Jacob's Ladder Toy

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Jacob's Ladder Toy
Ages school-age

One of the most well-known African-American spirituals, "We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder," is based on the biblical story of Jacob (Abraham's grandson), who dreamed he saw angels walking up and down a ladder between Heaven and Earth. With this classic wooden toy (aptly named Jacob's Ladder), kids can create the illusion that a block is traveling down a ladder of wood and ribbon.

What you'll need

  • 1 1/2-foot length of 1-by-3-inch pine board (actual dimensions: 1/2 inch by 2 1/2 inches)
  • handsaw
  • sandpaper
  • green craft paint
  • 3/8-inch-wide ribbon (1 1/2 feet of red and three feet of yellow)
  • 18 thumbtacks
  • scissors

How to make it

  1. Cut the board into six 2 1/2-inch blocks. Use the sandpaper to smooth the edges. Then paint the blocks on all sides and let them dry.

  2. Tack the red ribbon to the first block. Center the end of the ribbon on the left edge (see Figure A). Then pull the ribbon toward the right side so that it lies across the top of the block.

  3. Cut the yellow ribbon into two pieces of equal length. Then tack the yellow ribbons to the opposite edge of the same block, spacing them 1/4 inch from the corners. Lay the yellow ribbons across the block, in the opposite direction from the red ribbon.

  4. Place a second block on top of the first one. Pull the yellow ribbons up over the top block and tack them to its left edge, as shown in Figure B. Tack the red ribbon to the right edge, then lay it across the top of the block.

  5. One at a time, stack on the remaining blocks and attach them using the same method. When the last block has been attached, trim off the excess ribbon.

  6. To set your Jacob's Ladder in motion, pick up the top two blocks and hold them together along the long edges, using your index finger and thumb. The bottom four blocks should hang freely. Then let go of the block that is second from the top. As it falls, it will appear to tumble down the chain of blocks.

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