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.
Leprechaun Traps as an In-Class Project
Planning and constructing simple leprechaun 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
Before getting to the trap building, your students will need to build on their background knowledge of leprechauns to come up with a purpose for the activity. After discussing what children already know about leprechauns (you can make a KWL chart if you’d like), reading a book or two about St. Patrick’s Day and leprechauns will set the stage for this activity.
Here are some of my favorite leprechaun picture books. (This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of my links, I will make a small commission at no cost to you.)
Fiona’s Luck by Teresa Bateman (Illustrated by Kelly Murphy)
After the greedy Leprechaun King has taken all the good fortune in Ireland and locked it away, 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. I particularly love the expressive illustrations in this St. Patrick’s Day picture book.
The Night Before St. Patrick’s Day by Natasha Wing (Illustrated by Amy Wummer)
This is a favorite St. Patrick’s Day read-aloud and is perfect for introducing a leprechaun traps project! In this story, Tim and Maureen attempt to trap a leprechaun but end up getting tricked instead. The simple, rhyming text in The Night Before St. Patrick’s Day lends itself to literacy mini-lessons, and the bright illustrations will get your students’ wheels turning about traps!
Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk, Written and Illustrated by Gerald McDermott
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 by Katerine Tegan (Illustrated by Sally Anne Lambert)
This cute St. Patrick’s Day story uses simple, age-appropriate text to give a lot of background about leprechaun legends while retelling a traditional tale of a leprechaun tricking a gold seeker (who is pretty tricky himself). Kids will enjoy the detail in the colorful illustrations!
That’s What Leprechauns Do by Eve Bunting (Illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully)
That’s What Leprechauns Do tells of three leprechauns who, while on the way to place a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, are distracted by several opportunities for mischief. This fun and playful St. Patrick’s Day story will get your audience giggling while building their background knowledge.
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 traps set (which you can find here in the shop or on TPT) includes photo examples of traps with explanations of how they work.
This fun leprechaun traps set includes an informational PowerPoint slideshow about St. Patrick’s Day legends along with printable teaching materials. You will download a zipped folder containing a PowerPoint file and a PDF.
Making a Plan
When your students have a good understanding of leprechauns and traps, it’s time to begin planning! This is such a flexible project–you can have students work independently or in groups to make several traps or just one.
One year I had each student draw a trap design and share it with the class. We then made a new plan as a whole group that combined attributes of several of the designs and built that trap together. You can make this project as complicated or as simple as you want!
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!
I love this picture below, sent by Jennifer, the kindergarten teacher behind Crayons and Cuties in Kindergarten. It shows how, with minimal supplies, children can engage in a simple, child-centered leprechaun trap project!
A Leprechaun’s Visit
Once your traps are ready, you will all have to leave the room since leprechauns are far too clever to come into a classroom full of children! When the children are out of the classroom, it’s time for some leprechaun mischief.
In some stories (and classrooms), the little guys make quite a mess. Bear in mind that while some children will find it silly to come back to find their classroom in disarray, others may find it a little stressful—especially if the classroom is their safe space in a chaotic life.
Some simple but easy-to-clean-up mischief that I find fun is to turn each of the student chairs around backward, turn a few anchor charts or posters upside down, and “write” a message (something simple like, “Ha ha ha!”) by arranging crayons or pencils on the floor near a trap.
The most important thing, of course, is that the leprechaun must spring the traps, but manage to escape, leaving behind a message and a treat. Some treat ideas: chocolate coins or Rolos, little bags of Skittles, plastic gold coins, or these fun magic leprechaun rocks. The rocks are made out of baking soda, water, and food coloring, and each has a plastic gold coin in the center. When dunked in a bowl of vinegar mixed with water for cleaning, the rocks fizz and foam and leave behind the gold. I followed the directions in this post from Gift of Curiosity to make my rocks and left this note in the classroom beside the trap.
I hope these ideas help you plan out a fun St. Patrick’s Day experience in your classroom. I’d love to hear from you about your ideas—feel free to post a comment below! Have fun with your leprechaun traps, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!