My son’s school throws a festival each year with carnival games, food, and an auction. This year’s lead wanted to take on a more ambitious theme of Celebrating Our World and to add more interactive learning activities and crafts. Each grade level was in charge of a continent. I was head of the Fine Arts Committee and two other moms and I worked together to prep two crafts per continent. Most of the ideas we found on Pinterest but some were in books from the library.
Collar Necklaces (Kenya)
The collar necklaces were inspired by the Samburu Tribe in Northern Kenya. The necklaces worn by Samburu women can tell you their marital status, health, and number of children. The young men that were warriors in the tribe also wore colorful necklaces during important ceremonies. To prep for the craft, I had to cut a line and then a circle in the middle of some paper plates. We had crayons, markers, watercolors, and jewel stickers to embellish the collars. You do not have to string them together, they just stayed on by themselves!
Mkeka Mats (based on the Kwanzaa celebration)
Weaving is a big part of a lot of countries in Africa so we incorporated these mkeka mats that are used during Kwanzaa celebrations. To prep the craft, I folded a construction paper in half and from the fold, cut outwards leaving a one inch edge. Then I cut different strips for the kids to weave in between.
The most popular craft was the paper bag piñatas because nothing says party like breaking open a piñata. For prepping, I cut tissue paper to make streamers with fringes on one side. We had a bowl of candy but we only let the kids choose five and then filled up the paper bag with crumpled newspaper to give it shape. The kids can fill it with more candy or other items at home. They start from the bottom and glue one strip at a time. Some kids covered both sides and some covered only one side. You can also hang some from the bottom of the bag. When they are done, we stapled it closed at the top, made two hole punches and attached a piece of yarn for hanging.
Three Sisters Seed Art (United States)
The three sisters represent the three types of seeds (corn, beans, and squash) that were popularly planted together by tribes in Native America. Each plant depended on each other for support, substance, and protection. There is not a lot of prep but I thought this craft was very hard for the kids. I bought a huge container of beans and added corn and sunflower seeds and cut some cardstock to size. The kids were glueing the beans to try to make a picture but creating a scene on this small a scale is hard. Kids were more successful when I told them to start in the middle and make circles with the beans until they created a flower. Handling beans and having glue on their fingers made it very hard to maneuver the beans where they wanted them. I was also trying to scrounge up a lot of CD cases so the kids can keep their artwork in them (I cut the paper the exact size to fit in the cases) but could not find enough and at the festival, if the bean artwork did not dry and they took it with them, it probably fell apart so I think the cases are crucial for this project. A lot of the kids enjoyed playing with the beans and sorting them so maybe a sensory table with beans or a planting activity would be a good choice in the future.
Ojos de Dios (Bolivia)
The Eye of God is one of those things that is a rite of passage at summer camp. They look complex but are really easy to do. I’ve had groups of girls sit at the table making one after the other. To prep for this craft, I took two popsicle sticks and used a glue gun to glue it in the middle making a plus sign. I usually tie the first piece of yarn to the middle then make an X a few times around the middle. Next, you wrap it around each stick until you make a diamond shape in the middle. For beginners, I tell them to go in one direction but to increase the complexity, they can try going in different directions or even add more popsicle sticks. I help attach the next color of yarn and they just repeat. Where two yarn pieces are tied together, you just weave over the spot to hide it. I was able to lead my five year old through it though I had to help him maintain the tension. Finally, I tie the end around the top and make a loop so they can place it over their bed or anywhere else they would like to hang it.
This craft took a few weeks of paper towel roll collecting. I wasn’t sure how many crafts to prep for the school and we gathered about 150 tubes, which was enough. After building one, the rice fell too quickly through the tube and did not sound like rain so we used strips of cardboard folded up accordion style and stuck it in the tube which slowed the rice flowing through and created a nicer sound. It was not as soothing as the real rainstick I had for them to play with but I doubt that the school would allow me to bring nails for the kids to hammer into the wood and then pliers to break the ends off like how they hand make rainsticks now.
Cherry Blossom Scrolls (Japan)
Cherry blossoms are big in Japan. It symbolizes the ephemeral nature of life. It blooms and is breathtakingly beautiful and then dies. Japanese pilots would paint them on their planes before suicide missions. I did not share these somber facts with the kids but when I taught elementary school, I had them paint cherry blossoms when I taught them about seasons.
These college students from IUPUI volunteered for the Asia room and did a fabulous job of talking to the kids about different aspects of Asian culture (mainly Chinese and Japanese). They even brought along some other guests such as a man who taught the kids how to write their name and other words in Chinese and a lady who did beautiful, intricate Jianzhi (papercutting).
Dragon Dance Craft (China)
This simple craft I used to do with the kids on Chinese New Year. It’s pretty simple. The kids must color the head and tail of the dragon and then you attach them to the ends of an accordion folded red piece of paper to represent the body. Finally, you attach to popsicle sticks to the front and end of the red paper to move the dragon up and down to do the dance.
Matryoshka Dolls (Russia)
This is a cute craft that folds within itself like a matryoshka doll but the prep for it was excruciating. First, I created a stencil and was cutting them out on scrapbook paper. My scrapbook paper was very thin so if you do this project, get thicker paper or glue the paper on some cardstock or construction paper. We left the stencil so the kids and parents can trace and cut out their own but it was very time consuming. I printed out circles for the faces on some cardstock and had a very nice mom cut them out for me (each size is in the small Ziplock bowl containers). It’s a cute project but probably for older kids because of the amount of prep.
Roman Mosaics (Italy)
This was also a very hard project for the kids. They tried to make small landscapes when huge shapes are best for mosaics of this size. I cut some black construction paper in half for the canvas and made a box of colorful one inch squares for the tesserae. Roman tesserae are actually made of blocks. I think without a grid, a plan, and a mom (me) who did not cut up the squares all perfectly the same, the kids had a hard time figuring out what to make so they made a lot of patterns or used it more as a collage. It works but next time, I would probably go with a collage theme and have different other items for them to glue together.
This craft is based on indigenous art founds on rocks, caves, and tree bark in Australia. The oldest rock art found there is 28,000 years old. Our school mascot is a turtle and turtles are also popular subjects in Australian indigenous art so I printed a shadow of a turtle and had kids use Q-tips to make dots for the painting.
Sand Sensory Play
There are a lot of interesting animals to be found in Australia. I found a Toob of The Land Down Under which has Australian animals such as kangaroos, platypuses, and alligators. These animals live on land, sand, and water so I used a green tray to represent the grasslands, kinetic sand for the beaches, and blue rocks for the water. Kinetic sand is great for indoor play since it clumps together and clean-up is very easy. Kids of all ages loved playing with the sand and animals. I think if we do the same theme next year, I would have more sensory play areas because honestly, some kids love crafts but many kids were just there for the games. Sensory bins are great for these kids who feel projects are too much work but love open, hands-on play.
Did you know that Antarctica is a desert? It does not rain a lot there but when it does, it usually results in snow. It is so cold that the snow does not melt and over years results in large ice sheets which form into glaciers, ice shelves, and icebergs. Everyone knows how to cut snowflakes by folding and cutting paper so we thought we would jazz it up a bit by having the kids draw on the snowflakes with markers and then dropping water on it to see the colors separate and spread. So besides making beautiful shapes, it’s also a lesson in chromatography.
Our final activity was a flag making station for Antarctica since no one “owns” Antarctica but the world shares it for research purposes. A treaty was signed so that Antarctica is used for peaceful research and froze territorial claims, banned military activity, weapons testing, and made Antarctica off limits for nuclear testing. Over 47 nations have ratified the treaty and any nation is free to do scientific research as long as they share the research with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, with limited volunteers, we did not actually have this station open during the festival. Another idea I had was to have a sensory table with water, ice, and maybe instant snow. They have a Toob of penguins that would have gone perfectly with this sensory table.
Finally, I got these bags from Marsh Supermarkets. I decorated it to reflect the world traveling theme and gave it to each family so they can carry all their projects, auction items, and prizes home.
Unfortunately, I was busy with the craft areas that I couldn’t take pictures of all the other awesome activities that were happening at the same time. The students received passports and visited different rooms and had to record some facts about each continent. If they turned in their completed passport, they won a t-shirt! We had wonderful decorations, performers, artwork from each grade level reflecting their continent, games based on the theme, and a UN station set up in the library with activities to get kids thinking about global issues. It was great to be part of something so fun, educational, and raised so much money for the school.