I absolutely loved creating this set design back in the fall for an 8-week series I wrote called Discovery. In this series, kids will learn how the Old and New Testaments are connected and support each other each week. They will be encouraged to dig deeper into God’s Word! During small groups, kids will go on a Footnotes Treasure Hunt where they will learn how to use footnotes and that many verses in the New Testament quoted verses from the Old Testament. The cost for this set design was easily less than $50. Most of the decorations for this set design were homemade or we found around the church, so you don’t need to purchase a lot to make your own version of this set design. My inspiration for this set design came from the Indiana Jones movies and a treasure hunt concept. I actually visited Disneyland back in January and rode the Indiana Jones ride. I was shocked by how similar some of the decorations were to what we had created for our environments.
Let’s get started with what we did with our main stage in our elementary room. Under the screen, you will see two maps hanging and a hula skirt with some leaves for an added touch. We made several maps like this for hanging around the room as well. It was super simple, but did take a few hours to get the look we wanted. We used natural butcher paper we already had on hand to make the maps. After we cut the paper to size, we burned the edges and some spots on the center of the maps to make them look worn and old. A simple method to do this is to use a lighter to light an edge of the paper on fire and let it burn until you get the desired effect on that part of the map. When you would like to put the flame out, just have a simple kitchen sponge slightly moist and ready to go. Squeeze the sponge on the paper to stop the flame. I usually do this outside to avoid people thinking I’m setting the church on fire or setting off the smoke detectors. We kept the maps super simple by adding some dotted lines and a red x with large permanent markers. The hula skirt we already had on hand upstairs in the attic, but you can purchase them at party stores or on Amazon. We also used fake greenery and vines we had on hand, but you can purchase greenery at dollar stores as well as craft stores if you don’t already have some.
Here’s a closer look at what we did with the sides of our main stage. We had a lot of fun with the details on this one. Again, a lot the decorations you see here we already had on hand from previous series, set designs, and other ministries. We found the burlap material, greenery, treasure chests and whatever the brown wooden things are called in our women’s department in the attic. They let us borrow all of those items for the set. The fake spiders, rats, snakes, and netting were all leftover from our Fearless Set Design for the Fearless Curriculum Series from the previous fall. We purchased the spiders and netting at the Dollar Tree, the snakes on Amazon, and the rats at Ikea. Just a reminder, you don’t have to have the exact items we used for this set. Make it your own and use what you have on hand or can purchase within your budget. Here are some ideas for decor on your stage that you can look for: rats, snakes, spiders, bugs, tan/brown material, burlap, greenery, treasure chests/small boxes you could turn into treasure chests, large pots, wooden crates, jewels, rope, or shovels.
We used the forbidden crafting tool, LOSE GLITTER to create the awesome large coins. We cut circles in various sizes out of free cardboard sheets (you can always find them at bulk stores like Sam’s Club or Costco), covered them in tacky glue, then poured gold and silver glitter all over them. Once they had dried completely (it will take an hour or two), we shook the loose glitter off and arranged them in the treasure chests and on the stage.
Here is the entry way to our main elementary room. We kept it simple because we share with a school and added some hula skirt to the top of the door by attaching it to the bottom of our back screen with black gaff tape. It stayed up most of the series. I believe we only had to rehang it once or twice. We also created some funny signs to hang around the room on the walls like the one picture. The signs were created the same way we did the maps.
The picture above is of the back part of our main elementary room where the kids hang out pre-service and post-service and play games. We added some green netting we found in the attic to a couple of our game systems and added more maps to the wall. However, the ceiling decor was definitely my favorite part of the whole set design, maybe even my favorite set design element I have ever created. I had envisioned re-creating the giant boulder from the Indiana Jones movie and suspending it over the kids’ heads where it would look like it would drop, but ideally would not fall on their heads. I can’t believe it turned out this well, and the only thing we had to purchase to make it happen was some liquid starch. The base of the ball is an inflated 4-foot beach ball. We put the beach ball on top of a large bucket to give it a stand, tore large strips of natural butcher paper, soaked them in liquid starch, and layered them on the ball until it was completely covered. I’m not going to lie. This was super messy! Do not wear nice clothes or plan on going anywhere after work when you make this! The floor was covered in liquid starch, we were covered in liquid starch, and the boulder may have decided to roll away a few times, but it was worth it. After the boulder was completely dry, we used some netting and some strategically placed tape to secure the boulder to the ceiling. It really worked, and the boulder never fell on anyone’s head! Parents loved the movie reference! I had multiple families mention to me that our room reminded them of Disneyland. I take that as a huge compliment, especially since I had decorated on such a tight budget.
We added fake vines all around the ceiling for an added touch. The fake vines were super simple to make. We cut long strips of natural butcher paper and scrunched and twisted them up with our hands until they looked good. That’s it! We made around twenty of the vines to hang from the ceiling to give it a full look.
Our 1st-2nd-grade breakout room is a portable space since we have to set up and tear down anything we create for them each week. We kept it simple with another small treasure chest with some coins and beaded necklaces, more netting, and a wooden crate filled with rats, rope, and greenery. We also created a more colorful and elaborate map for this room since it was the only one. We backed it with cardboard to make it stand up on its own.
I just released our brand new 8 week Discovery Curriculum Series. Go check it out! Let me know what you think about this set design and what you would do to make it your own.