When I was in third grade, I became Queen of Dioramas. My class had to team up with a partner, read a chapter book, and then create a diorama about the story. Then they had to present their book report to the class and show off what they had created. My partner was my best guy friend that year, Todd L., and we chose Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. Not only was our diorama the best in the class – it had a chocolate river, fake grass, trees, flower beads, and the great glass elevator with eleventy-million buttons hand-drawn – but we also brought in a pan of homemade fudge for the class. We said that Mr. Wonka himself had sent it along. (Yes, that was when I learned that going the extra mile gets you a lot in return.)
Last week, Bee came home with news that she had a project to work on. She was extra enthusiastic, I suspect, because the sting of lying to us about her last project was still floating around inside her wee little mind. (Good.) Bee had to choose one of three projects about Charlotte’s Web, and while I was sort of annoyed at first that we had another major project due with just two weeks! of school left, I pitched my irritation right out the window when Bee happily proclaimed that she had decided to do the diorama.
Dioramas for the win!
So Friday we popped into the local craft store and picked up a tube of small plastic farm animals, found a package of buttons with a spider in it, and grabbed some felt and miniature popsicle sticks. (At the time, I was envisioning gluing them to a facade and painting them to represent the barn, but Bee’s idea was much cooler.) Then we went home and got started.
I wanted to have the box on its side, like a traditional diorama, and kind of do a side view with half being the barn and doorway and then part of the barnyard outside. But Bee refused. And since there was a rather stern note about the kids being the ones to build the diorama, I figured I better let Bee do what she wanted. So Bee created a barn and barnyard and then asked me to help her tape them together. Then we made some barn doors. (And suddenly I was glad I let Gracie talk me into the extra red felt. Because I wasn’t counting on so big a structure.)
I helped Bee measure the felt to the barn walls, all the while assuring her we weren’t cheating if I helped just a little.
I drew lines onto the felt for her to cut out the necessary pieces, and then she glued them on. After she also attached dirt to the barnyard and a floor to the barn, Bee patiently figured out where all of her animals needed to go. Wilbur, the geese, the horse and cow (not strictly needed per the instructions, but we had them and they were in the story), Charlotte, Fern, and Mr. Zuckerman (also not strictly needed). Fern was a bit of a problem – she was required, but we couldn’t find a small girl cheap enough for me to justify purchasing. So we “borrowed” a Polly Pocket dress, stuck a miniature popsicle stick in it, and made her some felt hair. Ta da!
After Bee had improved the barn doors, made a garden, and figured out where everyone needed to be, she laid out sticks where her fence pieces needed to go so we would know how many we needed to make. I showed her how to lay two cross pieces close together, then attach two vertical fence posts with some glue, and set her to making ten sets. While those were drying, we made Charlotte dangle from the cross beam in the doorway with a bit of string, and made the rope swing that Fern so loved.
Our last bit of genius was to figure out Templeton. The instructions clearly stated we needed a rat. The problem was, there was no rat to be had. I knew we had one in our Legos (from a Harry Potter set), but I didn’t want to risk losing Scabbers for keeps. So we thought and thought and thought. And eventually came up with the solution: a raising and a tiny bit of string for a tail. Bee glued him in, and ta da! We were nearly done. All that was left was to use play-doh to create supports for the fence posts.
Bee was awfully proud of her finished product, and so was I! She planned her project, clearly communicated what she needed from me, and sat down and executed her plan without any prodding or cajoling from me. I didn’t even have to remind her to stay on task! She still has to stand up and present her project to the class, but I know that her confidence in how awesome her barnyard is will carry her through.
Awesome job defending the family title, Queen Bee!