Are you looking for something unique and special for your students to make for Mother's Day this year? Potato bracelets are so surprisingly beautiful. They are gifts that mothers will actually wear and brag about to their friends. The best part about making potato bracelets in the classroom is that the project is a science lesson, writing lesson, and craft all wrapped up into one! Score!
I have to tell you that I do invest a little bit of money into this project. Mothers are really special people, ya know. :-) You can cut costs by eliminating the glass beads if you want, but I really love the way they add a little sparkle in between the potato beads. Here are the supplies you will need.
I use paper plates for a work surface, and I also bring a sharp knife (for me) to use for slicing the potatoes.
First, using your sharp knife, cut the potatoes into slices that are about one centimeter in thickness. Give each student about 2 or 3 slices on a paper plate. Students should use a plastic knife to cut off the skin around the edges of each slice first. Then, they should cut the slice into "cubes" that are no smaller than a one centimeter place value model. The potatoes will shrink as they dehydrate, so it is actually better to go a little bigger like a sugar cube. We found out the hard way that small beads break easily when you remove them from the skewer. The beads do not have to be uniform in shape. Different shapes add to the beauty of the bracelet!
Next, the students will need to put the potato pieces onto the skewers for drying. They should press the skewer into the center of each potato piece and then *carefully* slide the beads to the end of the skewer, holding the pointy part of the skewer away from their eyes. The beads should be close together, but should not touch. This year, I had each student fill two skewers so that we would have plenty of extras in case of breakage.
Then, you will want to place your beads on a countertop or window sill to dry. Have your students observe the changes and turn the skewer once a day as the potatoes dehydrate. This is the perfect opportunity for journal writing!
The potato beads took three days to dry in my classroom. You can see that the beads get darker and smaller each day. This is a great time to talk about evaporation. The beads will look black and become hard to touch when completely dry.
Once the beads are dry, you are ready to paint! I think it is easier to paint the beads when they are on the skewer. Metallic acrylic paint covers nicely and gives the beads a little shimmer. You can use any type of acrylic paint you like, in any colors that you like! Acrylic paint is nice because it dries very quickly. My beads were completely dry in an hour. If you want to give the beads some extra protection, spray them with a coat of clear gloss acrylic sealer and let that dry for an extra hour.
Then you are ready to go! Gently pull the beads off the skewers and string them on the jewelry cord. I give each child about twelve inches of the stretchy cord. This allows plenty of room for tying. My students each selected six glass beads to put in between the potato beads for some extra bling. Depending on the size of the beads, it will take about 20-24 beads per bracelet. Tie the cord securely with several knots and then trim off the extra cord. Finally, it is time to sit back and admire
your their beautiful bracelets. Trust me, you will want them all. :-)
I made a cute little gift booklet that my students complete throughout the process and then give to their mother (or grandmother, aunt, etc.) as a part of the gift. The booklet includes a potato bracelet poem that I wrote to go along with the gift. I always encourage my students to give the bracelet first and ask their mother to guess how they made it before giving the booklet. My students are SO excited to give these gifts and I know that their moms will love them!
Here is a copy of my potato bracelet booklet and gift poem. This set also contains step-by-step photo illustrations of the bracelets I made last year. You can see that I used a different color scheme last year and they were equally as beautiful. If I use new colors each year, maybe I'll have a bracelet to match every one of my outfits by the time I retire! ;-)