Summer Crafts and More

Colorful crafts, field trip ideas, and tech strategies for every classroom.

By Megan Kaesshaefer


Wild Animal Masks
Go wild with vibrant animal masks! Teach students about endangered species and invite them to build their own animal masks out of recycled materials.

Colorful cardstock, glue, scissors, hole punch, elastic string, decorations such as glitter, feathers, beads, and buttons

How To Make It
Step 1. To begin, teach students about endangered species. National Geographic Kids has great resources on the topic, and World Wildlife Fund has an up-to-date list of animals in danger.

Step 2. Next, invite students to choose an animal that is endangered (for example, the burrowing owl, arctic fox, or river otter). Students should make a list of interesting facts about their animal, such as region, habitat, population size, diet, physical characteristics, hunting techniques, and more.

Step 3. To build the animal masks, begin by passing around colorful, sturdy cardstock for the base of the mask. Students should cut out a wide oval, with a triangle or circle shape jutting down for the nose. Students should also cut two small circles for the eyes.

Step 4. Next, invite students to glue feathers, beads, glitter, buttons, and other decorations on to their masks. These embellishments should make their animals identifiable and should give their masks personality and flare. Let the masks dry.
Step 5. Use a hole punch to punch a hole at both ends of the mask. Cut pieces of elastic string (about 18 inches long), thread each end through the holes, and tie. To finish, students can share their masks with the class!

Clothespin Pinwheels

Harness the power of the wind with this hands-on activity.

Materials: Colorful lightweight paper, glue, scissors, clothespins, pushpins, map pins

How To Make It
Step 1. Begin by teaching students about the power of wind energy. From old-fashioned windmills used for pumping water on farms to today's modern wind turbines, wind power is a valuable form of renewable energy. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has more useful facts on wind energy.

Step 2. Give each student a six-inchsquare piece of paper. Instruct students to use scissors to carefully poke a small hole in the center of the square.

Step 3. Next, fold the paper square in half diagonally. Then, fold in half again. Unfold the square and cut along each crease two thirds of the way toward the square's center.

Step 4. Fold every other point to the center of the square so the points overlap and hold them firmly in place.

Step 5. Next, poke a pushpin through the hole in the center, press firmly, then remove. Place a map pin into the hole. The hole made by the pushpin should be larger than the circumference of the map pin, so when wind is applied, the pinwheel can spin freely. Invite students to test the pinwheels outside or indoors using a fan.

3 End-of-the-Year Activities
Celebrate a successful year with classroom art and a little love from the community.

1. Design Memory T-Shirts
Memory T-shirts make for a nice craft in the last week of school. Students stamp and color a white T-shirt with memories from the year. They illustrate their favorite lessons, field trips, pictures of their friends, books they read, and more. The typical shirt might have pictures showing the metamorphosis of the monarch butterfly, some weather pictures, or stamped fall leaves. We mix in fabric paint if we're stamping and then kids get to wear them home on the last day of school.
-Jeremy Brunaccioni, Gill, MA

2. Make Time Capsules
At the beginning of the year, each student fills out a survey about who they are, their favorite things, and their goals for the year. I then take a picture of each student in a fun costume. Students place items inside hollow tubes and decorate them. I store these time capsules until the end of the year, when we repeat all the activities; the students fill out a new survey, take another picture, and write about their achievements. Finally, they open their time capsules and compare how much they have grown! -Beth Wilson, Stroud, OK

3. Host a Community Fair
For a special end-of-the-year event, I brought the diversity of our community right to our school's parking lot! I enlisted the help of friends and local business owners to showcase their skills and teach students how they make a difference. We had the state police, a pilot, a soccer coach, a TV reporter, and more! The students learned about the importance of volunteerism and citizenship, and even picked up some new skills. -Sharon Black, Farmville, VA

Take a Trip to... the Middle Ages

Roxanne Penz's eighth-grade theater students ventured from Wester Middle School in Frisco, Texas, to the Scarborough Renaissance Festival outside of Dallas to delve into a historic era and compete in the annual Shakespeare Drama Competition. The class used their knowledge from a unit on Shakespeare to perform Macbeth in front of an audience of theater professionals and students. To prepare, they rehearsed for weeks in class, on the school stage, and then outside on the football field to gain the sense of performing outdoors at the festival. They addressed the political and overall history of the time period, the play's dominant themes, character development, and even basic sword respect and handling. Wester Middle School received a second-place trophy, winning by only a few points!

Other ways to experience the Renaissance:

1. Find ties to modern times: Invite students to translate Elizabethan language into modern-day speak. What terms and vocabulary are applicable in today's society? What has changed?

2. Perform a character analysis: Instruct students to choose a character from a play and analyze it. What are the character's traits, actions, and motivations? Examine his or her dialogue, state of mind, and decisions to draw conclusions about him or her.

3. Conduct an exercise in public speaking: Have students choose a monologue from a Shakespearean play to practice and recite in front of you or the class. Focus on techniques such as voice, diction, and body language to build confidence.

Teacher Helpline
Q: Recently, my principal met with the parent of a child in my class. I was not invited and decisions were made that I do not agree with. How can I carry them out when I feel I've been undermined? Our teacher Facebook fans weigh in.

A: You are the one in the classroom every day! I think you should speak to the principal and ask why you weren't consulted. -Cathie Theofanis
A: I'd talk with the principal first to build a common ground of understanding. You want to avoid this developing into a pattern. If you can't resolve it or reach an agreement, then involve the union. -Vince Puzick
A: It is never a good idea to charge into the principal's office, guns blazing, demanding to know what is going on. Perhaps send an e-mail first asking to meet to discuss strategies for helping the student succeed. -Lynne DePaul Hale
A: Maybe the parent is difficult, and the principal thought he or she was doing you a favor. However, you are now tasked with the implementation of actions with which you do not agree. It's worth saying something. -Lisa Dunker Olson
A: I would meet with your principal to review the grade-level policies and discuss how this particular instance isn't working per the decisions that were made. Keep a positive attitude! -Amanda Whetstine

Tech Talk: Edmodo
Edmodo is a social learning network that gives teachers and students an easy way to connect and collaborate in real time. It's founded on two of our favorite words: free and secure. Here are a few of our favorite ways to use it.

- Exchange ideas: The Communities feature gives teachers a place to gather with like-minded professionals to exchange ideas and share content. Topics include World Language, Creative Arts, Computer Technology, Special Education, and more.
- Share content in a click: Post and discuss links to articles or YouTube, as well as curriculum-related content like mini-lessons, rubrics, and project templates for students.
- Keep students organized: A new feature called the "Backpack" is a storage area for students where they can save homework, long-term projects, school notices, and more, then tap into them at home.
- Easily assess: In the Grades tab, you can give a grade, view a list of all grades received for a given group, post comments, and even receive updates on how many students have turned in assignments.
To learn more: Watch videos on how to get started at

  • Subjects:
    Summer, Summer Themes
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