So one of our requirements for this summer was to swap a program with another library. That’s where I got this fun fort night idea. I mean really, who doesn’t remember building forts out of blankets and cushions when they were little? That and we are building a better world, so fort night fits perfectly in with the summer reading theme.
This was a pretty easy actually. I spent about $25.00 on cheap plastic tablecloths in a variety of colors and we used some table clips / binder clips. About a day before the program I realized that plastic tablecloths were probably not the best choice but it was the most bang for my buck. That being said, I did sit the kids down before we got started and we had a little safety chat.
How we did this was by putting out a bunch of tables and chairs in our large meeting room that the kids could use as the base of their structures. I then let them pick out a few tablecloths and get building. This was actually a great teamwork program because we only had so much supplies so the kids had to work together to build their tents. I know another library who actually let the kids build their tents in the stacks, but our branch is too big for that and I was too nervous to be honest.
After we finished building our tents, the kids brought in books and had some reading time. We finished up fort night by gathering around my fo-campfire and I read two camping themed stories: A Camping Spree With Mr. Mageeby Chris Van Dusen & One-Dog Canoe by Mary Casanova.
Although hectic, this was a really great and unique program. I think it would also work really well if you incorporate some type of tent building into a PJ storytime.
This is definitely one I would consider doing again with just a little tweaking.
A while ago I had to develop a STEAM program without any funds or supplies. We were at the end of our supply budget for the year, so we wanted to see what we could come up with that would still fall under the STEM or STEAM category but take very little materials.
I came across Cosmic Kids Yoga one day and thought this would be perfect. Cosmic Kids Yoga has a ton of awesome videos and lesson plans and just some really great goodies for making yoga fun for kids. Seriously check it out.
I was totally sold when I saw a lesson plan for We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen. This is a storytime book we use all the time and I thought the repetition would be great for getting the kids used to the moves as we got further along in the story. This lesson plan has all of the moves laid out for you and even comes with some picture poses, so even a novice yogi will be able to do it with the kids.
I changed a few things around in the lesson plan, but for the most part stuck with the majority of the poses. When promoting this program I targeted it for kids 2 and up and said that yoga mats are welcome but optional.
I started out by getting everyone to gather around and we all sat on the floor. I told them what we would be doing today and explained how we were going to combine our love for books with some fun yoga moves. (The parents were pretty impressed!) Then we read through our story first, to give the kids a feel for the story. From there I asked if we were ready to give the story a try with some yoga poses.
We started out real slow and each move we did together while repeating the line before moving on to the next one. There was quite a mix of ages so I wanted to make sure that the little ones were getting it before we moved on. Then, as we started to get familiar with the story and the poses that repeated, we were able to move a little faster. By the end we were laughing and the kids were asking for more.
That was really all I had planned and when I practiced it took a lot longer. Only 15-20 minutes had gone by and everyone wanted to do some more yoga, so we repeated some of our moves from the story and sort of played follow the leader, while I told them what to do.
I am doing this program again next week, so I am definitely going to tweak a few things to prepare to make it longer. I think I will start off with the story again, then the lesson plan all-but a little slower, and then I am going to show one of Jamie’s 15 minute videos and we can all do it together.
Overall, this was a really fun and pretty easy program with plenty of room for adjustment.
On days the kids in our county have off from school, my library plans No School Activities. These can be movies, crafts, game days, activities. Today’s No School Activity was actually planned to coincide with the Maryland STEM Festival.
The Maryland STEM Festival is a ten day long collaborative effort by schools, science
centers, libraries and more to provide science, technology, engineering and math based activities to Maryland communities. This is my library’s second year being part of the STEM festival.
This year we did a STEM craft incorporating force, motion and optical illusion. Thanks to makeandtakes and agirlwithagluegun we made our own DIY spinners.
First thing I did was gather my supplies: cardboard, paper, glue sticks, scissors, hold punch, rope cording (knitting string will work), and crayons. For my kids, which tend to run younger no matter how high you put the age limit, I pre-cut and pre-hole punched the cardboard.
I created my own circular patterns on different colored paper so that the kids would have bright fun colors to work with. They created their own patterns, cut out their circles and put the whole thing together. Then the fun began.
We experiments with the length of rope, how fast to pull and release, pre-spinning for longer and more. The goal was to keep our spinners spinning and if you could make a zzoomm sound, you were really an expert!
How’d it go? We had a nice sized group today. Not too many kids but a fair amount. Everyone was successfully able to create spinners, even if some struggled with getting started. Overall, this was a successful and fairly easy program. A good one to keep in the back pocket.
This past week it was my turn to plan our bi-weekly STEAM drop in activity. For those of you who are not familiar, STEAM stands for: Science. Technology. Engineering. Art. Math. We plan our drop in programs around these all encompassing themes, so the options are literally limitless. We might plan crafts the kids can take home with them or fun activities that build critical thinking skills.
For my week, I wanted to do an activity. I had a few in mind and one that I was really keen on developing:
My idea was to work with ramps, specifically have the kids do a “slow ball roll.” I wanted to give each of the kids a ping pong ball and supply them with a pile of stuff, to experiment with and see what they could come up with to slow down a ping pong ball as it rolls down a ramp. The goal would be to keep the ball rolling but at a slower pace. We would talk about gravity, motion and friction.
After some more thought I decided that, given the number of kids we tend to attract, the project was just too complicated for a large group. Because we get so many kids and there are so few of us working with the group, we have to set up activities where the kids can work on their own, while we go around the group instructing. So this was a no go for now but at least I’ll have it in my pocket for a rainy day.
A colleague of mine actually came across the activity we ended up doing. Something like this:
We decided to focus on the Engineering and Art in STEAM and work with Art Squares. Art squares are 3 by 3 inch card board squares with grooves or slits cut into them at random. These are super easy to make!
In terms of construction, Amazon boxes work great. You want to keep in mind the thickness of the cardboard because this will effect how/what you can build. Heavy boxes may not work and will kill your hand with all that cutting!
I took apart the boxes and measured out all the squares and then set my capable SSL volunteers to the task of cutting. We made sure each of our 700 (yes, 700! phew!) sqaures had four slits at random. The slits could be two to a side, three, none; the more random the better.
Once all the square prep was done, the rest of the program was really easy to plan and organize. I figured I had enough squares for at least 50 children to have 12 squares each and planned my building options accordingly.
I had a list of four “things” for the kids to build. We worked through the list one at a time as a group. I gave the kids about 10-15 minutes per building to create their masterpieces. The first didn’t have to be pretty, but it had to be tall and all of the structures had to stand up on their own. The last three could look like anything the kids could imagine–I had some dinosaurs and Pokemon–BUT they had to tell me what their structure was and a little about it. My favorite explanation was a poodle/dinosaur hybrid that lived in the rain forest and was fluffy.
Once we were all done with our 4 structures, the kids were allowed
to work in groups to build whatever they could think up. M&M factory, castles, human bodies, an extremely accurate looking alligator. I made a tree and yes, I used more than 12 squares.
This activity was surprisingly a lot easier for the kids then for my few grown ups who gave it a go. I was also pleasantly surprised by the positive response to the program. I thought I’d have a few grumbles from some of the older kids who tend to show up but they took it in stride and everyone did really great!
Overall, this was a really successful program. I did it twice in the same day for two different groups; the majority of the cardboard squares held up and I was able to save them for another day.
During the summer, across the nation, libraries of all sizes begin planning their summer reading activities. Many, if not all, libraries schedule STEM or STEAM programs. These are craft or activity based programs with an emphasis on: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and/or Math.
My library is no different. We try to plan STEAM programs that are both educational and fun for the kids. If it shoots, flies or floats it’s a winner. Yesterday was our first STEAM program of the summer and although it ended well, the prep had us shifting gears at the last minute.
Originally, we intended on making pom-pom poppers using cups and balloons.
But we quickly realized we didn’t give ourselves enough time to experiment with materials and techniques. The day before the program we found out that mini cups don’t shoot, Styrofoam cups crumple when you put on the balloons and plastic cups left too many sharp edges. Yikes! Given more time we would have found a way to smooth the edges or reinforce the cups, but time was not our friend so on to Plan B!
As a librarian you have to be flexible. You have to be ready to shift gears at a moments notice. So that is what we did. Taking an inventory of the supplies we had on hand and doing some very quick Pinterest searches we decided on a floating ball activity:
This was the perfect back up plan. It was quick, easy and we were able to make it our own. The kids had a blast decorating their funnels and hypothesizing what would float higher and how long they could get their items to stay in the air.
Overall, fun was had and we made it through the day!