Design a Miniature Float

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Click to enlarge imageNo one knows for sure when parades began, but we can look at ancient artwork for evidence of people walking or marching together in processions. Often organized to celebrate special occasions or festivals, parades also were held to mark religious events. In the United States, military parades are staged to honor war veterans and to celebrate patriotic occasions such as Independence Day, also known as the Fourth of July.

Maybe you've seen a parade at Disney World or in your hometown, but at the very least, you've probably watched one on television. Some of the most famous include the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Rose Bowl Parade. Of course, Mardi Gras in New Orleans wouldn't be the same without a parade. In that city, such events go on for twelve days, and they last from early morning till after sundown!

In addition to people marching, sometimes animals, such as horses, appear in a parade. Music plays an important part, too, as bands help the marchers keep time and walk together. Finally, no parade would be complete without floats. In fact, the use of floats in parades dates back to ancient Greece.

The foundation of the float is a wagon or flat platform with wheels. Designers use this base on which to express the theme of the parade. A theme is a subject or the main idea the event celebrates or honors. Often costing thousands of dollars to create, a float can be made of anything ranging from crepe paper to live flowers and plants.

You can create a small version of a float with materials you'll find around the house. We'll make the base for our float using a shoebox and some gift wrap and aluminum foil. The other materials with which you design the float will depend on your theme. Reusing a shoebox and other items will help save money, energy, natural resources, and landfill space.

You Will Need:

How to:

First, choose a theme for your float. This will determine the colors and the decorating materials you'll need. Visit Kidskonnect to find lots of information that will help with the subject you select. Topics covered include animals, states, countries, history, holidays, famous people, science, and social studies.
After you've chosen a theme, you're ready to start creating a miniature float. The first step is to cover the shoebox. For now, set aside the lid. We'll use the bottom of the box as the platform or area that will be decorated, so it won't be necessary to cover the inside. Use something like a large scrap of plain gift wrap for the covering.
  Measure the width and length of the top, and cut a piece of paper the same size. Set aside. Measure the height, and add two inches to this number. Now measure all around the outside. Cut a piece of paper that equals these measurements. If necessary, use shorter scraps, and piece them together.
  Place the box on its side. Starting at a short end, apply glue stick to the box. Lay the long paper so that an inch extends both above and below the end. Continue gluing the paper on the long side, short end, and the other long side. Clip the corners on the top and bottom. Apply glue, and fasten the tabs to the bottom. Glue the remaining paper to the inside of the box. 
Turn the box with the opening face down. Take the rectangular paper you first cut, and glue it to cover the bottom. To finish, we'll use the lid to create a back for the float. This piece will slide under a short end and be glued and stapled in place. First, we must cover the lid. 
Using gold or aluminum foil, gently crush to give it a wrinkled effect. Smooth out the material, and place it shiny side down. Place the shoebox lid, top side down, in the center of the foil, and lightly trace with a dull pencil.
Remove the lid, and lay the ruler on one of the lines. Extend the line in both directions till it touches the edges of the foil, as shown. Repeat for the other three sides. On one side, cut on the two lines until you reach the area where you traced the lid. Repeat for the opposite side. 
Now, on the third side, working in each corner, cut diagonally till you reach the lid tracing, as shown. Remove the corners. Repeat for the fourth side. Apply glue to the top of the lid. Place the foil, shiny side down, on your work surface, and lay the lid on the rectangular shape. Turn the lid over, and smooth.
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Glue the long sides into place, smoothing and wrapping the triangular-shaped corners around the sides. Glue the foil that remains to the inside of the lid. Finally, glue the sides to the box, folding the extra foil inside and gluing into place. 
Click to enlarge imageClick to enlarge Measure the inside of the lid, and cut a contrasting material for the lining. Glue and smooth into place. Use white glue or have an adult use a glue gun to fasten the lid to the box bottom.

Decorating the Float

With the base finished, it's time for the fun part of creating a float, and that's decorating it! Your float's theme will determine the materials you'll need, but some supplies you might use include one or more of the following: foam core, glitter, feathers, yarn, pipe cleaners, seashells, buttons, magazines, beads, corks, clothespins, T-shirt paints, felt, ribbon, and toothpicks.

Click to enlarge imageDecorate the float, attaching objects with a glue stick or white glue. If you have something especially heavy, ask an adult to fasten it in place with a glue gun. You'll need a way to pull the float, so on a short side, make a hole in the center about ½ inch from the top. Thread a piece of string or yarn through the hole, and knot from the inside.

Finally, what good is a float without a parade? Organize your classmates, and show off your work to others in your school. Invite people in the other classes to watch as you parade through the hallways or gym, pulling your float behind you. Choose one person to be the grand marshal or leader of the parade. Play recorded music or have someone keep time with a drum as you march.

Tips and Tricks:

If you don't have a shoebox, ask for one at a discount, department, or shoe store.

Some papers you can reuse to decorate your float are color comics, paper grocery bags, scrap fabric, wallpaper samples, and road maps.

There are three types of glue that may be used to fasten items to your float. To be used only by an adult, a glue gun can hold heavy items in place. White glue will fasten things that are medium in weight, and a glue stick will hold very light papers and some fabric.

There are many occasions to celebrate with parades. Some include St. Patrick's Day, Earth Day, Cinco de Mayo, Fourth of July or Independence Day, and Columbus Day. What's special about where you live? Make a float to honor your city or state.

Write the theme or name of your float on the side with glitter. Be sure to work on newspaper. On the float's side or upright back, just write or print the theme in glue, apply the glitter, and allow it to dry. Shake the extra glitter off, and return to its container.

© 2008 Marilyn J. Brackney

Volume 22 No. 1

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