Introduction: Tiny Penguins

Thanks for all the wonderful support!! The Tiny Penguins Instructable won a runners-up prize in the Teacher Contest - I am grateful for all your votes and comments.

This project was done as a learning activity during a one-week summer day camp, with groups of campers ranging in age from students who had just completed kindergarten to students who had just completed fourth grade. It was done in a classroom, and could easily be integrated into the curriculum as a project during the regular school year. The penguins were created in two forty-minute class sessions with each age group.

The tiny penguins were created to star in a stop motion animation short created later that week.  There are plenty of wonderful Instructables on the the making of stop-motion animation, so this tutorial just features the process of making the tiny penguins, which I invented for the camp. The materials are inexpensive and readily available - each penguin cost less than 75¢ to make.

Learning objective:
Each student will use scissors and basic sewing and gluing skills to create a tiny stuffed penguin, which will be used in a group project to demonstrate an understanding of penguins' environment and behavior. Differences between penguins will provide an opportunity for age-appropriate discussions of diversity.

Step 1: Materials

For each tiny penguin, you will need:

Pictured:

Cotton knit work glove
- each glove is enough to make five penguins.
Small rubber band - I found clear ones in the hair accessories aisle at the pharmacy.
5mm googly eyes - the sticky ones were more expensive, so we got plain ones and used glue.
Fiberfill or other stuffing - you could even use the rest of the glove for this, but stuffing was easier with a large group.
Yellow and black craft felt or polyester fleece - the important feature is that it does not fray or ravel, and it can be glued.
Two nickels - really.  (I looked at the prices for metal washers in the right size and weight, but for the number or penguins we were making, it was cheaper and easier to use nickels.)

Not pictured, but you will also need the following tools and materials:

Scissors
- these need to be sharp enough to cut the felt or fleece. Some classroom scissors are fine for this, some aren't.
Chalk - to trace the pattern on the fabric.
Tape - to attach the pattern to the fabric - tape loops are easier to manage than pins.
Tacky glue or white glue.
Toothpicks and scrap paper or small cup - for sharing and applying the tacky glue.
Needle - can be any size - bigger eyes are easier for smaller children to thread.
Thread - white is ideal, but it won't show, so any color is fine.
Needle threader - optional, but it can help inexperienced sewers with the needle threading process.  (I just threaded needles in advance of each session with pre-knotted thread for the youngest students.)
Sandwich-sized ziploc bag - for storage of each project between working sessions.


Step 2: Pattern

Attached are two .pdf files for the tiny penguin pattern.  The first file is a pretty half page, which can be printed in color.  The second file has two patterns on the page, and can be printed or photocopied in black and white and then cut in half. Download and print enough patterns for each student to use.

Step 3: Making the Tiny Penguin Body

1. Cut a finger from the cotton knit work glove.

2. Stuff the finger with as much stuffing as you can.  Then add more stuffing.  (It will compress over time, so you want to pack it tightly.)

3. Holding the stuffed finger with the opening at the top, place two nickels on top of the stuffing.  Press them in.

4. Using needle and knotted thread, sew around the open edge of the glove and pull the thread tight to gather the glove fabric over the nickels. Since this sewing will be covered by the glued-on feet later on, it doesn't matter how this sewing looks. Students can sew a messy criss-cross across the opening or do a tidy running stitch in-and-out around the edge - whatever they like or are able to do (mostly) on their own.

5. Tie a knot to finish the stitching. Most students will need some help with this.  Take a small stitch in one place and as you are pulling the loop smaller, put your needle and thread through the loop, and pull tight for a knot. Repeat once or twice in the same place to be sure that your knot will hold.  

6. Trim the thread with a 1/2- inch to a 1-inch tail.

Your tiny penguin's body is complete.

Step 4: Adding the Wings

Step 1. Cut out the wings-and-tail pattern from the .pdf file.

Step 2. Attach the pattern to black felt or fleece with tape loops.  (Trace the pattern with chalk, if you like.)

Step 3. Cut out the wings-and-tail piece.  Remove the pattern and recycle the paper.

Step 4. Attach the wings and tail to the tiny penguin body with a clear rubber band.  The top part of the fabric forms a kind of hood to make the black part of the penguin's head. 

Step 5. See if you can balance your tiny penguin.  You may need to squash it a bit, since the stitching is probably bumpy, but the weight of the nickels should help you here.

Step 5: Adding the Beak, Feet, and Googly Eyes

Step 1. Cut out the beak and feet patterns from the .pdf file.

Step 2. Attach the patterns to yellow felt or fleece with tape loops.  (Trace the patterns with chalk, if you like.)

Step 3. Cut out the beak and feet pieces.  Remove the patterns and recycle the paper.

Step 4. Attach the beak and feet with tacky glue. 

Step 5. Attach googly eyes with tacky glue. 

Step 6. Wait for the glue to dry. This may take overnight, if you've used lots of glue.

Step 6: Enjoy Your Tiny Penguin

When the glue is dry, your tiny penguin is complete. 

Now you are ready for further learning activities!

We followed up with two activities...

1. We documented each penguin with a still photo, and then had discussions about difference - since each penguin had its own personality, due to student choices and variables like which glove finger was used. No two penguins were alike.  (Some older students had time to create more than one penguin, so they made tiny penguin families.)

2. After discussion of penguin habitats and penguin behavior, and looking at books and documentary clips on YouTube, we created a penguin habitat with boxes, an old white bedspread, blue paper, and some of the remaining fiberfill stuffing.  We spent a class period with each group taking a sequence of still photographs as the students moved their penguins from left to right across the habitat. After the in-class photo session was over, I used video editing software to arrange the still images in an animation sequence.  (This is not hard to do, and there are lots of Instructables and other online directions for creating stop-motion animation.  Find a tutorial that makes sense to you, and software that's compatible with the computer you have, and go for it!)

On the last day of camp, each group got to view the completed video, which featured the tiny penguin portraits as well as the students' penguin animation. I posted it on YouTube to share with parents and our greater community.


Step 7: The Penguin Parade

Comments

author
minipoppy (author)2012-03-28

Aah, the stop motion video is adorable - well done!

author
javajunkie1976 (author)2012-02-24

Looks easy enough to modify. I wonder if it's possible to make bunnies.

author
egp (author)javajunkie19762012-02-25

Ooh. Tiny bunnies. You may have given me my next project! I expect it would not be too hard to make a larger bunny from a pair of work gloves (fingers = ears?) but I'd love to try to make small finger-sized ones...

author
javajunkie1976 (author)egp2012-02-25

I think that if you took the material that would have become the wings and tail for the penguins and cut them into diamond shapes, they could become the ears and tail for the bunnies. If you use different colored gloves, they could become the different coat patterns that bunnies have. I would then use heart shaped buttons for the noses or at the very least sew on a felt patch in the same shape.

author
egp (author)javajunkie19762012-02-25

What a great way to do it! I was imagining an upright bunny, but now I'm envisioning a more lifelike, less cartoon-y version, after reading your description. Please post a picture if/when you make one. (And I'll do the same...) Thanks so much.

author
javajunkie1976 (author)egp2012-02-26

Will do.

author
dylanrichards (author)2012-02-17

cute

author
egp (author)dylanrichards2012-02-20

Thanks so much - the students really enjoyed this project. And I loved the expressive quirkiness of their results.

author
colinpike7937 (author)2012-01-28

kindergarten in the form of this work appeared to me to try first before knitting

author
egp (author)colinpike79372012-01-28

This is much easier for Kindergarten-aged students than knitting. I hope you try it and have fun!

author
angelabchua (author)2011-12-05

A couple things to address...

a) The video is AMAZING! I can't help but smile at all those little guys in action!
b) what a great activity for gross and fine motor skills, and of course, it's fun
c) I was sidetracked and saw your webpage, and I love your drawings. quite inspirational! Love the idea of a drawing a day....

Awesome i'ble!

author
egp (author)angelabchua2011-12-05

Thanks so much! Each of the penguins - like each of the students - has an individual personality. When you get students to notice that and at the same time collaborate to create something bigger - magic can happen.

(And I'm glad you like the drawings on my site, thanks for telling me! Drawing every day is a space of quiet and play for me. I heartily recommend it as a project, if you're at all tempted...)

author
angelabchua (author)egp2011-12-05

I am totally tempted! Thanks for inspiring me!

author
egp (author)angelabchua2011-12-05


Go for it! I got myself a little Moleskine sketchbook as a post-Christmas present in 2004, and decided to use it for daily sketching. (People told me that the best way to learn to draw was to draw every day.)

When I'd drawn pictures in that little sketchbook for 28 days in a row, I was so excited by what I'd done, and how much better my drawing had gotten, that I posted the pictures to my blog. The next day, I posted another picture... and then the next... and the next. And I've been drawing and posting ever since!

author
wilgubeast (author)2011-12-05

This is completely and totally adorable.

Excellent work. I bet the kids had a great time.

author
egp (author)wilgubeast2011-12-05

They really seemed to enjoy the challenges, and were proud of their results. We had good conversations throughout. (And they still remember who I am when they see me in the hallway, which gives me a wonderful feeling of celebrity. I mostly teach middle school and high school students, who are too cool to call out to me when I walk past...)

author
ChrysN (author)2011-12-04

Cute little guy, at first I thought it was knitted but it is even easier than that, great project for kids!

author
egp (author)ChrysN2011-12-04

Thanks!

You're right - I was looking for the easiest possible way to make these, so went with snipping off a ready-made glove's finger. Knitting a tiny penguin would be fun, though...

author
Penolopy Bulnick (author)2011-12-04

That is so adorable! Great job! And that video! So cute!

author
egp (author)Penolopy Bulnick2011-12-04

Thanks! We had so much fun making them.

The initial challenge was to find a method that was easy enough for the little ones to make independently, and to figure out how to make them very very cheaply. I was pleased with how the project turned out.

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Bio: Elizabeth Perry posts a drawing every day at http://www.elizabethperry.com .
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