Friday, September 12, 2008

A Colorful Day

Yes, it is the second week of school and therefore time for an in-service day!

Since the kids were out of school today, we were going to try to go to the Philadelphia Zoo. But then a questionable weather report let us to reconsider those plans and we ended up going to the Crayola Factory in Easton, PA. Our friend, Jake, joined us for the day.

It took about 90 minutes to get to Easton from our place, which we extended a bit with a stop at Friendly's for lunch. Yum. SuperMelt.

We ended up rolling into town around 1:30, with the Factory closing at 3, we had to manage our time well!! Luckily, the kids have been there before on school field trips, so they were reasonably focused on what they wanted to do.

First stop was the machines that give you FREE markers and crayons!! The admission price ($9.50) includes 3 tokens, each of which get you a marker, a little box of crayons, or a little pack of Model Magic clay. My lucky companions each got 4 (!) tokens since I shared my allotment among the three of them.

I think their favorite activity was painting with melted crayons. The melted wax is in huge crayon shaped kiosk-ish things and the kids dip enormous Q-tips into the wax and drip, splatter, and paint with it. Very fun. Especially the silver wax, which almost lured me into making my own project!

After that we moved on to making hats. Just a piece of construction paper, with one edge folded up (about 2 inches) and then cut into fringes. They decorated the rest of the paper with markers, crayons, stamps, and fancy schmancy paper scraps (I used gold). Then the paper was taped into a cone, so that the fringe makes a snappy little brim. Fun!

Then the kids enjoyed writing on a glass wall with markers. Sanctioned grafitti!

Next stop was the "ball thing" where the kids put plastic balls into a bin, they are pushed up a big corkscrew onto a track up near the ceiling and then dropped down a zigzag maze...and then they drop out the bottom and the whole things starts over again. I think this is intended for toddlers, but my companions - 6 and almost 9 - could have stayed there all day if I hadn't pried them away.

THEN (there's a lot of stuff to do here!) they made windsocks. They stamped pictures on paper, then put the paper through the (tah dah!) drying oven (which was surely the most intriguing part of the project, Tater and Jake put their papers through twice, just to make sure they were REALLY dry). Then they glued streamers to the bottom edge, taped the whole deal into a big cylinder and put a ribbon across the top for hanging. Socktastic!

In case you can't tell, at this point I was holding 4 hats, 3 windsocks, and 3 bags of markers and crayons...good thing we were getting close to the end!

THEN paper bag puppets. At this point, Jake, who is apparently not a big craft person, turns to me and says "When are we going to do something fun?"

So, next stop is the animation studio. They have plastic animals and a stop-motion camera. The kids weren't so interested. But while they were writing on the floor with chalk (the next station over) I made a fascinating film that went like this...Sheep walking across the counter...Sheep with a pig on his back...with a turtle on HIS back...all walking away...

I have a serious future in film, I think.

Finally we got to the last stop, making things with clay. Jake was d-u-n at this we just took the clay to do at home. The place is closing in 15 minutes. Jake says, "I want to do the boats before we leave." What boats?

Well, after a bit of asking around, we figure out that the National Canal Museum is upstairs. And they have a big train (Jake is a HUGE train fan) and an intricate working model of a whole canal system with locks and boats and water...very cool.

At this point the place is closing in 10 minutes...we run for the trains. We run back to the canals...Tater starts to cry because they won't let us in to see the canal...10 minutes people!!! I sort of guilt them into letting us in, but the woman there says they can't put any boats in (!) Come with me here.... So she finally put a boat in and speedily showed them how to work the boats through the different levels of water (which is actually way cooler than it sounds). And then they essentially booted us out.


So, off to the gift shop we went, for the traditional fraying of the nerves. Faced with a $5 budget, my children essentially lost their minds...asking how much each and every item in the store was. Eventually we settled on huge markers for the boys and a roll-on sticker thing for the Sprout.

And then we were back in the car and headed back home.

Overall, I would totally recommend going to the Crayola Factory. I would suggest that you allow yourself at least 2 hours so that you can check out the Canal Museum as well, which is likely to make the whole thing more satisfying if your kids aren't all that into the crafting. If they are into crafting, be ready to carry a bunch of stuff!!

The Factory offers a great opportunity to try out lots of Crayola products and see some of their newest stuff. There is also an actual presentation of how crayons are made. Since my posse had already seen that and we were operating on limited time, we skipped it this time. But I do recommend seeing it. The whole process is remarkably more manual than you might expect.

The store is fairly awesome and includes the world's largest crayon (huge, blue). There is a big bin of crayons in the middle and one of the most fun (although not most budget friendly) souvenirs is a tin that the kids can fill with whatever crayons they want from the bin. ($7.99 for 70 crayons...which seems like a lot to me). They used to have smaller tins and we did this on a previous visit, but it was over budget for today.

So now we need a plan for the next in-service in October. We are thinking about pumpkin picking and a hayride!

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