Shrunken Plastic Art Mobile

Did you ever love Shrinky Dinks as a kid?  It was so fun, and somewhat scary, to place your creation into the toaster oven and watch it curl up into a ball and then flatten back into a  smaller version of your original piece.  Did you know that you can create this same fun with plastic party cups?

Try using some of the plastic party cups you have left over from summer gatherings to explore this sciency craft project!

These plastic party cups work because they are #6 plastic which is polystyrene – the same polymers used to make Shrinky Dink sheets.  Check out how to make miniature plastic sculptures and put the pieces together to make an art mobile.

What You Need:

  • Toaster OvenSupplies
  • Colored Party Cups
  • Wire Coat Hanger
  • Clear Fishing Line or Other Thin String
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Tongs
  • Optional: Sharpie Markers

What You Do:

Use scissors to cut the colorful party cups into various shapes and designs.Cut and Color Shapes

Optional: Use the Sharpies to add  colors and designs to the cut shapes.

Punch a hole somewhere in the plastic to be used to hang the sculpture later


Put the finished pieces in the toaster oven and watch what happens!Bake Shrinking

Once the plastic stops shrinking, remove the mini-sculpture with the tongs

Optional: You can bend, twist and reshape the plastic when it comes out of the oven, but BE CAREFUL because the plastic will be hot.Reshaping





Once all of the plastic pieces are shrunken, use fishing line to tie the pieces together and to attach the pieces to the coat hanger.

Display your art mobile in various ways.  How will you arrange yours?

Mobile Display 1      Mobile Display 2


How This Works?

The #6 plastic or polystyrene works this way because the polymer chains that make up this plastic are naturally bunched up and randomly clumped together.  However, to be used for various products, this plastic is heated, rolled out and then cooled which places the polymer chains in a more orderly configuration.  Heating the plastic again brings it back to it’s original disorderly state which can be shaped into fun mini-sculptures!

What other things can you make by shrinking party cups?

Try jewelry!  Try ornaments!  Try bottle bobbles! The possibilities are endless!

Share some of your creations with us. 


Engineering Paint!

During our Summer Discovery Camp, Experience Engineering, we will be exploring how engineers work to create new products and improve on old ones.  Did you know that there are engineers who have the job of creating new paints and improving on old formulas?  These engineers design paints that are made with polymer binders rather than oils for easier clean up, paints with low or no odor and paints that can be wiped clean with water and a sponge after someone decides to draw a crayon masterpiece on the family room wall.

In spring and summer, creating beautiful pictures with sidewalk chalk can be a great Chalk Artway to pass the time.  However, what do you do when mom parks her car on your blank driveway canvas leaving you with paper as your only artistic surface or when you’ve worn your chalk sticks down to nubs?  Don’t be discouraged, think like a Chemical Engineer and turn your sidewalk chalk bits into paint for a work on paper that will last long after a rain storm!

What You Need:

  • 1 Bit of Sidewalk ChalkSupplies
  • 1 tsp of Water
  • 1 Tbsp. of Water
  • 1 Tbsp. of Glue
  • 2 Ziploc Bags
  • Paintbrush
  • Piece of Paper

What You Do:

Drop a bit of sidewalk chalk into a Ziploc bag

Add 1 tsp of water to the bag and seal it tight

Water to Chalk

Put that bag into the other Ziploc bagChalk Paste

Lay the double bag on the floor and step on the bags until the chalk is smashed into paste


Open both Ziploc bags and add 1 Tbsp. of Glue and 1 Tbsp. of WaterAdd Glue and Water




Seal the bags up and smoosh the mixture until it is all mixed togetherPaint Mixture

Pour the paint mixture into a cup and START CREATING!



What is Happening?

This chalk paint, like all paints, is a suspension.  A suspension is a mixture of tiny particles floating in liquid. The suspended particles are large enough to reflect light Chalk Paintingso they make the mixture look opaque or murky.  A paint suspension has three parts: pigment (particles of color), a solvent (liquid in which the particles float) and a binder (allows the pigment to stick to the painted surface).  In this paint the chalk is the pigment, the water is the solvent and the glue is the binder.  The finished paint mixture looks and acts very similar to tempera paint.

What other dry materials could you use to make paint?  Why not try Kool-Aid?  How about spices like paprika or turmeric?

Start experimenting and show us your creations!

If you live in the Charleston area of West Virginia, join us for Summer Discovery Camp.  A SUPER FUN way to spend your summer vacation!




Butterfly Lifecycle Mobile

Butterflies are beautiful and beneficial.  At the Clay Center we have Education Gardens Clay Center Butterfly Gardewhere we grow both vegetables and plants that attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies.  Why is it important to attract pollinators to a vegetable garden? When you attract pollinators they will help pollinate your vegetable plants like squash and cucumbers that rely on pollinators to help them produce fruit.  Bees make the best pollinators because their legs are shorter, so when they enter the flower to get nectar, their entire body gets covered Butterfly in Gardenwith pollen which is then taken to other flowers and deposited.  Butterflies have longer legs and a proboscis (an elongated sucking mouthpart) that keeps them from getting fully covered in pollen, but their legs and proboscis still pick up some pollen as they go from plant to plant making them beneficial pollinators.

The beauty of butterflies makes them popular in artwork as well as in our gardens.  The process of how a butterfly becomes a beautiful insect with dazzling wings is a work of art in and of itself.  Use this fun butterfly mobile to teach your kids all about the lifecycle of the butterfly!

What You Need:

  • Gallon Milk Jug
  • Simple 3×5 Butterfly ImagesButterfly Lifecycle Mobile
  • String (black and white)
  • Stick
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Beads
  • Mini-Poms
  • Glue
  • Packing Tape
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Permanent Markers

What You Do:

Cut your milk jug into various sections.  Make some pieces large enough to trace your butterfly images, smaller pieces to be cut into leaves and cut other sections into long shapes for flower drawings.

Butterflies lay eggs on the leaves or stems of a food source plant, so when the caterpillar hatches, it will have an available food source.

Egg Section of Butterfly Mobile:

  1. Cut smaller sections of the milk jug into simple leaf shapes Eggs on Leaf
  2. Cut tiny notches in both ends of the leaves to eventually attach them to the string of the mobile
  3. Color the leaf shapes and glue the mini-pompoms onto the leaf

NOTE: you can also use beads for eggs

The caterpillar is a long, worm-like creature patterned in stripes or patches. The caterpillar sheds its skin four times as it grows larger.

Caterpillar Section of Mobile:

  1. Put 2-3 pieces of different colored pipe cleaner togetherCaterpillar
  2. Wrap them around a pencil so they look like a striped caterpillar
  3. Slide the pipe cleaners off the pencil and bend them to give them the appearance of crawling caterpillars

When the caterpillar reaches full size, it attaches itself to a stem or leave with a tab of silk. The fourth and final shed is the chrysalis that the butterfly forms to protect itself as it transforms into a butterfly. It’s easy to think that a chrysalis is something the butterfly makes, like a cocoon, but it’s actually a hard layer of skin. Moths create cocoons, not butterflies.

Chrysalis Section of Mobile:

  1. Roll a section of packing tape into an elongated chubby wadChrysalis
  2. Tie a piece of white string to one end of the packing tape and wrap the string until the entire packing tape wad is covered
  3. Tuck the last end of the string under one of the wraps and tie it. Leave a little bit of string loose for tying the chrysalis to the mobileChrysalis Close



Depending on the species of butterfly, sometimes after days or even months, a butterfly finally emerges from its chrysalis! In this stage of life, butterflies can fly to find food, mate, lay eggs, colonize new habitats and help pollenate plants!

Butterfly/Flower Section of Mobile:

  1. Trace or color the milk jug sections with at least 3 butterfly images and three flower sectionsButterfly Tracing
  2. Cut out the butterflies and flower sections as desired
  3. Cut a 4-5 inch section of pipe cleaner and string a few beads on one end
  4. Wrap the pipe cleaner around the center of the butterfly Making Butterflywith the beads on the front side. Twist the two pipe cleaner ends together at the top and curl them over to make antenna

Completed ButterflyPutting it All Together:

  1. Tie a piece of black string to each end of the stick to make a hanger and to attach your leaves with eggs
  2. Tie three long strings to hang down off the stick to hold the butterflies and flower parts of the mobile
  3. Attach the leaves with eggs by cutting little notches in each end of the leaf and sliding them onto the hanger string
  4. Attach the caterpillars to the stick by tying them with black string or gluing
  5. Tie the chrysalis to the branch using the piece of string you left loose
  6. Attach the butterflies to the end of each hanging string by tying the string to the pipe cleaner body of the butterfly
  7. Attach the flowers by cutting little notches in each end as you did with the leaves
  8. Hang your mobile in a window and enjoy!

– Kayte (mobile designed and assembled by Jamie)






Recycled Wind Chime

Wind chimeSpring is a lovely time of year to sit outside and listen to the sounds of nature.  It can also be a windy time of year. This gives you a perfect opportunity to add to the sounds of nature by making your own wind chime out of stuff you have around your house!

What You Need:

  • 2 Liter Soda BottleSupplies
  • Yarn
  • Paperclips
  • Box cutter
  • Hole puncher
  • Beads, small plastic forks or spoons, colored pasta* or whatever you want to add
  • Mason jar lid rings, aluminum can or any lightweight metal object

*To color pasta, soak dry pasta in 70% isopropyl alcohol and food coloring until you get desired color

What You Do:

1. Cut the top off of the soda bottle and punch four or more holes around the bottom edge

2. Use the box cutter to drill a small hole in the lid of the soda bottle

Cut and punch bottle




3. Put paperclips through the holes on the bottle and tie yarn to the paperclips

4. Pull a piece of yarn through the hole in the bottle cap.  Tie a bead or large knot on each       side of the bottle cap to act as a middle section and hanger for your wind chime.

Paperclip and Tie Yarn      Secure middle and hanger


5. Tie mason jar lid rings, an aluminum can or whatever lightweight metal object to the             center string of yarn and make sure it is positioned in the center of your other wind             chime strings.  This will ensure that the other strings clang into it and make a sound.

Center Section




6. String the outside strands of yarn with beads, colored pasta, small plastic utensils or           whatever you can imagine!

String Yarn with Decorations

Hang your wind chime outside and listen to the beautiful music it makes in the wind.

We want to see what you used to make a recycled wind chime!  Share your ideas with us.


Story Time – Oh No!

Oh no! A poor little frog jumps into a hole and he can’t get out! Will his bk_ohnoanimal friends be able to get him out or will they fall down in the hole too? They better beware of the tiger sleeping very near to the hole. Will the animals be able to help or will they maybe become lunch?

Find out what happens at Wee Wednesday when we read the delightfully, rhyming Oh No! by Candace Fleming on Wednesday, April 2nd.

After the story, stick around to make animal masks.

Which animal will you choose to be?  After making your animal mask, act out your character in the story.  Will you be helpful or try to eat up all the other animals?

Can’t make it to Wee Wednesday?  Make an animal mask and pretend to be that animal.  Do you swing from trees?  Do you hop?  Do you swim? What sounds do you make?

Wee Wednesdays take place every Wednesday at 11am and 1pm for our preschool guests and their caretakers.

– Kayte

Do Rabbits Make Good Friends?

Rabbit and Mouse are best friends. Rabbit always means well, but he always seems to get into trouble. Find out what happens when Mouse lets Rabbit play with his new airplane.  My Friend Rabbit

Join us on Wednesday, February 5 when we read My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann and make paper rabbits.

Do you have a best friend?

What do you like to do together?

Plan something fun with your friend.

Agree to do something they like to do.

Wee Wednesdays take place every Wednesday at 11am and 1pm for our pre-school guests and their caretakers.

– Robin

Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly

Young Henry loves to host cooking shows, but his two year old sCooking with Henry and Elliebellyister is hardly a lovely assistant.  Eleanor, or Elliebelly as Henry calls her, pushes Henry’s limits by insisting they wear pirate hats while cooking and allowing her doll to “swim” in Henry’s creations, but somehow they work it out.

Join us on Wednesday, January 29th as we read Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly by Carolyn Parkhurst.  We are sure to learn about developing patience while having fun cooking up crazy concoctions!

Create your own chef hat using two sheets of 11×17 paper and sChef Hattaples! 

Cut one sheet of paper lengthwise into 3x17in. strips, measure “the chef’s” head and staple the strips together to make a band for the base of the hat.  Fan-fold the second 11×17 sheet of paper and staple it to the band to make a tall chef hat.  Wear the hat while cooking up some fun in the kitchen!    


Wee Wednesdays take place every Wednesday at 11:00 and 1:00 for our pre-school guests and their caregivers.