Bugging Out

bugging out_4I don’t know about ya’ll, but the Brood X cicada noises sound like someone is trying to remateralize on my street via a Star Trek transporter. Every day. Alllll day. Very LOUDLY. Katie, feeling similarly inspired (or perhaps crazed), put together today’s blog post featuring cicada connections and some of our awesome bug story times and projects!. Take it away, Katie!


Calling all entomologists! The Brood X cicadas (magicicada septendecim), the largest of the periodical cicadas that are endemic to the eastern United States, have awakened from their 17-year slumber. The swarm will spend the next month in the foliage, singing and mating before they bury themselves back in the ground, not to be seen again until 2038. It truly is a spectacle that is enjoyed by many (but feared by some!). Cicadas may be scary looking, but they are absolutely harmless to humans.

There is a fun musical connection to Princeton University and the 1970 Brood X cicadas, which were the inspiration for the tune “Day of the Locusts” by Bob Dylan. Dylan wrote the song to describe his experience receiving an honorary degree from Princeton. He was on campus for commencement and the cicadas were so loud, he could not hear his name being announced during the ceremony. April Armstrong, Deputy AUL for Special Collections, wrote more about Dylan and his degree on the excellent Mudd Manuscript Library blog.

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Bob Dylan (center) at Princeton University, June 9, 1970. Historical Photograph Collection (AC112), Box AD31, Folder 23.

Scientist and naturalist Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) is often regarded as one of the first people to document the 17-year cycle of the Brood X cicadas. He wrote and published a scientific almanac, where he specifically said about the cicadas: “Their periodical return is 17 years, but they, like the Comets, make but a short stay with us…” Learn more about Banneker, along with four other famous scientists, by visiting our virtual escape room, The Discovery Museum.

Scientist Museum cropped

And! for more buggy connections, try these fun projects…starting with the sweetest story about teamwork you’ll ever read with Horsefly and Honeybee

you complete me

An easy-to-make butterfly feeder from our Secret Garden event (and speaking of butterflies, you might also like this STEAM butterfly project/ magic trick).

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A simple to assemble centipede puppet AND shoe store activity? Oh yeah!

you can never have too many shoesBudding young entomologists create a bug and tell our story time film crew about it here

news crew

Create a simple beetle and carrier with every day household items

bug jarAnnnnd a magnetic fake cockroach maze. Yes, you read that right…

cockroach pizza box

Finally, award-winning author Shaun Tan wrote and illustrated a beautiful and touching picture book titled Cicada. We talked to Shaun about Cicada (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2019) and his other amazing work during our interview for The BiblioFiles.

Pocket Books

Looking for an inexpensive project that will keep youngsters busy for a bit? If you said YES empathically and in ALL CAPS, this post is for you! Today, we bring you pocket books, cool little books that can be created with stuff you find around home (or can easily acquire on your next shopping trip).

Pocket books have been around for ages, and today’s template will allow you to make a blank book that kids can turn into their own illustrated stories. The pockets not only add a cool 3D element, they also allow the artist to play with the various story pieces, then stash them neatly away!

You’ll need:

  • White poster board
  • Regular printer paper
  • Binder clips
  • Scissors and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating

Below is what a finished, undecorated book looks like. The covers are poster board, the pages are regular printer paper, and everything is held together with binder clips. The important thing to notice in the photo below is the folded crease on the book’s cover:

This not only makes the book easier to open and close, it also allows you to mark the margins of the pages. Why do this? It’ll be MUCH easier for kids to work on a page if it’s flat and the cover isn’t constantly flopping over. So once the book is assembled, draw a margin line down each page, using the fold as a guide.

Then disasseble the book, and give your artist the flat marked pages to decorate!

How you proceed with the decorating depends on the age of the artist. You could, for example, add the pockets yourself, and they can write the story and make the illustrated objects to go in them. Or, you can write the story on the pages, and they can do the pockets and drawings. It can be a team effort, or they can do everything themselves!

I used a heavier patterned cardstock for the pockets, but plain poster board, construction paper, or regular printer paper works too! However, when it comes to the objects in the pockets, definitely use poster board. It’s sturdier, can hold up to lots of handling, and easier to push in and out of the pockets. For fun, try doubling the pockets per page!

When the pages are complete, reassemble the book and enjoy! I recommend whipping up a batch of blank books at one time, just in case your first book expands into an epic series.

Flowers for Ferdinand

It’s warm, it’s raining, it’s spring, and that means FLOWERS! If there’s one character close to Katie’s heart, it’s the peaceful, flower-loving Ferdinand the Bull. Pair this simple project up with a nifty wildflower identification activity, and you have yourself a nature walk!

We recommend The Story of Ferdinand, written by Munro Leaf, and illustrated by Robert Lawson (Viking, 1936). Read aloud here by Brighly Storytime. This tale of a peaceful bull who would rather enjoy flowers then battle in a bull ring is a children’s classic. And if you’d like to read Alexis Antracoli’s excellent essay during banned Book Week 2019, click over to the curatorial blog!

You’ll need:

  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • Brown and white construction paper
  • Scissors and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating

Use the materials above to craft a bull, then head outside with your camera! Keep an eye out for plants and flowers, then take a photo of Ferdinand enjoying them.

Now to identify your botanical finds! Katie discovered this awesome website for flower identification, Wildflower Search. You can set your locations with the assistance of Google Maps and the site will generate an illustrated list of the wildflowers in your area. It’s an awesome resource!

Using the site, Katie was able to identify a bunch of flowers, as evidenced in this lovely spring photo montage. I think the Bull Thistle is my favorite:

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If you live in a more urban area, not to worry! Enter your location and see what happens…you might be surprised to find that there are more flowers then you expected. The screen shot of results I took for this post? That’s not New Jersey! I selected a location in New York City, Financial District, Manhatten. The site of famous Charging Bull statue to be exact.