The idea of creating small fanciful worlds and imagining magical visitors is fascinating to most children. As the chill settles in here in New England, the idea of creating “critter houses” and mini-feeding stations for our furred and feathered friends seemed fitting.
In this project our intended visitors were hungry animals and birds, so we selected food options that would be of interest to them, coating sticks with peanut butter and birdseed. This project was the highlight of our early winter garden session. Students were especially excited to come back the following week to discover that their “critter house” had been thoroughly enjoyed.
What you need:
• Lots of natural materials: sticks, leaves, dried flowers, herbs, nuts…
• Peanut butter, sunflower butter, or bacon fat
• Trays for birdseed (I use recycled meat trays)
• Paper towels for easy cleanup
What to do:
We began imagining what creatures might enjoy our houses or little feeding stations. In addition to the possible fairy, we talked about birds, squirrels, skunks, racoons, and deer. We imagined what it would look like in the gardens when they would arrive. We concluded that the garden at night would feel much different than it does during the day!
The next step was gather LOTS of natural materials for the houses. Students found sticks, leaves, herbs, dried flowers, and seeds. The materials were placed in a big bowl to share.
Now for the fun, messy, part! Students dipped their sticks into jars of bacon fat (an alternative to peanut butter for a nut allergy) and rolled them in trays filled with birdseed. It began to look like a popsicle perfect for our feathered friends!
Once sticks were coated, next came the architectural design element! Students had a blast creating teepees, log homes, and castles! Even simple arrangements of sticks and leaves had an air of natural beauty. Using found seeds, nuts, and dried herbs and flowers, students decorated their critter houses.
The students loved that there is no right way to make a critter house. Some students stacked their sticks, some piled them, while others simply placed them in their own creative arrangement.
Finally, it was time to find the perfect place in the garden for each critter house. Much deliberation was held about where they should be placed. But in the end, each child found a special place to put their creation that helped nourish visiting creatures.
For this project, imagination is key! To get the kiddos excited, we began by reading Fairy Houses by Tracy Kane. This got them thinking about the idea of making a place for special visitors. It is also a beautifully illustrated and captivating story.