Creating Northern Lights/ Aurora Borealis Effects with First Graders

May 20, 2013

homemade northern lights

When Mrs. Kavney’s first grade class wanted to make an aurora borealis for their Alaska project I went home and experimented with all sorts of materials to see if I could come up with something reasonable. After many failed attempts I am happy to say that I have a lovely technique to share. By the way, I am doing my best to spell aurora borealis correctly throughout this post, but forgive me if I slip up. The spell check doesn’t get it.

homemade northern lights starting with marker

Using a #4 coffee filter and markers

The first step barely hints at how the end product will turn out. I opened up #4 white coffee filters and asked the students to decorate them with bands of colored markers. I provided Crayola Gel markers, because I like their hues, but any water soluble marker will do.

Bands of Color for Aurora Borealis, waiting to become spectacular

Bands of Color for Aurora Borealis, waiting to become spectacular

You might have noticed the protective shiny paper on the work area.  If I didn’t have this freezer paper around, I would have used waxed paper under the colored paper.

northern lights waiting to become spectacular

Lightly Dampening

To blend the rough edges of the strokes of the markers, students gave their colored coffee filters a light coat of water, then….

Smooching the colors around

Smooching the colors around

… they slipped their little hands into plastic bags and squeezed and smooched the colors around, to create streaks and blends. This is when the WOW effect began to emerge.

Drying

Drying

Our Northern Lights now needed to dry. This took only of couple of hours.

Creating creases

Creating creases

 Students then pinched together a few little folds,to mimic the rays of light streaking down from the heavens.

The added advantage of this step is that  the project took a step away from the original shape of the coffee-filter.

Creased

Creased

Light application of white glue to the back of the paper

Light application of white glue to the back of the paper

Notice that we’re still using the freezer paper to protect our work surface. Here, a thin coat of white glue (like Elmer’s Glue) is lightly applied to the BACK of our Northern Lights paper.

Into the Book

Into the Book

Now, the colored, creased, and glued paper is laid, unglued side up, upon the black paper of the final project.   The  glue that strayed on to the black paper virtually disappeared after drying.

Streaks of Glitter Glue

Streaks of Glitter Glue

One last touch, which had to dry overnight, was to use tubes of glitter glue to create a bit more drama. I limited each borealis to three or four glitter-glue streaks.

Northern Lights behind the mountains

Northern Lights behind the mountains

Students then cut out a silhouette of snowy mountains. Finally we were done with THIS part of the project.

Blue Northern Lights

Alaska book with Tern

Alaska book with a Tern

Visit my previous post for more of a look at the finished product.

2 Responses to “Creating Northern Lights/ Aurora Borealis Effects with First Graders”

  1. Mary Molloy, Secondary teacher Says:

    As I volunteer to teach simple bookbinding to young children at MOTAT (Museum of Transport and Technology) on Sundays and school holidays, what a joy to find some new inspirations to include. Many thanks for sharing your ideas.

    Like


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