The praying mantis is an amazing insect that rarely reaches the size of a pencil. It can kill any other bug and yet is a peaceful creature unless disturbed or hungry. The praying mantis is a great tool for learning about insects at any grade level including preschool. Its three insect sections are very distinct; head, thorax and abdomen. It is a carnivore and has camouflage. Making a model of the praying mantis out of papier mache is an easy project that the students will love creating and showing off.
All grades can build a praying mantis papier mache model for a science project or an art project. Build one for the whole class to admire. Make it large enough to properly label the sections or have each child make their own.
You Will Need:
Newspaper, Long balloon, Large bowl, Flour, Water, Glue, Hot glue gun and glue sticks, Six pipe cleaners- green or brown, Paint- green or brown, Cloth- green or brown, Diagram or picture of praying mantis.
Create Model Of Praying Mantis
- Cut up the newspaper into long strips that are about 1 inch wide. For the preschool class, have this finished beforehand.
- Stretch out and then blow up the long balloon to the size you want and tie off the end. As balloons are a choking hazard and not allowed in many day cares, a good substitute is a cardboard from a paper towel roll.
- Take two cups of flour and slowly stir in warm water in a large bowl. Stir the water in teaspoons at a time so the paste does not get too thin. It should feel about the same consistency as regular glue. Sometimes, adding a couple of ounces of regular glue to the mixture helps in making it more adhesive, but it is not necessary as the flour and water work fine. A flour papier mache project will eventually need to be thrown out as the flour will draw bugs, but a glue based papier mache could last forever. Remind the smaller children that paste is not for eating.
- One by one, stick the newspaper strips into the paste completely. Put your fingers flat on either side of the paper and pull the paper through your fingers. This will remove excess paste and allow for a quicker drying time. Apply these strips to the balloon in a neat and orderly fashion to make sure you know how many layers have been added. It will only need two layers, but three will make it stronger.
- Let this part dry for two days until it is hard and ready for the next step.
- While the balloon part is drying, take some strips of newspaper and roll them into a thin stick the same length as the balloon section. Place this into the paste and allow it to soak up some glue. Squeeze excess glue out of the stick and set it aside making sure it will dry properly in a rounded form.
- Take two of the pipe cleaners and lay them out. Get a strip of newspaper wet with paste. Fold the strip of newspaper around the ends of these pipe cleaners. Bend the ends of the pipe cleaners into a V. These are the front legs or grasping arms of the praying mantis.
- The praying mantis got its name because of these two legs. They somewhat resemble praying hands just before they strike.
- Make four small sticks and soak them in the paste and set aside just as you did with the first long stick. These will be the hind legs that come from the mantis’ abdomen. Also make a triangularly shaped head. Soak all these in the paste and set aside with the front legs.
- When the first sections are dry, soak a few strips of newspaper in papier mache and bunch them up in to a small ball. Stick the longer stick into the middle of this bunch and apply it to the end of the balloon section. This is the abdomen and thorax. To make sure these stay together, papier mache them with some more strips of paper. Let this sit and dry for two more days.
- When this is completely dry, you can paint your praying mantis. The praying mantis are either shades of brown or shades of green depending upon their environment. Paint all the parts including the head. You can paint eyes into the head, just remember the eyes are usually the same color as the mantis with a black dot.
- Use the hot glue gun to attach the head to the thorax and the legs to the bottom in the appropriate places. Use a picture or diagram to emphasis the placement of the legs.
- Cut the cloth into oval shaped strips about ¾ the length of the abdomen. Hot glue the very end of these to the part of the insect where the thorax and abdomen meet. The wings overlap a little bit but not completely.
Your praying mantis model is complete. Enjoy and show it off. Remember the praying mantis is an unusual insect that deserves our respect and appreciation just as any living creature.