and 3Finally, use markers and the Bling Bin to decorate your snail’s shell! We also whipped up a flag for demonstrating your team spirit. It a 9″ triangle of construction paper taped to a wooden dowel with color masking tape. Decorate the flag with markers if you like.

flagNow for the race track! We created our track on a 6′ plastic-topped table (the same type of table we used to make these sled runs actually).

race track First, I used color masking tape to create 3 racing lanes, a starting line, and a finish line. I also used the tape to number the lanes (you can see the numbers in purple all the way to the left on the picture). I attached 8 wooden dowels to the sides of the table using packing tape, and then I strung the dowels with kite string. Katie and I used color masking tape to make flags along the kite string (just double a 2″ piece of tape over the string, then snip the tape with scissors to make it triangular). We finished by attaching construction paper flags to the dowels by the start and finish lines.

Ready to race? Have the kids place their snails behind the starting line in lane 1, 2, or 3. Then have them walk down the table to the finish line and stand in their snail’s lane. Leaving the snails at the starting line, deliver the long pull strings to the waiting hands of the snail jockeys. A quick tweet of a starting whistle, and they’re off! The slowest snail wins!

super snailThe hilarious thing about this activity is that it’s nearly impossible for kids to go slow in a race. Especially when people are waving flags and yelling in excitement. Most of the snails burned down the track in seconds. But some snails were Olympians of slowness. You can see one of the record breakers in the photo above, finally approaching the finish line.

The prize was a gold medal on a ribbon. We mounted a 2″ gold foil seal on a circle of poster board, then taped a 28″ piece of ribbon to the back. Everyone received a gold medal for finishing, regardless of how their snails placed in the race!

medal


Postscript: Wow! Leslie McGuirk sent us a signed copy of her book! Thanks so much Leslie. I absolutely love the snail…

snail boy inscription