Be A Tree! BOOK GIVEAWAY & Craft

The Book Giveaway is closed. Our winner is Josie Clark-Trippodo! Congratulations, Josie! Enjoy this beautiful book.

“Be a tree. Stand tall. Stretch your branches to the sun.” Maria Gianferrari’s beautiful picture book begins with a simple metaphor that extends and expands, connecting the ecology of trees to a message about interconnectedness and our human responsibility to care for, build and sustain our communities. The illustrations by Felicita Salas are delightful. On a page with text that reads: “Your skin is bark; dead on the outside, protecting what’s within,” Salas adds a detail of matching tattoos–a heart inked on a grandfather’s forearm with a twin heart carved into the trunk of a tree.

To mark the publication of BE A TREE, I wanted to create a variation of that perennial school project, the Family Tree–but one that would celebrate the circles of community that kids experience in their lives instead of ancestry. Not all children know or live with biological relatives–but all of them have important people who matter to them. So, introducing . . . the TREE RINGS PROJECT!

Block printing with organic materials (because: trees) is a perfect pair for this project, filled with texture and messiness. Who doesn’t love a puddle of glue, paint, and the surprise of lifting up a print you made to see the result? If it’s too glue-y for you, you can also create a Tree Rings Project using markers and crayons with concentric circle shapes to trace.

Tree Rings Project

MATERIALS

  • Flat piece of cardboard (you can cut out a side of a cardboard box)
  • Yarn
  • White glue
  • Tempera or acrylic paint
  • Scissors
  • Brayer (printmaking roller) or paintbrush
  • Paper (I used 50% recycled construction paper)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Trace or draw concentric circles on cardboard. We had fun running around the house gathering cups, bowls and other round objects to trace. Your circles can be lopsided–the rings of a tree certainly are!
  2. Cut pieces of yarn that fit your circles.
  3. Now for the gluey, messy bit: squeeze a line of glue along your traced circles. Or, for smaller hands, pour a puddle of glue and use a popsicle stick to spread it on thick!
  4. Lay the yarn on your circles and let dry.
  5. Painting time! Once your block is dry, use a paintbrush or brayer to spread paint over the yarn.
  6. Turn it upside down on paper; press evenly.
  7. Lift carefully: you printed your tree rings!

Now for Step 8, the most important part . . . start at the middle of your tree ring and think about the place where you feel the most comfortable. It might be home or maybe school. In this central place, jot down the people there that help you grow strong. People you can count on and who can count on you. Move out to your next tree ring. This ring can represent another comfortable place–a grandparent’s house, a neighbor’s house, your after-school group. Who are your “people” there? Add them to your tree ring. Move your way out, considering other places and groups that help you or that you would like to help–the local animal rescue group or a community garden, for example. And voila! You’ve made your circles of community–your personal Tree Rings!

* Teens and grown-ups who don’t want to be left out of the fun but want more of a challenge: try creating a block print of wood grain. My attempt is pictured above and below. I free-handed the design, starting with interspersed spirals (knots of wood) and then adding lines of yarn (wood grain) around them.

To learn more about author Maria Gianferrari (pictured below “being a tree”), go to mariagianferrari.com. You can find illustrator Felicita Sala at felicitasala.com.

Make: Doughnut Discs

Time to celebrate! My picture book, Flip! How the Frisbee Took Flight, will be published next month, and it will be spring. I'm feeling a sense of hope and possibility I haven't felt in a while. So for my first Frisbee-based maker activity, I combined two of the best possible things: flying discs AND doughnuts. Doughnut discs are super easy to make and can even be tossed inside the house on a rainy day without major damage to home or humans. Here's what you need:

Materials
Paper plates 
Scissors
Glue stick
Markers, paint, construction paper
Recommended: Eating real doughnuts while working 

First, trace and cut a circle in the middle of the paper plate to create the Doughnut disc hole. To decorate, use markers, paint or paper to design your doughnut on the back side of the plate. What is your favorite flavor? Do you like chocolate covered, blueberry swirl, lemon burst or strawberry glazed? 

I cut concentric circles of paper to create a dough base with a frosted top and then paper-punched and cut out paper sprinkles in rainbow colors to glue on top. You could also sprinkle with mini pom-poms, sequins or stickers. Glue stick seemed to work well for adhering the paper layers to each other and to the plate. That's it. You're ready to give your Doughnut disc a flick and watch it fly!
Check out www.margaretmuirhead.com for more information about Flip! You can pre-order your copy at Indiebound, Target, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or at your favorite neighborhood book shop. 

Summer Craft Camp, Again!

A rainy week at the lake with the tremendous trio of Zeke, Lila and Allie (my son & niece & nephew) resulted in a craft bonanza. We made and we made and we made. Some projects created tangible results, while others were just about the process, man.

Tie-dye spirals--in process

Tie-dye spirals–in process

The list of our productivity is long: salt dough beads (a blast, and with many production stages so we could drag it on a bit–but the wet weather made the beads kind of soggy); paper beads (less soggy); marble painting (our paintings faded but rolling marbles through paint puddles was very intriguing); and tie-dye tees (and undies for those who just couldn’t get enough tie-dye!).

Salt dough beads--somewhat soggy!

Salt dough beads–somewhat soggy!

Here are some helpful links if you happen to find yourself in a damp summer cottage with a few stir-crazy kids:

Salt dough recipe from Crafting Connections

We used this recycled paper bead kit from Green Creativity but you can make them with skewers with instructions from Rookie

Marble painting instructions from First Palette

This youtube video from Jacquard Products really helped me perfect the tie-dye spiral

Paper Rollercosters

This paper craft for kids comes straight from one of my favorite museums: the Peabody Essex in Salem, Mass. Yes, it has an amazing Asian art and Maritime art collection (including a room-size model of the S.S. Queen Elizabeth, which never fails to impress us). But sometimes we go just to hang out in the sunny atrium designed by architect Moshe Safdie, admire the sky, and pretend it’s not 4 degrees outside.

The paper rollercoaster craft (offered as part of the PEM’s “Eye Spy, Playing with Perception” exhibit through May) had the qualities of a good kids’ project: simple enough for little guys to enjoy and interesting enough to engage bigger kids. Plus you probably have all the stuff you need right in your house: glue sticks, strips of colored paper, and a piece of paper for a base.

Dab one end of a paper strip and press to the base. Twist, bend, or loop–then glue the other end and press. 

    My 10-year-old made his rollercoaster a continuous circuit. My five-year-old’s design defied the laws of physics, but he thought it looked really cool.

 

 On the way home, we drove by the Salem harbor,

 and it was winter again.