The origins of leprechaun-trap-making at Kelly Elementary are as mysterious as the leprechauns themselves — nobody knows.
Kindergarten teacher Ruth Valsing said students have been hoping to ensnare the mythical creatures since her daughter — now 30 — was a student at Kelly.
“I like it because no one has preconceived ideas,” Valsing said. “It’s not like Halloween or Christmas, where there is a set way of doing things.”
It was the day before St. Patrick’s Day. Green and gold trappings littered the floor as her class eagerly got to work. Before starting their creations, the students were read the book “Fin M’Coul,” an Irish fairy tale, by counselor Stephanie Capps. That set the mood.
As Kelly kindergartners are well aware, leprechauns are attracted to shiny things — like gold. They’re tricksters. They make shoes. They sing and they dance. They like the color green — like Madison McDaniel, 7, who painted her nails green “so I won’t get pinched.”
And they can definitely be baited with food.
“The one rule is, you can’t do anything that might hurt the leprechauns,” Valsing told her wide-eyed students, who were bouncing with anticipation.
Her second rule? Not permanently painting classroom chairs green.
Valsing said her students tend to go two ways with their traps. Some are more “comfort oriented” and make tiny beds or food to lure in leprechauns. Others are more “mechanical” and construct elaborate trap doors.
Hayden Charles Von Maur-Newcomb, known as Charlie by his classmates, said he couldn’t wait for the next morning to check the traps.
“We’ll get to see tomorrow if we caught one!” Charlie, 7, said.
With pipe cleaners, wrapping paper and paints in hand, students brainstormed ideas. How would they entice the creatures, and how would they make them stay? The room buzzed with giggles and shouts.
“Another thing I really like about this project is the amount of conversation and collaboration that goes into it,” Valsing said. Students could choose to work alone or with partners.
Madison and Nate Martinez, also 7, buddied up. Madison had luck in the past.
“I caught one at my house last year,” she said. “But it got away.”
Madison and Nate made an elaborate trail of jewels to lure leprechauns to their shoebox. Other students got creative with beads, ribbon and other decorations.
Valsing walked around to offer a helping hand.
“Leprechauns won’t be attracted to your trap if it looks like a cereal box,” she told one student, suggesting the child jazz it up a little.
Lucio Sanchez, 7, was excited about his trap.
“If they step on a certain spot, the door comes down,” he said, motioning to a flap he cut out with scissors. “And then the door locks him in.”
Lucio said he had caught at least five leprechauns in the past, so surely he had the strategy down pat. His classmate Shelby Evans, 6, countered with her own numbers.
“I’ve caught nine!” she said proudly. “I know everything about leprechauns. If the leprechaun still had a pot of gold in his hand, we could’ve taken it. But we just let it go the last time.”
Unfortunately, Kelly kindergartners didn’t catch any leprechauns this year. But there’s always the next, and Valsing, always on the lookout for trap-making materials, will be prepared.
“I’m like a leprechaun,” she said, laughing. “If I see green paper, I say, ‘Oh! That looks good!’”