Treasure Hunt/Jungle Set Design
This month, we are back to using our 252 Basics curriculum. This set design was inspired by the 252 theme of the month: Dig Deep (Wisdom). The idea behind this set design was to make the kids feel like they are in the jungle, following a map in search of the greatest treasure, wisdom. We were able to incorporate the theme into the entire environment this month and we had almost everything we needed on hand, so that was a huge bonus. The only things I purchased specifically for this set design were the large roll of butcher paper, some double-sided duct tape, and some cheap rope. Traditionally, we always do some big changes to our core environment in August, so you may notice in the pictures that our stage has changed a bit this month. We took the two side stage pieces and made them parallel to the center stage, giving us more usable space. This also made those side stage pieces more usable for instruments, since we will be implementing a live worship band in kid's church next month. The keyboard is already up there on the left side of the stage, and we will be putting the drums and bass guitar on the right side of the stage shortly. We were also able to remove our points wheel from the right side trussing, and attach it to a movable stand with wheels for more portability. We also moved a few of our lights to give us more options for lighting props on the side stage pieces.
I will start off by saying that you will see a lot of fake foliage around the room for this set design. It is not cheap to buy, at least not from any of the stores I am aware of. We purchased most of the fake foliage from Joann's when we did our Survivor Set Design, however I was able to find some of the smaller vines at the Dollar Tree so it never hurts to hit up your dollar stores before paying full price at the craft stores. If you have to purchase your vines at a craft store, most of them offer coupons online, on their mobile apps, or in newspapers that will at least save you some money. For the side stage pieces, I used a strand of the fake vines on the front of each stage piece, and two strands of vines for each of the side trussing.
You will also see what appears to be a brown "vines" wrapped around the trussing on each side. We bought a huge roll of kraft paper on Amazon that we used for so many things in this set design. It was our big purchase for this set, and we still have a ton of it left for other art projects and set designs in the future. The brown "vines" were so simple to make. I just cut long narrow strips out of the kraft paper (you can make them as long and as wide as you like) and then crumpled the strips up with our hands, and wrapped them around the trussing. The netting on the keyboard and stand we purchased from Oriental Trading for another set. It's always nice when you can reuse something you bought earlier.
I wanted to post a closer picture of the treasure chest on the right side of the stage so you could see the detailing. I found an old treasure chest that I lying around the church as I was gathering materials for this set design (purchased from Hobby Lobby, I think), and I wanted to make some giant coins for it. I used some cardboard (free from Sam's Club) to make the coins and used a couple different sizes of round containers to trace circles onto the cardboard. I cut them out using an x-acto knife. The circles don't need to be perfect, because they look great from a distance. Once the circles were cut out, I covered one side of the coins in tacky glue and sprinkled either gold or silver glitter all over the coin. By the time I finished covering the one side of the coins, they were dry enough to turn them over and do the same thing to the other side. You probably don't need to glitter both sides, but I have a glitter excessiveness problem. I already had a bunch of glitter in storage but I try not to use it very often due to it's explosive and messy nature, but I couldn't help myself for this project. My office is still covered in glitter after cleaning and vacuuming extensively, but it was all worth it. Once my coins were dry, I assembled the treasure chest. I opened the treasure chest, draped a piece of sparkly red fabric over it (you can use any fabric you have lying around for this), and filled the treasure chest with the coins with some of them spilling out onto the stage. We set up a small light directly above it, and it looks pretty awesome.
The second I heard about the theme for this month, I knew I wanted to turn the stage into a giant treasure map. This would require covering the entire stage in brown butcher paper. I can still hear my set design team moaning and groaning (this isn't the first time I have asked them to cover the stage in paper or some other material) and it's not fun, but it looks fantastic. There are some techniques and tips that we've learned from covering our stage a few times. First off, always use thick kraft paper. The roll we bought was about twice as thick as the paper we used the last time, and it has held up quite nicely after two weeks of kids and leaders walking on it. When you're covering the stage, at least two people should be doing this job to make sure you get the paper smooth and pulled taut around the stage. The secret to keeping the paper attached to the edges of the stage is gorilla tape. It is much stronger than duct tape. Never use scotch tape or painter's tape for this job! Use clear packing tape to connect your sheets of paper together, and be liberal with the amount of tape you're using. Don't just put a few small pieces here and there, go all the way from one end of the stage to the other. Remember, this is going to get walked on for at least four weeks. Lastly, have all your leaders and kids wear socks instead of shoes if they're on the stage for the month. This might seem annoying to your leaders (and possibly a little smelly too), but your stage will look much nicer. If you need to get a scent plug-in, go for it! Once the stage was covered in kraft paper, we were able to put the map pieces on the stage. I made red dotted lines and several landmarks (palm trees, mountains, compass, anchor, and the word wisdom) out of 11x17 colored craft foam I already had leftover from another craft project. I used double-sided duct tape to tape the landmarks and dotted lines all over the stage and around the room. Again, you are going to want a lot of tape on these as they will be getting a lot of traffic over the month.
My favorite element in this set is the hanging bridge we built to hang above the front of the stage. I used more Sam's Club cardboard sheets and cut them into strips to make them look like wood planks. I did some googling and found this tutorial on Pinterest for making cardboard look like wood using paint. Honestly, that tutorial had too many steps for me, and all we ended up doing was painting streaks of black spray paint on the "planks" and then lightly brushed them with white craft paint. They don't look amazing up close, but that's ok since they are hanging from the ceiling. I bought two 50-foot ropes from the Dollar Tree, and stapled the "planks" to the rope. It was a little time consuming to make, but the bridge is the wow-factor for this set.
We were able to do something pretty unique with our side banners this month. One of my leaders tipped me off that someone was getting rid of a bunch of spare wood boards and they'd give them to us free if we could pick it up. The leader was awesome enough to pick it all up in his truck and deliver it to the church for me. My original thought was to use the wood for the hanging bridge (which we had already made out of cardboard by this time), or to make some wooden crates. However, there was a lot more wood than we had originally anticipated, so we ended up building borders around all of the banners to give them a rustic wooden frame. All we did to attach the boards to the frames was string them through the bungie cords that were already attaching the screens on the frames.
As you can see in the pictures, we made a couple large "maps" and signs (again, using the kraft paper). If you have never burned the edges of paper to make it look old and rustic, I highly recommend it. To make these maps and signs, I cut the pieces of paper off the roll (don't worry about cutting straight since the edges are getting burned anyway). I used a lighter to burn the edges of the paper, working my way around the paper a little at a time, putting the flame out with a damp sponge once I liked how it looked. You can also add some character by holding the lighter up to different spots on the paper until it starts to put a burn mark on it, or until it burns a small hole. As long as you keep a damp sponge around, you can do this project safely.
A couple months ago, we installed small hooks in the ceiling to facilitate hanging things around the room and used those to put more of the fake foliage and brown vines around the room. That really helped extend that jungle feel all over the environment. We also put fake foliage vines around the sound booth. As always, I love bringing our theme for the month out into the hallway for parents and other adults to see what's going on in kid's church. Our info table this month looks like it is being overgrown with vines and foliage, and it's just begging for people to check out what's going on in kid's church this month.
I hope you have enjoyed this month's set design as much as I have. It is one of my favorite monthly set designs I have done to date. You could use this set for a pirate theme, jungle theme, island theme, survivor theme, etc. It could also make a great VBS set. What is your favorite set design or theme you have done in your kid's ministry environment?