Fly Me to the Moon

fly me to the moonThree, two, one…blast off! We head to the moon using this rocket ship dashboard, which includes a custom steering wheel, fuel gauge, gravity level, destination dial, and flashing light. This was a special story time for the Bernardsville Public Library, who won our Pop LIVE blog contest. Scroll to the bottom of post to see their truly adorable children’s section!

We read The Crimson Comet by Dean Morrissey and Stephen Krensky (HarperCollins, 2006). When the light in the moon goes out, it’s up to Nora and Jack to jump in their home-made rocket and lend a hand. It might look like a toy wagon cobbled together with household items, but the Crimson Comet gets the job done.

You’ll need:

  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (we used a 9.5″ x 13.75″ cake pad)
  • A few brass fasteners
  • A few foam beads
  • Poster board, card stock, tagboard, or construction paper
  • Dashboard decorations (more on this below!)
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

dashboard parts

The corrugated cardboard dashboard is designed to sit comfortably in your lap during space flight. Moving clockwise – the destination dial is a mini aluminum pie pan, and the fuel gauge hand is a snippet of bubble tea straw. Both attach to the dashboard with brass fasteners.The gravity level is a little piece of mesh tubing that slides up and down a silver paper drinking straw.

The flashing light is a silver LED votive with a plastic shot glass over it (who knew they would fit together so perfectly?). We wanted kids to be able to turn the light on and off, so the whole thing slides into a 1.25″ piece of toilet paper tube that can be taped or hot glued to the dashboard.

dashboard lightThe steering wheel is 2 silver circles hot glued together and then attached to the dashboard with a longer, 1.5″ brass fastener (or use a bit of balloon stick). We used 2 foam beads to lift the steering wheel off the board a bit. Here’s a shot from the side:

dashboard steering wheelWe also had markers, silver foil paper, mesh tubing, foil star stickers and geometric stickers on hand for decorating. The geometric stickers are “Funky Geometric Shapes Rolls of Stickers” from Oriental Trading Company (6 rolls of 900 stickers are $10).

1 dashboarddashboard 2dashboard 3Once the decorating was done, we fired up ye olde overheard projector and took a trip to the moon! I drew different scenes on overheard transparency film and interchanged them as we progressed from the landing strip, to the sky, to outer space, to the moon, and back to earth again. Along with way, we dodged birds, weather balloons, comets, and the International Space Station!

trip to the moon This story time was hosted by the public library in Bernardsville, New Jersey. Look at their charming children’s section, which was the gift of Estella and Jay Parsons:

benardsville public library children's sectionIt’s full of beautiful hand-painted trees, botanical touches, and forest animals. Look at the deer standing next to the little wicker chair in the corner!

benardsville public library cornerThis little singing bird is Katie’s favorite:

benardsville public library little birdThe preschool area (a gift of the Bonaventura Devine Foundation) continues the outdoor theme with picnic-style activity tables with cute gingham covers and buttery sunshine-colored walls.

benardsville public library pre-school roomHere’s my favorite touch, however. The “Please Disturb” sign on the reference desk!

benardsville public library please disturb sign


Many thanks to the Benardsville Public Library and their enthusiastic staff for hosting us,  and for treating us to a delicious local lunch! You guys are awesome!

Stroller Parking

stroller parking Today, I will address an issue that affects anyone who coordinates programs with children – be it in a library, children’s museum, or activity room. Like silent pack animals they wait, blocking doors, tracking mud, and leaving behind a smatterings of Cheerios. The issue of which I speak, of course, is strollers.

Strollers are an essential item in parenting life, especially when siblings are at different stages of crawling, walking, and dodging up mall escalators. Strollers are a one-stop shops for snacks, naps, diapering necessities, and sanitation rituals.

The problem, however, begins when strollers start wandering into areas that need to be kept clear. Our gallery is small, so we mounted a sign asking people to leave their strollers by the front door (strollers carrying sleeping occupants being the exception of course). The sign sort of worked. But when bad weather set in and muddy slush was being tracked to the back of the gallery where babies were crawling, we realized we needed to strengthen our front door message.

That’s when I hit on the idea of stroller parking.

First, I purchased a 3′ x 22′ non-skid rug runner (it’s rubber backed for those inevitable wet stroller wheels). With shipping, it cost $256. Then, Marissa and I made parking lines with yellow masking tape. It was that simple.

stroller parking rugWell, it worked like magic. Immediately, strollers started parking in tidy little lines at the front of our gallery. And it’s still going strong! Since stroller parking started over a year ago, we haven’t had any strollers wandering into the gallery. Here’s a shot on a busy Monday morning, all parked and proper.

monday morning stroller parkingEvery once in a while a masking tape line gets ripped and we have to replace it. Otherwise, this little parking lot takes care of itself! Mind you, we still have a sign up. I think you need both the rug and the sign to get this to work. Recently, we re-purposed an old gallery element as a new sign post:

lamp post signBest of all, the lamp’s sign holder is open on both sides. So as you’re exiting the gallery, you can read the final sentences from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:

lamp post back

Houston, We Have a Squeaker

houston we have a squeakerBoldly go where no mouse has gone before. We created a rad rodent rocket, then flew it across the library on a mission to the moon! If you are ever looking for an excuse to bust out a pair of walkie-talkies at story time, this project is for you.

We read Mousetronaut, written by real-life astronaut Mark Kelly, and illustrated by C.F. Payne (Simon & Schuster, 2012). Meteor is smaller than the rest of the mice training at NASA. Imagine his surprise when he is selected for the next mission! From floating in zero gravity to gazing at Earth in the distance, Meteor loves everything about his journey. But when the key to the control panel is stuck between the monitors, the mission is in peril. Luckily, undersized Meteor can squeeze in and save the day. When the crew returns to earth, Meteor is given a hero’s welcome and a new title…Mousetronaut! Aspiring astronauts should definitely check out Mark’s essay in the back of the book. I especially enjoyed the bit about space bathrooms (including space showers, air toilets, foamless soap, and dry shampoo!).

You’ll need:

  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • Grey construction paper
  • 1 mouse spacesuit template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • 3 piece of string for whiskers (mine were 1.75″ long)
  • 1 mini pom-pom
  • 1 box (I used a 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9” box, a large tissue box works too!)
  • A box cutter
  • 1 cone water cup
  • A 5oz cup
  • A 9oz plastic cocktail cup
  • 1 rocket wings template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • A selection of color masking tape
  • Red and yellow squares of cellophane (approximately 5″ x 5″)
  • A selection of metallic dot stickers
  • 1 Moon Mission game (more on this below!)
  • A selection of foil star stickers
  • Scissors, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

First, the mouse! Wrap a toilet paper tube with grey construction paper. Use extra bits of the paper to fashion some ears. The uniform from the template gets colored in, then wrapped around the tube as well. Draw the eyes and mouth with markers. If you’d like whiskers, tape 3 pieces of 1.75″ string to the tube. Then hot glue a pom-pom nose on top (you can also just draw the nose and whiskers with markers).

finished space mouseSet the mouse aside for a moment. It’s time for the rocket!

finished mouse rocketThe trickiest part of constructing this rocket? Finding the right plastic cups for the “seat” and “cockpit.” The seat cup needs to hold mouse snugly, while still allowing it plenty of head room. I found some 5oz plastic cups that were just perfect.

mouse in cupUse a box cutter to cut a square hole in the lid of your box (if you’re using a tissue box, flip the box over and cut the square in the bottom). You want the hole to be big enough to slide the cup into, but not so big that the cup is in danger of dropping through (mine was 2.5″ x 2.5″). Slide the cup into the hole, then secure it to the box with tape. Place your mouse in the cup.

hole for seat cupThe cockpit cup needs to be wide enough to cover the hole, yet tall enough for your mouse’s ears. This 9oz clear plastic cocktail cup did the job very nicely.

mouse in cockpitIn the image above, you’ll notice that the cockpit cup is attached to the box with a single piece of tape. This is so you can open and close the hatch of the rocket. If you’d prefer your mouse to be sealed in, add more tape. Next, print and cut the wings template, fold along the dotted lines to create a tab, and attach the tab to the side of the box with tape or hot glue.

tabbed wing for mouse rocketTo make the rocket’s boosters, twist squares of yellow and red cellophane together, then tape the twists inside a pair of plastic cups (I used white, 3oz plastic cups). Hot glue the cups to the back of the ship.

boosters of mouse rocketThe nose of the rocket is a cone water cup. We hot glued our cones to unused, 3.5″ paper lids (the kind you get when you buy hot soup). But you can just go with the cone if you’d like.

nose of mouse rocketDecorate the ship with metallic dot stickers, color masking tape, and whatever else strikes your fancy (we flashed things up with silver holographic tape). Also, did you notice the awesome bubble tea straw pipes down the side of the rocket?

finished mouse rocketBut wait, what about those red foil star stickers along the top of the rocket? Ahhhh! The star stickers were the prize for playing our Moon Mission game! Here’s how the game worked. Marissa made a big moon (22″ in diameter) out of poster board and a silver metallic marker (to make sure it stayed upright, I taped it to a plastic display stand – a book end might work too).

poster board moonMarissa also crafted this awesome Moon Base out of a tissue box, poster board, a sparkle stem, and a mini tin foil pie plate. Stashed inside the moon base were strips of foil star stickers, waiting to be claimed.

moon baseMarissa and I equipped ourselves with a couple of walkie-talkies. Marissa was Mission Control, stationed in the story time area…

marissa at ground controlAnd I was at Moon Base, waaaaay across the library’s cavernous lobby. Marissa and I couldn’t see each other and definitely couldn’t hear each other without using walkie-talkies. This was intentional. We wanted the kids to feel like they were traveling far away.

dr. dana at moon base

The astronauts (and mousetronauts) lined up at Mission Control.

ready for take offOne-by-one, they were treated to some “walkie-talkie space banter:”

Moon Base, do you read? This is Mission Control. Over.

Moon Base here, roger that Mission Control. Over.

Astronaut (kid’s name) is ready for take-off. Over.

Roger that. Good luck (kid’s name). See you on the moon! Over.

There would be a countdown and then the rocket would blast off out of the gallery, exit our library’s front door and enter the vast regions of outer space (i.e. the main library’s lobby)…

mouse in flightThe rocket would navigate the long journey across space…

the vastness of spaceAnd successfully touchdown at Moon Base! The pilot could then could select some star stickers to further decorate his/her rocket. I radioed back that the mission had been a success, and requested that the next astronaut prepare for launch.

touch down at moon baseOf course, while waiting for my next rocket to arrive, I couldn’t help treating Marissa to a few songs through the walkie-talkie: This is Ground Control to Major Tom…You’ve really made the graaade!

Because you know the folks at NASA sing in their headsets like that. And are Bowie fans.