At last week’s Creativity Lab, the freezing temperatures matched our frosty art project! We created a lovely wintry scene, using watercolors and salt to create texture and movement within the painting. Even the littlest learners enjoyed this project, learned about color mixing and composition, and were able to create beautiful finished products.
All you need for this project are:
- Watercolors (Crayola or similar is fine- nothing fancy!)
- Painter’s Tape (1/4″, or if wider, cut into 1/4″ strips)
- Black Crayon
Begin by laying thin strips of tape from top to bottom of the page, about 1 1/2″-2″ apart. These will be your birch tree trunks. Tear short pieces of tape and add these to create branches.
Next, paint the entire surface of the paper with plain water- you want your paper to be nice and wet in order for the paint to blend and work well with the salt. Then paint watercolors over top of the water, blending colors such as blue, purple, red or pink and even green to create a wintry color palette. After you’re done painting each section, sprinkle salt over the paint. It will give the painting a fun “frosty” look and texture, and your kids will be amazed as they watch the salt soak up the paint! If the painting is already too dry, the salt will not activate properly- so if this happens, just sprinkle a little more water over it until you get the effect you want.
Let your paint dry completely before moving on to the next step.
Gently peel up the painter’s tape. Using a black crayon, outline each trunk and the branches and make some short horizontal lines to show the texture of a birch tree.
Now for the final step: using a very diluted gray, paint the left-hand side of the trunks and branches to create the natural shadows and coloration of birch-tree trunks.
You’ve created a lovely winter birch-tree painting!
Here’s a beautiful example my student Joelle made:
Here’s quick recap of some of the fun we had last Saturday at our Choose Your Own Adventure program and winter reading kickoff! If you haven’t signed up for our winter reading program, there’s still plenty of time- the program doesn’t end until February 10th! Sign up today!
We had each kid choose their own path through our event, which took them to six different locations around the world, where they learned about the culture, did some crafts and activities, and then moved on to the next stop. In ancient Egypt kids could make their own cartouche in hieroglyphics, build a pyramid, and learn how to make a mummy. In the Alps they threw snowballs at the Yeti (Yes, we realize the Yeti is actually from the Himalayas, but he must have been vacationing in the Alps! That’s our story and we’re sticking to it!), they got to play with sensory snow made out of baking soda and white conditioner, and they were able to learn how fold mountains like the Alps are created with a hands-on experiment. At the Great Wall of China they made chinese lanterns and created their own version of the Great Wall by dipping packing peanuts (the kind made out of cornstarch) in water and stacking them up to build a wall on a piece of cardboard. In ancient Greece, they learned about Greek art and architecture by creating mosaics and exploring the post and lintel method of building.
A trip around the world wouldn’t have been complete without a stop in the Serengeti! Here kids went on a safari through the grasslands to find lifesize animals and identify some endangered species. They also made a stop in the Amazon jungle, where they had to cross the River without falling in, because there were some dangerous animals swimming close by. They also got to customize their own parrots, using bright colors and feathers to deck out their wacky birds!
We had a LOT of fun at Spy School! We did this as part of our new program Spotlight. Spotlight focuses on a different topic each month. It follows the interests of what we see in our department. Since Stuart Gibbs’ latest book Spy School Secret Service is now out, we decided to have some fun with it sending our school-aged kiddos through different tasks and missions in order to officially be spies.
Here is a quick look at what we did!
The overall set-up was stations that they could go to as they pleased. There were no progressive steps (with one exception which I’ll tell you about in a minute). We do the majority of our programs this way for a couple reasons. First, kids don’t all go at the same pace. This set up gives kids the freedom to explore stations where they need more time without feeling self-conscious and likewise allows them to move on from stations that go quickly for them. Though it may sound chaotic, it actually helps keep everybody on task. Second, we serve kiddos with special needs and this format gives them the ability to participate at a level that is comfortable for them and adjust as they need.
These were our stations:
Hand Scanner for Entry
This was quick and easy. Just use a name-brand Ziploc bag (the generic I have tried to use leaked terribly), clear hair gel and water color paint or food coloring. I sealed the edges of the bag with duct tape just to reinforce. Be sure to squeeze all the air from the bag before sealing it up!
We found some fun Secret Agent Badge printables online. The kids grabbed a color out of bucket A and an animal out of Bucket B and this became their Code Name for all missions.
We created a book cipher using copies of Fox in Socks. The kids (and some parents) had a lot of fun figuring out our messages!
We set up a wax resist station for kids to right secret messages to each other. White crayons on white construction to write the messages and water color paint to reveal the messages made it a fun little project. The kids loved leaving messages for others to find.
Pom Pom Target Practice
We found this really cool blog that had a great tutorial for pom pom target practice, so we tried it out. The kids did a great job with this simple activity and LOOOOVED creating their own shooter. Pool noodles, duct tape, balloons, and pom-poms are all you need for this and it is a huge hit! We set up a target on our wall. Their objective was to stand at varying distances and shoot into the caution tape.
Dodge the Lasers!
We used a strong, thing book tape to create a laser field for kids to dodge in and out of, trying to avoid getting stuck.
This is the one station that I wasn’t thrilled with. Sadly in programs, sometimes ideas that seem great on paper just aren’t as great in real life. The objective is to stomp and walk through the pool (or minefield) and not pop a balloon. Unfortunately, this really wasn’t a challenge. The balloons would fly out of the pool before they could even attempt to pop, or not pop, them. Were I to do this again, I would not confine it to the pool and I would use a lot more balloons.
All in all, everyone loved this program, including me! In fact, we liked it so much we are putting it on again (minus the minefield) at our Exploratorium on November November 29th!
Did you realize how many different types of bridges we have in the Quad Cities?
Since designing the Exploratorium Building Bridges program, I keep looking at bridges, explaining to my very patient husband that the footbridge he just crossed over was a beam bridge and the strengths and weaknesses of that type of bridge. All this time I just thought bridges were “pretty” or “ugly” because of their design. I never thought there was a reason for the style of bridge or to really think about the amazing amount of weight these bridges have to carry. It’s been an eye opener.
It all started with the model of the new I-74 bridge that is currently located in our lobby. I thought this would be a great time to do a STEAM program on bridges and how they are built.
At the program we observed what made a design strong with 4 different type of bridges. At the end, everyone designed their own bridge that would be strong enough to hold an apple. If you want to try these at home, they are very simple.
Supplies: 2 even stacks of books, 2 pieces of card stock, scissors, tape and weights. Weights can be anything the same size like small blocks or other toys that are the same size and weight that will not roll away from you or break.
Place a piece of cardstock on the two stacks of books so it looks like a bridge. Now begin adding weights, one at a time. How many weights did you add before the bridge collapsed?
Now create 2 piers from the 2nd sheet of card stock by rolling up the cardstock into a tube and taping it. Cut the tube into 2, sizing them so it fits under the “road” of your bridge. Place the 2 tubes or piers under the bridge and start adding weight again. Did it hold more weight?
Beam bridges are simple to create and are ideal for short distances unless you have other ways to support the bridge.
Supplies: 2 even stacks of books, 2 full pieces of card stock, weights.
Recreate your beam bridge without the piers. Form the second piece of cardstock into an arch and place it under the road of the bridge. How many weights does the bridge hold? Was this more than the beam bridge without piers? With piers?
If you were to create an arch from stones or blocks, this would need tension to hold the arch together. An example of the tension in an arch is to stand facing someone about the same height as you. Both of you hold up your hands and grasp them to form an arch. Now lean forward. The force you feel where your hands meet is the same force that would hold stones together in an arch. The arch shape is able to disperse the weight to the ground or abutment of the bridge.
Supplies: 2 even stacks of books, 1 full piece of card stock, 1 piece of paper, weights.
Truss bridges get their strength from a framework made of triangles. Triangles are much stronger than squares or rectangles because they can move the pressure of the road load from a single point to a much wider area.
Recreate your beam bridge. Remember how many weights it would hold?
Now fold your piece of paper like you would a fan. Spread it out and place it under your road so it spans the bridge. Now try adding weight. Does it hold more?
Why do you think the fanned paper was helpful? Would it work if it were a flat sheet of paper?
Supplies: a long piece of cardboard about 4 ft long for the road. It may be bent. A hole punch, 2 chairs with an open back, pipe cleaners, 2 long pieces of cord about 12-14 ft long and some weights – we used 4 Lego blocks.
I found this bridge fascinating. It seems impossible that two pieces of cord can hold up a bridge!
Place the chairs back to back. Place the strings parallel to each other over the chairs so that the ends go over the front of each chair and reach the floor. If it helps for set up, tape the cords to the top of the chairs. Just be certain to take off the tape when the bridge is assembled. Tie the ends of your string to your weights and pull the weights away from the chairs to make the cords taught. Punch holes on either side of the cardboard, 3-4 on each side, evenly spaced out. You do not need to have holes on the far ends of the cardboard. Attach a pipe cleaner to each hole by threading it through the hole and twisting the end to the pipe cleaner. Place the ends of the cardboard on the seats of the chairs. You may need to support the cardboard until you have the pipe cleaners in place. Next, hook the pipe cleaners onto the cords. Now you can pull the road support away and take off the tape.
Try putting on a toy car on the bridge. Does it hold?
What happens if you move the weights closer to the bridge?
What if you have fewer pipe cleaners? No pipe cleaners?
Can you determine what is supporting the weight?
When I started designing this program, I didn’t know the first thing about bridges, however, through the books and kits we have at the library plus the Internet, I developed a great respect for the bridges I see every day. Which is a lot of bridges!
It turns out the Quad Cities has many examples of the different types of bridges. When you cross a bridge, see if you can determine what kind it is: Beam, Arch – Tied Arch, Suspension, Truss, Swing, or Cable-Stayed.
And the next time you come into the library, be certain to check out the new I-74 bridge model in the lobby. It’s awesome!
We LOVE contests! Especially ones that have our patrons sharing their creative gifts with us! In the past have done various creation contests that fit whatever the summer reading theme is that year such as castles, critters, and beach bags. This year, with a water-theme for summer reading, we went with boats! Our only real rules were that the boats had to fit a base of no bigger than 12″ x 18″ and that no food items could be used to build. Otherwise, anything was fair game (and no, they didn’t have to survive a float test!). The boats that came rolling in blew us away!
We have four categories up on display currently. To make it fair, the categories are preschool and kindergarten, grades 1 through 3, grades 4 through 6, and a family category which is new but hugely popular! The cool thing is that patrons who come in can vote for their favorite in EACH category. The winners will be displayed for a week before going back to their creators with a prize. Voting is going on through the 20th, so if you haven’t voted yet, stop by and cast a ballot for your favorites!
The Captain Underpants books already were flying off our shelves thanks to summer reading, but with the movie out, we knew we had to celebrate so we hosted a Captain Underpants Party! We hosted a fun mix of games and crafts to keep our active superhero patrons busy. This event was an hour and a half and patrons could come and go as they pleased so having activities that were open-ended and adaptable to almost any age was the goal. From the feedback we got from our 150 guests, the things we planned achieved these goals! The best part? These are things you could easily recreate if you are having a party, whether it is for 5 guests or 150! Read on to see what we put together.
Professor Poopypants Name Changer
As people came into the event, we had them start by finding out there Captain Underpants name using Professor Poopypants’ Name Changer. This was a downloadable from the Scholastic site.
Because we wanted a more colorful sign, we just typed recreated it in Canva which worked very well. Kids quickly wrote their new name on a name tag and off they went to the next station.
Since capes prove tricky in regards to expense (and sometimes liability), we opted to have a mask station where are patrons could create a mask to go with their new Captain Underpants identity!
Personally, I’ve always loved when George and Harold hypnotize Mr. Krupp for the first time. The image of him on the desk pretending to be a chicken before he becomes Captain Underpants just cracks me up! That said, we knew we had to have a station with the Hypno-Ring. We created a giant hypnotic swirl on paper and attached to what is usually a ship’s wheel decor piece from our summer reading. We then thought up some super silly actions for kids to act out. We created slips for each task, cut them apart and threw them in our handy dandy cauldron. To get “hypnotized” kids had to stare into the swirl while pulling an action to act out from the cauldron. Honestly, I was worried some of the older kids would play the too-cool card and walk past this station but it turned out I was worried for nothing. We had some super silly actors of all ages at this station pretending to be a hot dog about to be eaten, an angry chicken, a cat taking a bath, and more!
Toilet Paper Stacking Challenge
This station was a lot of fun and definitely easy for any age! Kids could test to see how high they could stack the toilet paper without it falling and how fast they could stack. We actually posted a volunteer at this station to time kids. She also helped with our Pin the Cape Station!
Pin the Cape on Captain Underpants
We blew up and painted a large image of Captain Underpants himself for this version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Kids would put the blindfold on, spin three times, and then try to pin (er, tape, to be accurate) the cape to Captain Underpants’ neck. I’m sad to say I don’t have an after pictures of this station because this guy was covered in red capes!
I’ll be honest, this station went best with a parent or grown-up willing to be silly! The objective? To stand behind the long red line and fling a pair of tighty whities as far as you could. From that line to the first shorter line was about 4 feet. Each red line after took you another 2 feet. A lot of kids got to see a whole new side of their grown-ups that day as they were learning to use the elastic waistband to launch the underpants! Even if they didn’t get the concept of how to fling them with the technique we were thinking of, a lot of kids were giggling as they threw giant underwear around the library.
Turbo Toilet 2000 Turd Toss
Yeah… you read that correctly! The Captain Underpants books are well-known for their toilet humor and we couldn’t help help but go there! Using a toilet seat, round trashcan, card stock, and some good ole’ duct tape, we created our own version of the Turbo Toilet 2000. We then created “turds” from scrunched up newspaper covered in wrinkled brown construction paper that was wrapped up in packaging tape so it was durable but gave a squishy feel. Kids had a chance to see if they could get 5 turds into the toilet before their turn was done. Hands-down, we got the BEST feedback about this station from parents and kids alike!
Jerome Horwitz School Sign
We have a magnetic pillar in our department that we have done some fun stuff with in the past, but this may have been my favorite! We created a school sign like in the books and put out magnetic letters for kids to leave their own silly messages! We had tried to use smaller letters but the magnets didn’t quite cut the mustard so we ended up with large foam letters instead and the kids still had fun with them!
Coloring and Activity Pages
These printables were all free on the Scholastic website.
Have you ever tried Doodle Stations before? We throw them up at events periodically because they are a HUGE hit with patrons, young and old. Basically we cover table tops with white craft paper or butcher paper. We set out colored pencils and leave a note letting patrons know we want them to draw on the paper. We get some awesome art work doing this! Check out these examples!
The activities you just scrolled through are located all throughout our department. It prevents congestion and chaos in a main meeting room and still encourages people to check out the collection. It also meets the needs of kiddos with special needs or families with very young children. We keep more challenging crafts or activities where materials could be messy in our Children’s Program Room. For this event, we had three activities in our program room. We had the fidget spinners craft we gave you in our sneak peek, a Captain Underpants Bookmark, and a Playdoh Poo station set up for kids to explore at this event. Even the big kids LOVED the Playdoh! And who doesn’t love a fidget spinner these days?!
Throwing this together during Summer Reading was not an easy task, but it was worth it! Our community absolutely LOVED our Captain Underpants Party!