Introduction: Light Up Party Tree

Every year my school program hosts an annual dance for our students and their families. It's kind of a big deal.

A few years ago I started helping with decorations and desserts for the dance, see my instructables on how to make an Instagram Photo Prop and the project that started it all, Edge Lit Displays for centerpieces.

This year the theme was Fairy Tales. So I did some Pinterest research for different decoration ideas and ended up making a bunch of giant toadstools, faux fairy tale books for photo props, and a giant tree with lights. The tree has a little doorway for the fairies and elves to live in, but I ran out of time and haven't finished painting it so it stands out more. Maybe I'll add twinkle lights for the time being.

The majority of the materials were sourced by emailing out to my school looking for newspaper, cardboard, and chicken wire. Everything else I already had. The only thing I paid for was the spray paint, $2.99/can on Amazon with Prime.

The microlights came from an Instructables contest I won a year or two ago.

Anyway, this Instructable is about how we made our giant party tree.


Chicken wire (scraps, all sizes, just enough to make the trunk of your tree, however big you want it)

Wood (the length you want the tree, for stabilization)

Recyclables (this is what we filled the tree with)

Green paper, different shades

Microlights, holiday string lights

Brown spray paint


Flour & water (to make the "glue")

Glitter and glue

Staple gun, wire cutters, scissors


Green bulletin board paper

Zip ties

Step 1: The Trunk

First we started with attaching our wire together to get a tree trunk sized diameter. I think it's maybe about 1.5' wide and +6ft tall. We realized we needed something inside the wire to keep the tree stable, so our maintenance dept. nailed some pieces of scrap wood to a sturdier piece of square wood and we stapled the wire around it.

Then we started filling the inside of the trunk with stuff in our recycling bins, bottles, milk cartons etc.

Step 2: Make Bark!

To make the bark of the tree, we took newspaper and scrunched it up--not twisted, scrunched. It makes a more bark-like effect. Then depending on the day we used either water+glue or water+flour to dunk the newspaper in and "glue" onto the tree. This actually only took a couple of hours and was completely dry by the next day.

For the "glue" you want the consistency to not be thick like glue, but not be too watery that nothing sticks on. The pro of the water+glue mixture is that it isn't likely to rot/mold, the flour+water might.

After everything was try, we had a pretty solid tree. The spray paint added to the thickness of the tree and I think it's very possible we'll be able to use again in the future.

Step 3: Tree Top

The tree top we made with a big piece of cardboard and wire on top of it filled with newspapers to make the top stand out more and not look flat. I thought I took pictures of this, but I guess I didn't. This was really just a lot of molding the wire around the cardboard and using balled up newspaper to prop it up.

After we attached the wire, using wire and zip ties, we covered the top with green bulletin board paper.

We had to remove the top after building it and rebuilt it in the gym where the dance takes place.

Step 4: Putting It Together

I ordered some brown spray paint from Amazon and only needed 2 bottles to cover the entire trunk. We did this outside and let it dry in the sun.

While the trunk was drying, we made leaves. I printed a couple leaves from a Google Image search and the students used glue and glitter to decorate them. We literally used all the green paper in the building.

After the leaves were dry, we used plain ol' clear tape to attach the leaves to the tree top, starting at the bottom and working our way up. We only did about half before we decided to move the whole thing over to the gym to finish setting up there.

Step 5: Lights!

After we moved the tree to the gym, we finished adding the leaves and then wrapped it in microlights. Around the trunk is also a strand of purple holiday lights.

The last picture is the tree with just one strand of microlights. We ended up adding 3 in total.

Step 6: Fin!

The tree isn't in it's final position, but this is what it looks like all lit up and with the lights off. The dance is tonight (5/29) and I hope to add more pictures.

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