By Patricia Hall, Fairfax Family Fun
The 2020-2021 start of the school year won’t look the same for students in Fairfax County Public Schools — or Northern Virginia in general, or much of the country, for that matter. Most schools are not opening for in-person instruction at the start of the school year due to extended closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning kids will continue with virtual schooling for the time being. But just because we have not returned to normal yet doesn’t mean you can’t add some normalcy to your children’s lives. One easy way to do that is to continue with the tradition of a “first day of school” photo. While a simple photo of your kid holding a sign will do, here is a super-easy photo prop for school photos that you can make in just a few minutes, and for just a few dollars!
With a quick trip to a dollar, budget, or big-box store, and less than an hour, you can make this easy “giant pencil” prop that you can use for years to come. We won’t claim originality on this one: we’d seen examples of this little craft around the internet a few years ago, but wondered just how easy it would be to make. The answer: it’s easy-peasy!
And since the kids don’t have to rush off in the morning to catch a school bus, you’re not limited on when to take your “first day” photo. You can take it at any time, and even buy these supplies and make this big “pencil” as a photo prop for school photos in a jiffy while your children are taking their virtual classes.
All you need is:
- Two standard foam pool noodles (one should be orange, red, or white for the “eraser” part)
- Masking tape (a wider width is best)
- Silver or gray duct tape
- Black electrical tape
- A box cutter or big, sharp scissors
- A wide-tip permanent marker
To make the pencil, simply cut a small piece of your “eraser” pool noodle (about four inches or so) and attach it to the end of your “pencil” pool noodle using the silver duct tape. The silver tape will not only join the two noodles but will end up looking like the metal part of the pencil (fun fact: this is called a ferrule!).
To make the pointed end, make two diagonal cuts (about six inches) on the other side of the main pool noodle. Depending on what tools you have, scissors or a box cutter may be best. In our case, we used the scissors to make the initial cuts and the box cutter for some fine-tuning. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look too pretty at this point, since you’ll be covering it up, anyway.
When the pointed end is ready, wrap masking tape around it several times to both seal the cut ends and to make the pool noodle appear like a sharpened wood pencil tip. Then add some of the black electrical tape at the end to create the “graphite” point. (For these last two steps, you’ll want to use good-quality tapes, as cheaper tapes may not stick as well to the foam pool noodles. If you go with a cheaper kind, just know that you’ll have to use larger quantities of it if you want your photo prop to last.) Then use a thick permanent marker to write “Happy first day of school” or whatever message you want, and you’re all done!
Other “tips” (no pun intended):
- Use the other side of the pencil for a “last day of school” message to get more use out of your prop.
- Make several “pencils” to hand out to friends!
- Create extra pencils for teachers or as prop for school photos at school events when life gets back to normal!
- You may find that over time the writing on the pencil may fade — just go over the letters again with a permanent marker to fix it.
- Store these somewhere away from pets and wildlife, as some animals will be tempted to chew on the foam and that’s not good for them.