Every March I see pictures on social media of absolutely beautiful leprechaun traps that students have made at home as a family project before bringing to school for St. Patrick’s Day. While I think there is definite value in that kind of parent-child experience, I have only ever done leprechaun traps as an in-class activity for a few reasons. Planning and constructing simple traps at school can make for an incredibly engaging and educational day that children will remember for the rest of the year (and beyond!). Completing this activity in class is also an excellent opportunity for collaboration and provides a chance for all students to participate equally, regardless of their home environment. Making leprechaun traps in the classroom is less about creating something flashy or cute and more about the meaningful critical thinking and engineering strategies students practice as they plan and construct their creations.
Learning About Leprechauns
Some of my favorite leprechaun books are (affiliate links):
Fiona’s Luck: A clever Irish woman is able to trick the leprechauns into returning luck to Ireland. This fun story has a lesson about the importance of wit over luck.
The Night Before St. Patrick’s Day: Tim and Maureen attempt to trap a leprechaun but end up getting tricked. This one has simple, rhyming text.
Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk: This story, which could be compared and contrasted with Jack and the Beanstalk, involves leprechauns (called little ones and wee folk), tricks, and treasures. Just as a heads up–it also includes a little violence (the leprechauns hit peoples’ legs with sticks), but it is presented in a silly way.
The Story of the Leprechaun: This cute story gives a lot of background about leprechaun legends and retells a traditional tale of a leprechaun tricking a gold-seeker.
That’s What Leprechauns Do: This story tells of three leprechauns who play a few funny tricks on the way to completing their main job of putting a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
After learning about leprechauns and the legends associated with them, the purpose of building a trap will be clear: catch a leprechaun to get him to tell where the gold is hidden!
Talking About Traps
A useful next step is to talk about various kinds of traps and what they are used for in real life. Your students may be able to come up with a few kinds of traps on their own, which you can then discuss (How do they work? Would they be a good option for catching a leprechaun?). Some traps children might be able to think of on their own (depending on their life experiences) are mouse traps, spider webs, or crab or lobster traps. Showing photos of various kinds of traps and talking about how they work (bait? trigger?) will help get the kids’ wheels turning. The PowerPoint presentation in my leprechaun set includes photo examples of traps with explanations of how they work.
Making a Plan
Before you send your students off to plan, it can help to inventory the supplies that are available for building traps. Some ideas: bins, boxes, tubs, art and craft supplies, books, writing utensils, and toys…
When the children are drawing up their plans, they will need to think about what is going to lure the leprechaun into the trap and how the trap is going to keep the leprechaun from getting away. It helps to have a discussion about these things to brainstorm ideas!
My leprechaun set on TPT has planning forms your students can use, or you can just have them use plain drawing paper.