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DIY Interchangeable Display Board - Cans, Velcro, Stickers and Imagination - A Demo

Updated on November 4, 2014

DIY Incredible Hulk display board

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From mighty superheros to Mitosis, this is a board for all seasons and subjects.

Here's a fun, quickly changed, dirt cheap to make display for children and adults. These types of displays can be a ton of fun, but they can also be so much more. While it has superheros on it, it was made with my superheros in mind, the kids that struggle to learn. The kids that are hungry, hurting, afraid and alone but try their hearts out every day, they are my heroes and this is for them.

This is the exact kind of teaching tool I used for years, only with Duck tape instead of annoying construction paper rings. Anyone working with children with developmental disabilities knows that visual is the way to go if one wants true understanding. That fact and a nonexistent budget led me to first do this out of necessity. It's a really quick way to do visual stations for knowledge acquisition and assessment.

The concept works well with all students, though I worked with mostly special needs children. It works for just being kids too. From making their own comic book story boards to displaying a butterfly collection, this thing is way versatile.

Image credit; All photographs are original pictures taken by me.

DIY Captain America display

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They actually like it.

Time is the best teacher. Over the years, I went from making these to visually demonstrate concepts, teach word recognition, and all manner of what does or does not belong in certain groups, to using them to measure where none readers and slow readers were in their understanding.

I found it was much better received than a worksheet. Further, I found the kids could make their own to explore a myriad of things. There's something about them making it themselves that keeps them so much more interested.

Better still, they liked doing it.

Follow along in the picture galleries for detailed instructions for making this interactive display, be it just for the crafty fun or ulterior educational motives. You can make as many mounting boards and can displays as you like for multiple displays or learning stations.

After the initial gallery illustrating how to make the display, you will find multiple examples of how to quickly and cheaply change them out for new concepts, displays, assessments, or just a really fun crafting project that can change as the child changes.

This tutorial is for the purposes of demonstration of the concept only. I worked really fast here and it shows. Take your time and when doing it for real. Remove the labels before taping and get your tape pressed down really well. You can make the board any size you want with any number of cans.

There are so many groupings to be done. I really want to try dragon orbs.

Avengers interchangeable display board craft
Avengers interchangeable display board craft | Source

So far, I haven't found just the right dragons. I'll work it out.

Scotch Thermal Laminator 2 Roller System (TL901C)
Scotch Thermal Laminator 2 Roller System (TL901C)

In eleven years of teaching a self contained high school classroom where all students required visuals, I burnt up many a laminating machine. Over time, with heavy duty usage, this is the only machine I found that would last until the end of the year that did not cost an arm and a leg.

 

Save your creations! Don't let time, usage and busy little hands slow you down.

Always laminate. I did not for this article because it doesn't photograph well. The lamination creates a glare in the picture. I can't tell you how useful this laminating machine is. I have burnt up, on average, one a year, sometimes three, until I got the Scotch model. It has lasted for over two years, so far. I'm talking about standing up to industrial grade teenage usage.

It was no big deal to laminate over fifty visuals a day in my classes. This machine has paid for itself hundreds of times over in just the time it has saved me having to re-do visual cards. A personal cutter can be most time saving too. I like this one because it's not too big and easily put away in a desk drawer.

Scotch Thermal Laminating Pouches, 8.9 x 11.4-Inches, 3 mil thick, 100-Pack (TP3854-100)
Scotch Thermal Laminating Pouches, 8.9 x 11.4-Inches, 3 mil thick, 100-Pack (TP3854-100)

The laminating pouches can get expensive if you use a lot of them as I did. To save on the dollars, buy them in the large packages. Plan your visuals to fit four to a pouch when ever possible. This will typically result in a good size visual card that can be seen from across the room.

Another way to save a good bit of cash is to make them double sided. Just load the pages facing away from each other into a single pouch and run through the machine.

 

To see each step for making an interchangeable display board, simply click through the photograph gallery below.

These basic instructions will work for literally hundreds of kinds of displays from groups to chains to steps in sequence, or of course just for fun like this one.

Start by making your interchangeable display board. It's the board itself that allows this to change in so many ways, quickly.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The board is part of an old, small packing crate. You also need scissors, Goop Off to clean them, Velcro strips smooth and tacky, and six short cans.Arrange the cans so you get a good idea where you need to put the Velcro.Cut the Velcro to the circumference of the can. Use only one kind, soft or tacky.. That way, when you go to swap out cans, everything goes super fast.Now cut the other Velcro strips. You will need six, one of each strip for each display option.Using the same Velcro for all cans, peel the backing and stick it to the back of the can. Put the opposite type over it so they join.Firmly press down all of your Velcro covered cans onto the backing.Flip it over.Run a strip of Velcro, all the same kind, down each side. Do squares for each corner of the runners.
The board is part of an old, small packing crate. You also need scissors, Goop Off to clean them, Velcro strips smooth and tacky, and six short cans.
The board is part of an old, small packing crate. You also need scissors, Goop Off to clean them, Velcro strips smooth and tacky, and six short cans. | Source
Arrange the cans so you get a good idea where you need to put the Velcro.
Arrange the cans so you get a good idea where you need to put the Velcro. | Source
Cut the Velcro to the circumference of the can. Use only one kind, soft or tacky.. That way, when you go to swap out cans, everything goes super fast.
Cut the Velcro to the circumference of the can. Use only one kind, soft or tacky.. That way, when you go to swap out cans, everything goes super fast. | Source
Now cut the other Velcro strips. You will need six, one of each strip for each display option.
Now cut the other Velcro strips. You will need six, one of each strip for each display option. | Source
Using the same Velcro for all cans, peel the backing and stick it to the back of the can. Put the opposite type over it so they join.
Using the same Velcro for all cans, peel the backing and stick it to the back of the can. Put the opposite type over it so they join. | Source
Firmly press down all of your Velcro covered cans onto the backing.
Firmly press down all of your Velcro covered cans onto the backing. | Source
Flip it over.
Flip it over. | Source
Run a strip of Velcro, all the same kind, down each side. Do squares for each corner of the runners.
Run a strip of Velcro, all the same kind, down each side. Do squares for each corner of the runners. | Source

It's all gravy covered goodness from here. Making the board was the hardest part.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Be sure there are no rough edges. Cover cans with Duck Tape. Leave a little to fold over the bottom and the top, at least a quarter of an inch.I used foam sheets for this set of cans. You can use paper just as easily. For the foam, just press the can into it creating a perfect outline.Cut out one foam round per can.To make a platform, cut cardboard squares. Glue together until you get a stack almost as tall as the black tape folded over the inside of the can.Glue the entire platform to the inside of the can. Use a lot of glue both between pieces and affixing it to the can.Affix a strip of Velcro to the platform in each can. Be sure to use the same kind for each.Decorate your foam circles and press them into the cans.Velcro on what ever kind of border you want. In this case, I used red, white and blue stars. Stick your cans to the Velcro and celebrate. You did it!
Be sure there are no rough edges. Cover cans with Duck Tape. Leave a little to fold over the bottom and the top, at least a quarter of an inch.
Be sure there are no rough edges. Cover cans with Duck Tape. Leave a little to fold over the bottom and the top, at least a quarter of an inch. | Source
I used foam sheets for this set of cans. You can use paper just as easily. For the foam, just press the can into it creating a perfect outline.
I used foam sheets for this set of cans. You can use paper just as easily. For the foam, just press the can into it creating a perfect outline. | Source
Cut out one foam round per can.
Cut out one foam round per can. | Source
To make a platform, cut cardboard squares. Glue together until you get a stack almost as tall as the black tape folded over the inside of the can.
To make a platform, cut cardboard squares. Glue together until you get a stack almost as tall as the black tape folded over the inside of the can. | Source
Glue the entire platform to the inside of the can. Use a lot of glue both between pieces and affixing it to the can.
Glue the entire platform to the inside of the can. Use a lot of glue both between pieces and affixing it to the can. | Source
Affix a strip of Velcro to the platform in each can. Be sure to use the same kind for each.
Affix a strip of Velcro to the platform in each can. Be sure to use the same kind for each. | Source
Decorate your foam circles and press them into the cans.
Decorate your foam circles and press them into the cans. | Source
Velcro on what ever kind of border you want. In this case, I used red, white and blue stars. Stick your cans to the Velcro and celebrate. You did it!
Velcro on what ever kind of border you want. In this case, I used red, white and blue stars. Stick your cans to the Velcro and celebrate. You did it! | Source

Now, comes the fun part.

Iron Man can, try saying that three times
Iron Man can, try saying that three times | Source

From here, the sky is the limit. First, lets look at some done just for fun displays that kids can do for themselves. Whenever they get tired of it, they can quickly and easily change it up.

With just a sticker or two, a ribbon scrap, glue and some imagination, any kid can have the superhero flavor of the week in their own room. When a new hero comes into favor, just pop out the insert and whip up a new one. Pop on a new matching border on the back and viola! Done in a flash.

Ones just for the fun of creating.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A butterfly theme display. I was able to take off the borders and pop out the superheros in less than two minutes.
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A butterfly theme display. I was able to take off the borders and pop out the superheros in less than two minutes.
A butterfly theme display. I was able to take off the borders and pop out the superheros in less than two minutes. | Source
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Now, let's see this used for educational purposes. This board can be used in any subject or grade level.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Needed: The board, construction paper, coins, a marker, Velcro and glue. If you plan on doing this much, laminate all of your visuals for using later.Pull a can off your board. Trace it. Make six circle inserts.Cut the Velcro. Remember, use the opposite kind from what you put on the can platform so it will stick.Always use real coins when first teaching money. For some, generalizing a picture of a penny to an actual penny is harder than the other way around.Glue down all of your coins.Mount the cans, border and directions. I hot glued a little motor cycle rider onto this one.
Needed: The board, construction paper, coins, a marker, Velcro and glue. If you plan on doing this much, laminate all of your visuals for using later.
Needed: The board, construction paper, coins, a marker, Velcro and glue. If you plan on doing this much, laminate all of your visuals for using later. | Source
Pull a can off your board. Trace it. Make six circle inserts.
Pull a can off your board. Trace it. Make six circle inserts. | Source
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Cut the Velcro. Remember, use the opposite kind from what you put on the can platform so it will stick.
Cut the Velcro. Remember, use the opposite kind from what you put on the can platform so it will stick. | Source
Always use real coins when first teaching money. For some, generalizing a picture of a penny to an actual penny is harder than the other way around.
Always use real coins when first teaching money. For some, generalizing a picture of a penny to an actual penny is harder than the other way around. | Source
Glue down all of your coins.
Glue down all of your coins. | Source
Mount the cans, border and directions. I hot glued a little motor cycle rider onto this one.
Mount the cans, border and directions. I hot glued a little motor cycle rider onto this one. | Source

Other activities for this exact money board.

All you really need to do is change up the directions.

1.) Remove the can that has the highest monetary value with the least number of coins.

2.) On a sticky note, write the exact amount of money in each can in proper format. Stick it over the can.

3.) How much money is on the board total?

Why is this better than a much easier to make worksheet?

* Because it requires movement, the learner is much more actively engaged.

* The movement will help your ADD and ADHD student's stay focused.

* It will further greatly help kinesthetic learners.

* This type of activity provides kinesthetic and visual means of learning.

* Lastly, it requires an application of concept, no multiple guessing.

* And many more!

Other educational activities easily done on this board.

  • Order the life cycle of a frog. Ordering any string or chain of events can be easily done.
  • Show a different animal in each can. Have only one reptile, one insect, one amphibian and so forth. Students should remove the designation of your choice..
  • Do a matching exercise for the states of matter. Show pictures of steam, ice and milk with separate labels for solid, gas and liquid. Have students match them up in columns.
  • Arrange the stages of mitosis in order. This works well for label matching too.
  • Have students create their own story board. Using the board, have them write a literary essay.
  • Make a can for six past presidents. Have students arrange them in the order of what they feel were the most important contributions or events of each presidency. Then, students should write a three to five paragraph essay explaining their choices in a persuasive manner.
  • There is no end to how this can be used. The possibilities are limited only by imagination and creativity. Play around with the idea. It works.

Other reasons I like this type visual display:

1.) Constantly printing worksheets and such kills trees by the rain forest full. This is much kinder to our planet's resources.

2.) When set up in stations where students move from one to the next in timed rounds, there is not near as much time for boredom to set it.

Of course, the interchangeable board is also good for just having fun.

Hulk
Hulk | Source

Let the little ones create. Little cheerleaders might want to display their team mates. The same could be said for Tee ball players, munchkin sized, future football superstars, Nobel Prize winning scientists of tomorrow, super teachers, heroes, and that most important kid of all, the one that is inside of each of us. This board can change as fast as they all do.

© 2013 Rhonda Lytle

What are your thoughts on mixing fun and education?

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    • Judy Filarecki profile image

      Judy Filarecki 4 years ago from SW Arizona and Northern New York

      What a fun, creative educational tool.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Wow! My cousin really needed a place to display his cardboard foot, and I now know how! Thanks! Those two things should be mixed. Ying-Lindle

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