How to Pin an Insect

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How to Pin an Insect by Amber

At the risk of loosing part of my readership, I have a few confessions to make…..the first is that this is not my first blog.

My first blog, swallowed somewhere in the darkness of internet cloud storage, was a digital archive called, “Tiny Architects.” I didn’t work on it for very long. I’m sure you’re envisioning a sweet little blog about kids building and playing, making their own stuff, designing…….actually “Tiny Architects,” was a reference to another breed of little builders…..insects. Which is where my second confession comes in: I love, and am deeply fascinated by insects…….

Ichneumon Wasps on the Appalachain Trail by Amber

 

As a kid, I was an avid collector. I reared monster silk worm caterpillars, and staged sleep overs in our camper trailer with a white sheet and black light to attract night flyers at the back of our family’s sheep farm.

A good portion of every summer was spent in pursuit of the elusive and luminescent Green Tiger beetle; not to mention the lightening fast, Green Darner dragonfly. Once I was thrown into a tree (butterfly net in hand) by our ill-tempered pony during an attempt to ride him bare-back to one of my favorite collecting spots.

In the back of my mind, I always thought that I would someday become an entomologist, and truth be told, maybe someday I still will. Until then, I feel it’s time to begin to share my bug collecting passion with my young daughters, and hopefully you too, as insect collecting relates to cardboard… and hey! you will be surprised…..

Bug in the hand by Amber

 

First of all a few notes on the evolution of entomology. While insects are some of the most populous creatures on earth, I no longer believe that it’s a good idea to continue the old catch and kill practices that I learned as a kid. Save that job for real entomologists.

For one, we now have the ability to capture beautiful images of insects with smart phones and digital cameras. Photos last longer and I would argue are even more informative because they can capture the insect in it’s natural habitat, practicing it’s natural behavior.

If your child is an insect lover, I highly recommend the gift of a child-friendly digital camera with a good macro feature. It could also become a springboard for them to document their collection online in a blog, or through some other kind of digital format.

That being said, I do think it’s still valuable for children to handle and examine both living and deceased insects and I think it’s still entirely possible to do both of those things with a conservationist mindset. When it comes to live insects, we practice catch and release, and the girls use small nets I made them from re-purposed Badminton rackets. If we find something really interesting we observe it for no more than a day, and then release it again.

Badminton Butterfly Net by Amber

 

In terms of collecting, we have amassed a great little collection of insects that were found dead during various walks and bike rides. Those finds have been more than adequate for building a specimen collection.

Our prized creatures have been sitting in a small jar at the back of our freezer for quite a while now though, so if you’re ready to learn how to pin an insect, right here, right now, we’re primed to get started……..of course, we’ll need to build a little something out of cardboard first.

Pinning Insects by AmberHow to Pin an Insect at The Cardboard Collective

 

A spreading board is used to get the body of the insect into the correct position. The wings should rest at their natural level so that they can be arranged and left to harden. First put a pin through the body of the insect. (Pinning position diagrams here) Next, use insect pins and strips of paper to gently leverage the wings into the desired arrangement. Never puncture a wing with a needle as it will damage your specimen. Extra information about pinning different types of insects HERE

To make the spreading board:

  • Cut a base piece 14cm x 20cm.
  • Glue 2 more piece of cardboard (6.5 cm x 20 cm) on top so that you create a gap that is 1-1.5 cm wide and about 1 cm deep.

If your insect’s body has hardened, it’s a good idea to sandwich it between 2 pieces of a dampened cloth and wait (usually overnight) for the body to soften and become easier to work with.

Pinning Insects by Amber

 

This is a collection for my daughters who are 2 and 4, so we’ve tried to keep it simple. I haven’t added labels, (but you can) And we did not arrange our insects by scientific order. The girls chose the groupings of “Black Beetles,”  “Shiny Green Beetles,” and ” Bees.”

To mount the collection, we found an old container that held craft supplies, and glued cardboard to the base so we could stick our pins in it. To preserve the insects and protect them from an infestation, make sure you have a tight fitting lid for your case. Add cedar oil either on a cotton ball nestled in a plastic cap or by wiping the insides of your wooden display case with it.

Pinning Insects by AmberBeetle in the hand by Amber

 

This is just our little starter collection, but it’s fun to remember when we found these  insects and have funny conversations about what ants eat, and where caterpillars sleep at night.

I hope I can nurture in the girls the same love for nature that my parents gave me, even if they don’t go as far as someday staging a bug collecting sleep-over. I’ve already got the perfect one planned.

Cardboard Playground circa 1967

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LIFE Magazine - November 3, 1967 (Volume 63, Number 18) 

Big Play back top Rescan
LIFE Magazine - November 3, 1967 (Volume 63, Number 18) Page 3 LIFE Magazine - November 3, 1967 (Volume 63, Number 18) Page 2LIFE Magazine - November 3, 1967 (Volume 63, Number 18) Page 1

LIFE Magazine – November 3, 1967 (Volume 63, Number 18) Modern Living — The Big Play in Paper, from Giraffes to Gazebos

Wow, check out this 1967 LIFE magazine article entitled, “The Big Play in Paper”, that was lovingly rescued and scanned by my friend Miss Meryl Ann Butler during a recent Spring cleaning.

Meryl Ann and I met while taking online classes from Diane Gilleland at Crafty Pod, (I learned almost everything I know about blogging from those classes) and I got to know Meryl Ann by her spit-your-tea-out-hilarious sense of humor and from the really helpful stuff she posted in the forums (she has a long and distinguished career in the craft industry.) She is the author of the book 90 Minute Quilts among, many others and she has an intensely joyful, vibrant style with a personality to match.

Meryl Ann recently sent me an email message explaining that:
“This clipping was in my “morgue file” which was a file we had in the olden days before electronic files… with clippings of images that might inspire future artwork. My file had thousands of clippings, and I just threw most of it away a couple of days ago – a hard thing to do, since I had collected images for a long time – well, at least from 1967, lol!  I only saved a couple of them, and of course the second I saw this I thought of you, Amber!”

How very thoughtful, and how entirely awesome. Enjoy a trip back to the glory days of cardboard………………….we’ll relive them again soon?

Loose Parts Play & Cardboard Totem Boxes

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When I released the Totem Box pattern a few weeks ago,  I alluded to the fact that this was a design that I used to manage the “little” toys in our house, but the thought behind the design goes a little deeper.

Quite a few months ago, I made an online friend named Allie who writes the blog, Bakers and Astronauts (as well as Play Lab). Allie’s blog is hands down my favorite website about early childhood and inspired play, and it was Allie who first introduced me to the Theory of Loose Parts, which got me exploring with my own children.

“The Theory of Loose Parts Play” was proposed by Simon Nicholson back in the 1970’s. His theory is this: “In any environment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it.”

When I started thinking about adapting Loose Parts Play inside my home, there were  a few things to rethink. First of all when Nicholson speaks about number and kind of variables, I think he ultimately takes his inspiration from one place, and one place only; the truly wild outdoors. Outside loose parts can fall from the sky, be dug from the ground, plucked from a branch, or drop from a bird’s wing. The sounds, textures, and  smells are all ever-changing and we could never, ever recreate such an amazing sensory experience  inside a house, even with dump trucks of glitter.

I had to watch my daughters play a lot to better understand how I could compete with mother nature and increase the number of “variables” (not necessarily the amount of stuff) within our home play environment. Over time, I noticed three categories of objects emerge that they “needed” to make their play more cohesive:

Loose Parts: hand-held objects that assume imagined identities through play.

Containers: objects used by my daughters for collecting, sorting and transporting loose parts as well as defining small spaces.

Expandable Parts: objects used by my daughters to construct and define large spaces

Now, whenever my daughters engage in loose-parts-style play, I try to make sure that all of these elements are available to them. When they are absent, tragic things have happened. Entire shelves of puzzles have been mined for loose parts, fabric and sewing notions have gone missing and Loose Parts Play has ravaged my home like a wildfire, consuming hours of my time in little loose parts cleanup. Although these ideas are only my own expansion on someone else’s theory, so far they have proven true for our sample size of two. I’m curious to hear about your observations. What drives the loose parts engine in your home or classroom?

Enjoy our family recipe for Loose Parts Play (indoors):

(Substitute as necessary)

Loose Parts
wooden blocks
plastic construction blocks
plastic bottle caps
acorns
shells
stones
cardboard tubes
clothespins
handkerchiefs
fabric scraps
stones
coins

Containers                                                                                                                    Sorting
Totem Boxes
egg cartons
cardboard fruit trays
graduated boxes

Transporting
small paper bags
child sized buckets
baskets
boxes

Collecting
nesting eggs (wooden or plastic)
Matryoshka dolls
jewelry boxes
matchboxes
small recycled plastic jars
small tins with lids

    Expandable Parts                                                                                                          Textiles
large scarves
large fabric pieces
tissue paper
newspaper
softened Kraft paper
child-sized carpets or rugs
blankets

“Fences”
cushions
interlocking cardboard pieces
over-sized, lightweight blocks,
Hula Hoops
jump ropes
long, lightweight cardboard tubes
fold-up cardboard screens

Cardboard Messages: Teapot

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cardboard sign gift card father's Day Mother's (mug by my college buddy Jeremy http://www.oguskyceramics.com/shop)

We’re planning a little adventure for Father’s Day….something involving a bike ride and a picnic I think? I saw this idea in a book called, “Japanese-style Interior of Living” that I checked out from the library. I thought it was a sweet alternative to a card.

What’s your plan for Father’s Day? Are you going on an adventure?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Beautiful DIY Cardboard Storage is HERE!

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Cardboard Totem Boxes: pattern and video tutorial https://www.etsy.com/listing/152961516/cardboard-totem-boxes-pattern-and-video?ref=shop_home_active

Cardboard Totem Boxes: pattern and video tutorial https://www.etsy.com/listing/152961516/cardboard-totem-boxes-pattern-and-video?ref=shop_home_active

Cardboard Totem Boxes: pattern and video tutorial https://www.etsy.com/listing/152961516/cardboard-totem-boxes-pattern-and-video?ref=shop_home_active

All I can say, is it’s a great feeling to start with an idea, work with it for more than 6 months, and get to this place.

I’m so excited to share this pattern with you! It started basically as a way to solve a problem I was having:
How do I organize my kid’s toys? (the little ones)
which led to other problems:
How can I make something that’s just right for them?
How can I make it out of cardboard?
How can I make it strong?
How can I make it recyclable?
How can I make it beautiful?
Well, curiosity can lead you down a long and winding path.
Mine included a re-acquaintance with high school geometry, learning more about photography and lighting, the search for affordable copyright free music, video editing, cardboard sourcing, explorations in color and pattern (ultimately inspired by the divine Japanese kimono), tool and material testing and lots and lots of watching kids play (the best part)!
I ended up with Totem Boxes.

A set of sculptural stacking boxes (the base of one box fits the top of another) that double as a nightstand, stool, ottoman or table and stool set for children. You can leave them plain, or decoupage them with decorative paper.

What do you do with them?

Put your favorite stuff inside. Yarn, yo-yos, matchbox cars and trucks, Legos, rubber stamps, fancy hats, scarves, alphabet magnets, musical instruments, play-dough, cookie cutters, wooden blocks…

I don’t exactly understand the magic, but my kids love cleaning up with the Totem Boxes. They make sorting the toys like another way to play.  You can easily move the boxes to where the mess is because they are modular, and then stack them up as you go. They look good sitting in the corner of your room, if you do nothing else. To me, they are functional sculpture.

And they’re not just for kids. Someday when I’m a knitter, I’m going to make a set with a hole on the side for the yarn to feed out while I knit. I’ll prop up my heels on the boxes as I relax and make gorgeous socks….

But are they durable enough for kids to use?

Months of testing and strength to support the sitting weight of a 150lb. adult makes me say YES.

What do I need to make them?

You will need lots of strong cardboard (like the kind that banana boxes or diaper boxes are made out of) and basic supplies like a pencil, white glue, a metal ruler, binder clips or clothespins and a utility knife. You will also need access to the internet, a computer and a printer to print out your pattern pieces and directions.

How long does it take?

Anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour for the first box, but after making about 20 of them, I’ve got it down to about 30 minutes a box (without decoupage). Best thought of as a weekend project. Say, if you wanted to make an amazing gift for your 2-5 year old niece or nephew’s birthday.

Where can I buy the pattern?

The pattern costs $12 and is currently available in my Etsy Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/cardboardcollect

It includes instructional PDFs in US Standard and Metric with written directions and a pictorial guide with links to 3 original video tutorials. The elementary school teacher in me did my best to appeal to audio and visual learners, so if you get frustrated by traditional patterns, fear not.