Woodchuck Name Tag

Making these name tags can be a pleasant and worthwhile way to begin a mid-winter nature center class, particularly when the program contains a new assortment of students.

Basic materials: copies of the Woodchuck Name Tag pdf, colorful strands of yarn cut into 18 -24” lengths, paper punch, scissors, coloring materials, and books and other resources (such as web articles) about woodchucks.

Here’s a portrait of a woodchuck enjoying some summer salad!  Children can color Woodchuck with crayons, watercolors, colored pencils, etc.  Woodchuck’s image is framed by an intricate 19th C. pattern (from one of the Dover Publishing Co.’s excellent design books). Youngsters can transform the pattern by coloring it as well.  I recommend that they find a particular element, choose a color for that element, and then go around the entire frame – always coloring that element with the selected hue.  Then they should choose a different element, a second color, and continue on.  (This simple process can generate amazingly beautiful and harmonious finished designs. It’s a very calming, fine motor exercise which also engages young people’s aesthetic judgement.)

To make the image into a name tag, the student (or teacher) writes the youngster’s name carefully in the space around Woodchuck. Excess paper outside the frame is trimmed away.  Next, the child uses a paper punch to make two holes on the upper corners of the remaining rectangle.  They then thread both ends of a strand of yarn (whose colors go well with the chosen combinations) through each hole, tying a knot at each corner.

 Now, the finished project is ready to wear and can be slipped over the youngster’s head.  This is a relatively safe name tag because an expanse of paper  – not a continuous loop of yarn – completes the circle that’s worn as a necklace.  If the name tag catches on a branch or other object, it will just tear apart easily and not tug at the student’s neck.  That said, please be cautious with necklace-style name tags – particularly if the children are running a lot.  Sometimes, the lengths of yarn can twist together above the paper name tag.  If that happens, the necklace should be immediately untwisted and / or set aside.  These name tags can be placed on a student’s desk or the chair that’s their ‘base’ for a one day program.  They can be taken home and used to decorate a door knob, a family bulletin board, a refrigerator, etc..

You might ask the students to consider how this creature’s body (form) has gradually evolved to suit his or her way of life.  The children might focus on Woodchuck’s sturdy shoulders and relatively short but powerful arms and legs. How might these be adaptive for a digging animal who spends a lot of time underground in tunnels? They might notice Woodchuck’s small eyes set high on the head.  Some sources suggest that this eye position permits the creature to quickly survey the above-ground world without having to lift a large portion of his or her head outside the safety of the tunnel or over the grass. Similarly, instead of stretching out a long neck as a White-tailed Deer might, Woodchuck (who has a relatively short neck) can look for danger by standing upright on two feet.

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