Introduction: HYBRID CREATURES: DIY Ink Stamps - 1st Grade Tinkering - Week 10

"HYBRID CREATURES" is the final lesson in a 10 week Tinkering series offered to first grade students. Using everyday materials in open-ended projects, we transform the ordinary to the extraordinary while nurturing problem solving skills, building creative confidence, encouraging collaboration, and empowering students as agents of their own success.

What is tinkering? Tinkering is experimenting with ideas, tools and materials to discover the myriad of possibilities that everyday objects can hold. Tinkering allows us to invent marvelous creations through working with our hands, persevering through setbacks, and engaging with others in creative collaboration. Tinkering is "thinking with our hands."

Why tinkering? Thanks to smart phones, video games, and good ol' TV, too much of our kids' world is virtual and their experiences are largely vicarious. Tinkering allows for empowered, active learning. It is real interaction with real objects, real tools, and real people.


Students will engage their imaginations to invent their own hybrid creatures using a combination of a land animal and a water animal. After a brainstorming activity, students will design their own animal hybrids using pen on paper and then transfer those designs to create their own ink stamps (both low-resolution versions using craft foam, or higher-tech versions using a laser cutter). Special accordion fold books made by the students will allow them to share their hybrid animals.


  • Participate in a group brainstorming session to create lists of land and water animals
  • Design their own hybrid animal invention
  • Create an ink stamp to represent their animal (low-res craft foam and/or laser cut rubber stamps)
  • Fold an accordion fold "Flutter" book to collect the stamps of classmates
  • Foster collaboration between small groups of students
  • Encourage speaking and listening skills in group discussion

Step 1: Gather Materials / Introduction / Brainstorm (20 Minutes)


  • Chart paper
  • Markers
  • Scratch Paper
  • Pencils
  • Small wood blocks approx 2 x 3 inches (like formica countertop samples)
  • Craft foam cut to same size as wood blocks
  • Corks
  • Hot Glue
  • Glue sticks
  • Ink pads
  • 11 x 14 inch paper
  • Scissors

Optional: Supplies for Laser cutting rubber stamps and iPads loaded with "Adobe Ideas" App

Introduction (5 minutes)

Begin with Tinkering motto, "When we Tinker, we think with our hands." (See previous weeks of 1st grade Tinkering for explanation of this opening activity).

Inform students that today, they are going to be inventors. And two things that inventors usually do when they want to make something new is to BRAINSTORM and PROTOTYPE.

Ask students what they think BRAINSTORM means and gather answers until you get to the notion that it is generating lots of ideas. Let students know that although it's possible to brainstorm alone, brainstorming is a great group activity because you get to bounce ideas around and share them with each other.

Ask students what they think PROTOTYPE means and gather answer until you get to the notion that a prototype is a "first try" at putting together a new invention so you can test how it works. It's a way of turning ideas into something "real" that you can see, hold, and experiment with.

Inform the students that the thing they will be inventing today is their very own hybrid creature that combines a land animal and a water animal into something entirely new.

Brainstorm (10 minutes)

On chart paper, first brainstorm a list of land animals, taking suggestions from students. If any students repeat something that's already been suggested, gently remind them that brainstorming is a great group activity, and it works best when everyone is listening to each other's ideas.

Once a good list of land animals have been named, move on and do the same for the water animals.

If students get caught up in animals that are both (such as amphibians), suggest to them to think about where that animal sleeps to determine if it is a land or water animal. Just because an animal swims does not necessarily make it a water animal.

Step 2: Demonstration & Design (10-15 Minutes)

On a new piece of chart paper, demonstrate to students how to draw the creation of a hybrid creature. Randomly select one animal from each list. Write the name of each animal at the top of the page Ask students to name 3 distinguishing physical characteristics of each animal and create a quick drawing that combines those characteristics into a single animal.

At their desks, students will select their own animals, one from each list and write the name of each animal at the top of their paper. As a way on encouraging empathy towards living creatures, suggest to students to select animals that are their favorites and think about why they like them so much. Circle the room as students are working, encouraging them to think about the ways that the animals move and the body parts they need to move themselves (legs, fins, wings, etc). They should also think about the textures of their skin, fur, scales, etc. These prompts will help students to develop distinguishable designs.

Step 3: Create Ink Stamp (Possible Prototype for Laser-cut Stamps) - 15 Minutes

  • Using the craft foam and a dull pencil, students should again draw their hybrid creature onto the craft foam, making sure they press hard to create an indentation in the craft foam.
  • Depending on your student group and availability for adult assistance, students can use a hot glue gun to affix a cork handle onto the back of the small wood block or recycled formica sample. If you not feel confident allowing students to use the hot glue gun, do this step in advance.
  • Use a glue stick to affix the craft foam with the animal drawing facing out to the underside of the formica to form the stamp.
  • Students can use ink pads and scratch paper to test out their stamp designs.

NOTE: If you have access to a laser cutter, this low-resolution stamp can serve as a prototype for a laser-cut stamp design. See next step for information on doing the high-tech version of this project, or skip ahead to Step 5 if you do not have access to a laser cutter.

Step 4: Laser-Cut Hybrid Animal Stamps (optional)

At our school, we were very fortunate to enjoy a visit from the Spark Truck - a mobile Maker-space hosted by the at Stanford University.

Thanks to having access to a laser cutter, we were able to take this project to the next level by having the kids recreate their drawings using Adobe Ideas on the iPad and importing the files to Adobe Illustrator to prep them to be sent to the laser cutter.

While we were waiting for the laser cutter to transform the kids' drawings into rubber stamps, the children crafted their own distinguishable handles from polymer clay (Fimo/Sculpey) and adults baked them at a low temperature to a hard finish.

Adults assembled the laser cut stamps and wooden bases, along with the handles, using a strong silicone glue.

The general process we followed can be found on Steps 3-6 on the SparkTruck Instructable lesson on running the Stamps workshop:

Step 5: Bookmaking, Storytelling & Sharing (20 Minutes)

Now that students have a stamp of their hybrid creature invention, they can share it with their classmates and the world. Students can create small animal "passport" books where they can share their stamps.

One easy way to do this is through a simple single-page accordion fold book. Using a single sheet of 11 x 17 inch copy paper, students should fold the paper twice horizontally and twice vertically. Open up the folds and use a pair of scissors to cut along the center vertical crease past two horizontal creases, stopping the scissors at the 3rd crease. Flip the paper the other direction and cut the two surrounding vertical creases across two horizontal creases, stopping at the 3rd crease. (See template picture - the dotted lines show the crease marks, the red lines show where students should cut). The book can be refolded along the creases to an accordion fold that will lay flat and then "flutter" when opened.

Create time for students to stamp each other's books and encourage them to write cartoon speech bubbles with their creatures to give them a voice.

Step 6: Reflection - 15 Minutes

Student reflection can include discussion of the difference in expressing one's ideas with different materials.

Encourage students to consider the benefits and drawbacks of:

1 - drawing the hybrid creature by hand (easier to express ideas and add details, immediate results, can't duplicate or share it easily

2 - creating the foam stamp (hard to add detail to the craft foam, but immediate results that can be shared, and no special high-tech equipment needed)

3 - drawing on the iPad (more challenging to draw with a finger, can't add details as easily, but it's much easier to undo "mistakes" and start again)

4 - laser-cut stamps (more detailed than the foam cut stamps, but requires access to high-tech equipment and adults to help with the assembly of the stamps.

Since this is the final tinkering session, take the opportunity to reflect with the students on the entire tinkering residency. Ask students to share:

  • their favorite material or tool
  • a time when they overcame a challenge
  • a time when they felt proud of something they did
  • a time they enjoyed working with a classmate
  • their thoughts for what they'd like to do to tinker on their own

Optional: present each child with a "Tinkerer Extraordinaire" certificate, and as you hand them the certificate, tell each student to "Go forth and tinker!"

Close with one final, "When we Tinker, we think with our hands!" motto and gesture.