Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Advent Calendar: Hidden Worlds

TP cardboard rolls wrapped with microscopy images

The advent calendar series continues in 2018. In past years the calendar theme has included ball gowns, a time machine, haute couture, the mega terrific fabuloso surprise ball, and more. This year the focus (pardon the pun) is on the hidden worlds all around us. 

Step one was to collect a lot of my favorite recyclables, cardboard toilet paper tubes, which you can fashion into little boxes simply by folding in the ends. You'll need one tube for each day of your advent calendar. Because I have two recipients, I needed to collect 48.

Supplies: a ton of toilet paper tubes
The next step was to collect a lot of visually striking, funny, creepy, fascinating, weird microscopy images (photos taken using a microscope). I made this stage unnecessarily labor-intensive by tediously searching through microscopy images online and downloading the ones I thought were intriguing. I then used photoshop to resize the images, add titles to identify what they are, and add the number of the day on which they are to be opened.

Step Two: Wrap and glue microscopy images around TP tubes

In retrospect, I realized I could have saved myself a huge amount of time and effort by simply snagging a used photo book of striking microscopic images from Amazon for less than $5, and adding the daily numbers with marker pens. Images could also be identified using marker pens.

However, my do-it-yourself approach assured that I was able to include a fair number of fascinatingly bizarre images with a high amount of kid appeal, including creatures that live on your face and worms that live in your eyelashes.

Remembering the creepiness appeal factor

For the daily calendar surprises, I took advantage of a sale on a set of 48 kid-friendly mounted slides offering fascinating peeks into the hidden world. They're mounted on plastic instead of glass, have rounded corners, and clear labels on each slide. I needed to make two calendars, so this gave me 24 slides per calendar, one for each day leading up to Christmas. In addition to a slide per day, each little TP box also contains a traditional foil-wrapped chocolate coin.

Sample from slide set

Note that the images on the outside of the calendar boxes do not correspond to the slides within the boxes. The idea is that they are getting a double-peek into the hidden world each day: one via the image on the box, the other via the slide inside the box.

To enable them to view the slides, I included a pre-advent gift to be opened a few days before the calendar kick-off on December 1. It contains a budget, easy-to-use microscope for kids that was well-reviewed on Amazon. Happily, I have an Amazon credit card that racks up points, and discovered I had enough to cover both the microscope and the slide set, so the whole calendar ended up as a no-cost project.

Kid friendly, dirt cheap microscope

The next step was to string the little TP boxes into a garland for each recipient, using scraps of fabric and ribbon I had in my sewing supplies. I like to mix up the numbers on the garland so that each day of advent involves a hunt for the right box.

Creating a garland

One of many ways to hang the garland


The calendars have been packaged up, ready to be shipped to two little girls in Colorado. Having done my bit for the holidays, STEM education, and human perception, I am now ready for a long winter's nap.

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