Ask Holly: Jazzing Up School Projects

Have you ever been to your kids (fill in the blank) fair where the auditorium is crammed with projects of all kinds? There tend to be many clearly thought out, designed and 98% executed by the parent. Of course it was me who walked up to one of these proud parents and said, “Wow finally one project that was clearly done by the student. Good job.” At this point the parent’s face falls as I have ruined his (not his child’s) big night.  I thought the kid did the project, I swear.

Snark aside. The projects should be done by the student. End of story.

Last year my daughter’s end of the year assignment for 3rd grade was to do a report on an animal of her choice. She picked the koala bear and we talked about how to make her project interesting. This is where the argument starts about why can’t we just do things like all of the other families. Fast forward to hours of hard work on her part, which earned her an “A” and her super-star teacher Mrs. Gorcica raving about the project and asking to keep it. My daughter was beaming. So this post is for you Mrs. G!

Materials for a Cut-out Report:

  • Card-stock
  • Drawing supplies
  • Self laminating sheets 1 or 2
  • Hole punch reinforcement labels  (in the label aisle)
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • A book ring ( in the paper clip aisle)

Step One: If your child is artistic have her/him draw a cover on a 8″ 1/2 x 11″ piece of card-stock and cut out the shape. For the non-artistic child I would suggest blowing up and printing out a large image for the cover. Do an image search and type in the name of the subject for photos.

Step Two: After your child’s research is done trace the shape of the cover on as many sheets of card-stock your child will need for their information.

Step Three: If writing their information out by hand, trace boxes and lines on the cut out card-stock with a clear drafting triangle and pencil. This is a great tool for making straight boxes and straight lines. Now have them write out their information and number their pages. If your child likes to type they could do so, print, cut and tape on their research boxes. TIP: If your child had more information than needed have them include the extra information on the back of the pages as “*Cool Facts”.

Step Four: Follow the instructions included with the self laminating sheets and laminate the front cover and back cover if you have one.

Step Five: Put the pages in order and, using a hole punch, put a hole at the top of each page so the pages stay in shape of the cover. Reinforce the pages with clear reinforcement lables and put all of the pages through a book ring.

The key during this project was to guide my child, not do the project for her. Cutting, hole punching, laminating, making text boxes with straight lines, etc… were all things I helped with. The drawing, writing,  and research were all for her to do. While we worked on the report she would talk about the animal which made her ask new questions. We would then stop and walk to the computer and type the question right into our search engine. We learned sometimes you have to look at more than one site to get the right information. Good tip for adults too.

Great tools for great projects:

  • Tulip puffy paint (also great for book sock decoration)
  • A clear drafting triangle 45/90
  • Self laminating sheets
  • Clear report covers
  • Double sided tape
  • Glitter glue
  • A large set of thin markers
  • Neon dot stickers
  • T-square
  • A package of multi-colored card-stock

These are the basics, and of course for any poster, you will need poster board or foam core. Foam core comes in a wide range of colors but it gets expensive and is very difficult to cut. Cutting should be done by an adult with a straight razor, X-Acto or utility knife and a T-square. Never use  scissors.

Jazz up posters by cutting out the edges all around or top and bottom in a pattern. For a water themed project try a wave pattern on blue poster board. If they are doing a nature or jungle themed project using green poster board cut a grass border. We used simple neon dot stickers on our border and dots of puffy paint. Glitter glue works as well.

After taping photos onto posters,  make a border using a pencil then apply puffy paint over the pencil or trace with a marker creating a frame.

My thought is that when a child takes pride in their projects that pride carries over to the next project inspiring new ideas, excitement and creativity. I know most of us groan when we find out about one of these big projects thinking about the time lost on our weekends. Let’s rethink time lost and help your child get creative for their next project. Have fun with it and them, think of it as quality time gained!

All materials (except puffy paint) available at Staples
Puffy paint availible at 
AC Moore and Michael’in the fabric paint section

Share with us any fun ideas for school projects you have done with your children.

Questions? Just Ask Holly


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