Introduction: Rainbow Sea Serpent

There are legendary sea monsters all over the world. My fifth-graders and I couldn’t find a local version so we made one up. We wanted a friendly sea serpent that didn’t eat kids, cleaned up the environment, and embraced ideas like diversity and equality. The result is Teri the sixteen-foot-long Rainbow Sea Serpent.

This creation is the result of an Elementary School workshop I call "Fantastic Beasts and How to Make Them". The goal is to make some wooden folk art while learning about imaginary creatures. As you can see in the photo, each student also made their own mini-monster.

Step 1: Tools and Materials


  • chop saw
  • table saw
  • sander
  • screwdriver
  • hammer
  • brushes


  • plywood strips
  • softwood blocks
  • cedar shingles
  • acrylic paint
  • screws, nails and glue

Step 2: Build a Sixteen-foot-long Serpentine Truss

  1. Cut 4” strips from the plywood. We made twelve in total, about 32” long. Make sure the surface grain is perpendicular to the length - this will prevent splitting when it comes time to bend them.
  2. Cut thirty 4”x1”x6” blocks of pine or other softwood.
  3. Screw the evenly-spaced blocks to a straight strip.
  4. While bent, screw the other strip in place. I started with the centre block and pushed as far as I could go without breaking the plywood. Make six of these curved trusses.
  5. Assemble the curved sections into one big sixteen-foot serpentine truss. By alternating upward and downward trusses, you’ll see the top and bottom cords overlap nicely. We put additional blocking where the small trusses come together, plus some for the head and tail.

Step 3: Head, Tail and Scales

  1. Cut the cedar shingles to a uniform 6" width using the chop saw.
  2. Attach the shingles to the spine (truss) using nails and glue. Start at the tail end and lap them as you go.
  3. Cut out the head and tail pieces from more shingles, and attach the same way.
  4. Give the kids some brushes and non-toxic acrylic paint and watch them go!
Colors of the Rainbow Contest

Participated in the
Colors of the Rainbow Contest