Simple and Engaging Leprechaun Traps in the Classroom

A leprechaun stands beside a simple classroom trap on Saint Patrick's Day

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

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.

A photo of five books that will help prepare students to make leprechaun traps this St. Patrick's Day
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 for building a trap will be clear: catch a leprechaun to get him to tell where the gold is hidden!

Talking About Traps

Photos of a lobster trap, a venus fly trap, and a student-made leprechaun trap
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

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 to!

Photos of a student planning sheet for a leprechaun trap and a trap made out of a bun, blocks, and paper coins
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.

Building Traps

When it's finally time to build the trap (or traps), reassure your students that it's ok to revise and make changes! When my students were working to build the trap pictured here, they tried a few different bins and boxes before finding one with a lid that worked in the way they wanted it to. A couple of students worked on drawing and cutting out "gold" coins, while others built the staircase out of blocks. A boy even donated his golden chain to use as bait (thankfully the leprechaun didn't get away with it, so he was able to get it back at the end of the day)!

A Leprechaun's Visit

A leprechaun stands beside magic leprechaun rocks made of baking soda and a rhyming note
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 backwards, turn a few anchor charts or posters upside down, and to "write" a message (something simple like, "Ha ha ha!") by arranging crayons or pencils on the floor near a trap.

The most important thing, or 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/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 traps and Happy St. Patrick's Day! Here are a couple of resources from my TPT store that might interest you:

Leprechauns: PowerPoint and Printables is a TPT resource from My Happy Place     St. Patrick's Day Addition is a TPT resource from My Happy Place