Every other year I like to pull out a bit of ‘wow’ in the form of a Classroom Bubble. Four years ago I constructed a bubble of black plastic and used it for my Astronomy Myth unit with 3rd grade and my Ghost Stories/Legends unit with 4th grade. Last year I constructed it from clear plastic and used it as a space for at least one session of every class.
A classroom bubble is a room made out of plastic and duct tape and inflated with a regular box fan. Directions for the classroom bubble are posted online from Jefferson Elementary School in Mesa, AZ.
If you have space you should try this at least once in your career for your kids. If you don’t have space, think about how you can make space for a week. Because it’s risky. And fun. And it’s kind of awesome to be delighting students every once in a while instead of being grouchy…
It takes 1-2 hours to assemble a bubble by yourself. I usually do it after school on a Friday so it can be ready for the next week. If you have several teachers who would like to make one, you can use a gym to spread out several as you assemble them. Since I’ve done this with both colors of plastic, I recommend the clear/white kind. This way you can leave a group of students in the room and still monitor behavior.
- I like the directions I found online because of the pictures with the different shapes of rooms. The bubble will inflate to be as round as possible so a rectangular room will end up taller than expected and will bulge at the sides. Even the edges will lift off the ground.
- A simple box fan will do. Once the bubble is inflated it will (depending on the size) stay inflated on low air flow setting.
- I’ve never used a hula hoop for a door as the directions suggest. I just cut a flaps into the side and taped another section of plastic over the flaps.
- If you have contacts to get plastic or can share with a few other teachers, this is a good thing. I’ve never used an entire roll before, and getting a roll at a store like Home Depot is not cheap. I usually purchase 4 mil plastic. (‘mil’ is the thickness of the plastic. You want it to be durable enough for students to walk on in stocking feet.)
- You’ll need more tape than you think you will. Get an extra roll.
I usually try to give away my bubble when I’m done with it. I would love to offer it as a prize to students, but I’m a little afraid of sending home that much plastic as a toy. I have given it to families I know and who I knew would be responsible with it. After a week or two of use, it is not worth it to me to keep for another year. There’s usually tape patches, pencil holes, and other minor damage.
I think a classroom bubble would be great for a reading celebration week, Read Across America day, family events, or just to spruce up a long stretch between too many early snow days and spring break.