Monthly Archives: October 2009

For Teachers: How To Make Enemy Pie

the good stuff

If you were going to make a pie for an enemy, what would you put in it? Over the years I’ve heard kids give some pretty wild answers to that question. Iguana guts. Crazy glue. Rotten zombie brains… At an elementary school for highly gifted kids, a first grader recommended battery acid. At another school, at the top of his lungs, a second grader yelled out dog s*#t. (Poor little bugger didn’t get to see the end of the show…)

This is all part of the Enemy Pie Experiment, a presentation I do on author visits for kids in grades K-3. I ask a few questions, read the book, and then the kids get to work finding the best way to get rid of an enemy. They make a good pie, then a bad pie, and decide which one does a better job achieving their goal.

For teachers wanting to do this experiment on their own, I have a few quick recommendations:

the baaad stuff

1) Expect a little noise. Kids get excited with this presentation. I’m just sayin’…

2) Playdoh is your friend. You will most likely hear ideas that you hadn’t anticipated. Let your students make those things with the Doh. And for liquids, let them mix vials of colored water.

3) Strategically include everyone. There will be lots of chances to participate! (I get about 60 kids involved in this activity, either making stuff or answering questions.) A couple suggestions on choosing your helpers:

-When a student is making an ingredient out of playdoh, give them enough to share with their neighbors. It gives you a few more active helpers and it’s a good little instant community builder.

– If any of your students are having “friendship issues,” try to give them a big role in the pie making activity. (Rolling out the dough, putting on the whip cream, and putting on the shaving cream are highly coveted jobs…) Even if it’s just for 30 seconds, these students will actively associate fun and joy with the process of conflict resolution. that can be powerful stuff!

4) Divert the horrendous. 99% of the time, student answers are non-controversial. But for the over the top ones… Don’t do fake poo. And fake blood is pretty creepy too. When kids start pushing that envelope, meet them halfway with kitty litter or ketchup. In my experience things go rapidly downhill whenever that line-of-disgust is crossed.

5) Test out pie theory. After the pies are made, do a walk through to see which pie works best. Set the stage for your kids giving the bad pie to their enemy. What would happen after they took a bite? (telling them “DON’T SAY DIE” definitely helps keep the experiment on track) Then try the same scenario with the good pie, and  vote on which method worked best.

That’s it in a nutshell. Below I’ve added a list of basic ingredients and items that you’ll need.

Basic Ingredients for the Enemy Pie Experiment


dough (i use the little biscuit rolls that you find next to the cookie dough at the grocery store. one poppable container per pie.)

2 pie pans

playdoh – red is used the most. blue next, then yellow.

dirt, rocks, and weeds

worms (put wet gummy worms in a jar of dirt and shake it up. they look real!)

plastic bugs (get them cheap at oriental trading company)

one can whipped cream, sprinkles, and a cherry on top (for the good pie)

one can shaving cream and kitty litter (to top off the bad pie)

colored water

that should cover the bare bones, and most of the ideas your students come up with. here are some extra ideas:

cat food, dog bones, slime, ketchup, mustard, itching powder (i just use flour), sticky eyeballs, sawdust, sweaty socks…


I know this presentation requires a bit of prep time and a fair amount of energy. But holy smokes- it’s so worth it. It’s a blast to do, the kids love it, and the hands-on lesson on conflict resolution is easy for kids to get. Or, invite me to your school and I’ll do it! I offer this presentation and a number of others at my school author visits. It’s easy to set up! Click here to learn more.

And if you do decide to do the experiment, please drop me a line and let me know how it went!




Filed under Uncategorized

kitty litter(ature)

iStock_000006050356XSmallWhen I was in 5th grade, I had a friend named Brian Rose. He had a crazy imagination and a random sense of humor at a time when random senses of humor weren’t very common. (At least among 5th graders kids they weren’t common. We’re talking 1980, back when random was alternative.)

One day in the library, Mrs. Hogan asked our class what kinds of things we liked to read about. Brian raised his hand and said “Kitty Litter.” I LOVED it.  I was absolutely THRILLED with the answer. Brian had been on a kitty litter kick in recent days. Whenever a question was posed, his answer was always “kitty litter.” But this was his boldest attempt yet.

But then things got weird. First Mrs. Hogan smiled. And when the laughter had died down, she asked Brian “what kind of kitty litter?” Brian didn’t really know how to answer that. It took a brief conversation before Mrs. Hogan realized that he really was talking about actual kitty litter. Then Mrs. Hogan promptly blew my mind.

“Oh. I thought you meant kids’ literature. Kiddy Lit.” I was absolutely shocked. Kids literature! Never in a million years did i think that “kitty litter” could mean anything else. And what were the odds that Brian’s random answer would be right?

I don’t think he wanted to be right. He wanted to be random. But your answer can’t be random and correct at the same time. Maybe that’s why I never heard him talk about kitty litter again.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Cooking With Ben

cooking with benKids these days. I just received a newsletter from an 11 year old boy named Ben Coryell. He is the son of a friend of mine, and he created an awesome website called Cooking With Ben. It is incredibly cool that kids have so many ways to express their creativty these days. It’s a whole new ball game that gives young people an amazing opportunity to play an active role in the greater human community. Creations like Ben’s webpage allow younger voices to be heard and valued and respected. There is so much hope and possibility in bridging that communication gap between the generations.

check out the site!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What’s a creative person to do?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Getting Any Younger Yet?

iStock_000008307868XSmall“Non-creative behavior is learned.” That’s a quote from NASA researcher George Land. He conducted a fascinating experiment in 1968, studying genius level creativity in kids. (If you want the details, check out the study here on Linda Naiman’s Creativity at Work website.) The gist of it was that we all start off as creative geniuses. Then most of us lose it by the time we’re grown ups. Kids= creative geniuses. Grown-Ups= buffoons.

And then there’s the body. When you’re a kid you’ve got this durable body and flexible muscles and joints. If you break your wrist? No biggie. It’ll heal in 4 weeks. If you get a bruise? It’ll be gone the next day. But in 30 years, if you fall off a barstool at the bar? Bam! You’re black and blue for weeks and wearing a heat pack to bed. (wait… maybe that’s not such a good example…)

But check this out. Researchers announced today they’ve discovered a way to take old people muscles and make them work like young people muscles. They’ve shown that we have the built in capacity to reverse the aging processes within our bodies. And why wouldn’t the same be true for the mind? It’s way easier to change your thought processes than to reverse the biological processes of your body. Let’s talk about the “how” part another time, because it’s way late and I better sleep or I’ll be grumpy with my kids if they’re whiny in the morning. So I’ll just finish with this quick summary: Every one of us is born a creative genius, and no matter how far out of practice we are, we can always get it back.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized