Kids’ STEM Workshop: Toilet Paper Mummies!

Our last STEM night was very close to Halloween. What else but wrap ourselves up in toilet paper and practice some math skills at the same time?

The skinny: This was a very successful program, and it was the first  program that I saw parents actively pulling their phones out to take pictures of their kids all wrapped up in toilet paper. When parents are taking pictures, you know you are on to something good. Also, this was a program that used the “Math” part of STEM, which is something that can be tricky to have good programs for.

Cost: I bought the $1 package of toilet paper that includes 4 rolls. I loaded up my shopping cart and Walmart to buy enough for our program. I did have some people looking at me weird when I went to check out, but I explained it was for an upcoming public library program. Then the conversation turns to me recruiting them to come to the program, and inviting their friends, so it is kind of like advertising. I planned on one roll per child, (but have some extra) so about $.25 per child as your estimated cost.

Prep: I was inspired by a very similar project that the Math Geek Mama blogged about. Be sure to check out her post! I then went online and watched some videos about the mummification process. There were lots of good ones of Youtube. Basically, I was just gathering information to have interesting facts ready. Also, I just read though some of our books on Egypt, paying attention to any text that had information on mummification.

How it went: The families came to the library and were brought into our Storytime/Programming room. We started off by me asking the kids who is excited about Halloween, and what they were going to dress up as. I went around the room, and had kids hold up their hands, and I called on them one at a time so they could all tell me about their costume. I also had them guess what my costume was going to be for Halloween, and then told them if they wanted to find out, they would have to come to the library.

Then, I introduced our guest, a history professor from our local college campus. He talked for about 10 minutes about mummies in Egypt. Mummies are not only found in Egypt. Outside of Chili and Peru there are mummified bodies because of the very dry conditions. Also, in the arctic regions it is common to find mummified bodies.

I then told the kids who Egyptians mummified bodies, including how they wrapped the bodies with linen. I then told the kids that they each were going to pretend they were an ancient Egyptian mummifyer, and they would need to estimate how much linen (or in our case toilet paper) they would need to wrap up their partner.

To illustrate, I asked a volunteer to come up to the front. I asked the group how many squares of toilet paper they thought it would take to wrap up her body. (I received estimates from 10 to 1,000). 🙂

For this project, through, I wanted to show the kids how to make educated estimates in math. To do that, I wrapped my volunteer’s arm and shoulder, and then counted off the number of toilet squares it took to cover that part of her body. I forget the number, but let’s say it was 50 squares. Then, I wrote on our white board, and showed the kids it would take 50+50 for both arms. Now, we needed to estimate how many squares it would take for her legs (they are twice as big, so maybe twice as much?) and then her stomach/back and head.

I had papers for the kids so they could keep track of their estimates and I handed these out. Here is the handout:





Then, I had the kids go into teams of two. I asked that a parent be with each group to help the process along. Estimating is a complicated project for kids, and this was asking them to make educated estimates.

The teams worked in twos. All of the kids did the estimate, and basked on how many squares it took to wrap up their partner’s arm, they estimated for the entire body. They wrote this estimate down on their piece of paper, and got to work wrapping. 

It is easiest to count the squares as you wrap. Otherwise, some groups tried to wrap first and then count at the end, but that was fairly time consuming.

The kids kept track of how many squares they were going through on their paper, and compared that to their estimate they made at the beginning. After about 45 minutes of wrapping, having laughs, and taking cute pictures, I brought the kids back into the Storytime room and asked who wanted to share with me their estimate, and then what their actual use was. One group got within one square of their original estimate!

We still had a little time, so before everyone left we played a few rounds of Parachute Games



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