Penguin Building 101

It has been absolutely freezing these past couple of weeks. Remember how cold it was back in November? We certainly do, at St. John’s Wood the winter was blisteringly cold. That might go some-way to explain why we decided to pick penguins as a theme for our Papier Mâché Extravaganza. It was just good timing that David Tenant was on TV with his PenguinCam.

Papier Mache Penguin plans - St John's Wood Library, February 2013While we gathered animal conservation books for displays, penguin DVDs for check-outs and spread the word at our Under 5’s events and with posters around the library – it was my job to create the frame for our Penguin.

The head was easy. Papier mâché a balloon with a few layers and leave to dry. The actual body was made with an n-shaped coat-hanger frame, to which I added ‘ribs’ of stiff newspaper rolls. When the whole thing was vaguely penguin-shaped I gave it an initial layer of papier mâché to cover any access to the wire underneath and give a base for the children to build layers upon.

Once we had the frame – we were good to go! The Extravaganza took place over the half-term week, starting Monday 18 February when the children were invited to papier mâché the body and feet, with lots of penguin-themed puzzles and colouring-in sheets to occupy those who didn’t want to get their hands all gluey.

Papier Mache Penguin in progress - St John's Wood Library, February 2013Speaking of sticky situations – we almost had to end the event early on the first day. The sheer number of children who had come to coat the penguin in papier mâché was extraordinary and the penguin soon began to sag under the weight of glue-soaked newspaper strips (hence her slightly odd final posture) and the so-far nameless penguin had to be escorted away. Thankfully the ever-resourceful Stuart created a miniature papier mâché penguin event on the fly so no one went home disappointed.

On Tuesday we tried again. The morning was spent hastily repairing the shape, but with some careful supervision we kept the penguin out and built up the layers over the four hours of the event. We even managed to add the flippers and a beak.

The penguin spent Wednesday drying, but we had another event to keep the children occupied.

Thursday was the day our penguin was painted! We only had 10 brushes but that was more than enough – children either shared the brushes or took it in turns, watching a penguin video or doing a puzzle while waiting for their go.
Finally, after three days worth of penguin-related fun, we had a completely painted life-sized papier mâché penguin. This picture shows its transition.

Papier Mache Penguin Extravaganza at St John's Wood Library, February 2013

All that was left was to name him (or her) and we asked the children to submit their suggestions over the weekend – we received many, from Napoleon to Perseus, Pablo to Pierre, even suggestions like Arnold or Chess were offered. However, we settled on Polo. Polo the Penguin. With Wendy Penguin coming in a close second.

Finally, a big big thank you to everyone who came and participated. Thank you to all who added a little paint or papier mâché here and there. Please come and check out Polo in her new corner of the library – we even have plans to redecorate that corner to make it more penguin-themed in her honour and – who knows – we might even be creating another Papier Mâché Extravaganza sometime in the future. Watch this space.

[Shaun]

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One response to “Penguin Building 101

  1. Pingback: Into the next millennium | Books & the City

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