As an elementary librarian, I’m always looking for ways that books can inspire making. I love the artwork of Eric Carle and I thought it would be really fun to have students invent their own animal based on the book, The Mixed-Up Chameleon. My initial idea was to make an animal in the same way that Eric Carle makes his art, by painting paper and then cutting out animal shapes, and collaging them together. However, without a table top cutter, I knew this would be a lot of prep on my part.
Then I met Nora Peters during SXSWedu. We had coffee and talked about all of our favorite picture books and how each unique book could hold a spark for creativity. When Nora was at the Millvalle Community Library, she created projects for picture books and included instructions inside the front cover of library books. (Read more about this here!)
As we were talking about our favorite activities and books, I told her about my dilemma with wanting to invent animals with cut out shapes, and Nora said, “Why don’t you just make stamps?”
I debated buying a table top cutter so I could mass produce stamps, but finally settled down and created these stamps by hand.
- Wood blocks
- Foam Sheets
- Double Sided Tape
- Ballpoint pen
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Step 1: Plan Out and Create Stamps
My 8 YO gave me the idea to draw the animal and then subsequent animal parts on one piece of paper.
Making stamps by hand is simple really! Just draw the outline of your design with a fine tip sharpie on a foam sheet, cut that out with scissors, and then engrave details on the foam with a ballpoint pen.
Cut some small wood blocks and adhere the cut out foam with double sided sticky tape!
On the front side of the woodblock (opposite of the foam design), draw the stamp you just made. Make sure you line up the front and back when tracing the design so your elemakers will be able to line up their unique animal parts when they invent their new animal species!
Step 2: Make Mixed-Up Animals and Research Habitats!
After reading Eric Carle's Mixed Up Chamelon, send students to one of two centers:
- Research Center: Students will research habitats for their mixed- up animal on Pebble Go. (They'll research the habitat of a few main animals)
- Stamp Center: Put stamps for animals on color coded paper. It is best to try and have the kids use the same color for a stamp so the colors don't get muddy. To encourage this, I set all giraffe stamps on an orange construction paper with the orange dot marker. (Students use dot markers to ink the stamps!)
- If students have time, set up a third station to visit after researching and making animals. At this station, have colored pencils for students to draw the habitats of their animal.
My favorite part of this activity was that after inventing an animal, students researched animal habitats and had to decide where their mixed-up animal would live. I’d love to go further with this lesson and have them write explanations of why they chose that habitat for their new animal species. Another hack to this lesson might be to create habitat specific stamps and see if students can make a "Mixed Up Grasslands Animal" or "Mixed Up Forest Animal." It could also be a great way to get littles thinking about writing their own fiction pieces about a new species!