School and Public Librarians: Warriors for Literacy

Hello library friends,

It has been several months since my last blog post. I have missed interacting with you, my colleagues and friends, on this space during my hiatus. I am happy to now be back! I missed blogging not only because it offered a professional way for me to connect with and build friendships in the library world, but because it provided me a tool to reflect on my work. After a program or new initiative, I would sit down and ask, “Did this program accomplish my goals? The goals of my audience? What went well? Do we want to offer this program again? What can I do differently next time to make it work better for different ages?” Blogging gives me a reason to reflect.

I have been reflecting a lot lately on the differences between public and school librarian’s work. This is due to the fact that during my blogging break, I went through a job change from Brewer Public Library to Ithaca School District school library. I went from serving a service population of 15,000 to now serving a community of 450 4K-12th grade students, all in one building. While I deeply miss the staff, families and children that I developed wonderful friendships with while at the public library, I am also so thankful for this change and the work I am doing now in schools.

I wanted to use this space to communicate some lessons that I wish I had known when I was in the public library world about the work that school librarians are doing.

First of all, school librarians are teachers. At the public library, on certain days I might organize and run as many as four programs a day, but mostly I only ran one or two. In the school library, I have six classes coming into the school library every day. I do have freedom to organized my curriculum, but the time is limited.  My classes run every day, but I have only 40 minutes to do my best to use to reinforce concepts of reading that are also being taught by other teachers in their classrooms. That means that my lesson plans need to be very focused with specific learning goals in mind. It also means, though, that my lessons plans build on each other for a long term.  Unlike the public library programs that are usually presented as completed block of learning to students who may (or may not) ever return, the school librarian teaches the same students for an entire academic school year.

I always wondered where the “shushing librarian” stereotype came from, but now I know. It is the school librarians who were the first, and sometimes, only, librarian in the lives of students who become parents. At the public library I was blessed to have a director who let my youth programs be as loud as needed. In the school, that is simply not an option. My school is so small that there are not enough classrooms to fit everyone, so one study hall per period is in the library. I will teach a class of 4K-6th graders in one half of the library while the study hall is held in the other half. I can not let my kids be loud because only a few feet away are middle or high schoolers trying to get their homework done. This means that I need to do something I never asked students to do at the public library: I ask them to speak quietly and I have to “shush” them when they do get to loud. I also need to speak quietly myself when I am reading a picture book aloud now. It is really hard. Learning and reading should be exciting, and when we are excited, we naturally talk louder. It is hard to put a damper over that fire, but I work to keep it quiet for the good of everyone while still being as enthusiastic as possible with my own, “library voice.”

Another consideration is that school librarians are not able to leave the building in the same way that public librarians can. I know that this can differ from one public library to another, but it is a consideration that school librarians are expected to be in the building and ready to go basically all the time. For collaboration between the public and school librarian to happen, it has to come from the public librarian reaching out, and being willing to meet the school librarian at their school if at all possible.

School librarians see the practical problems of literacy needs within a wide variety of students they serve. For most of the children I serve in the school, the school library is their only library. They do not have books at home, and their parent/caregiver is not bringing them to the public library. I do my best to have great books available, including books that are required in classes, but what do we do when more than one students wants to read the same book? I only have one copy. What do I do when I speak with a student and know of a book they really need, only to realize that our school library does not own it. Should I ask the student to wait the month it takes for my book order to come in from Follett Titlewave? No, they need that book now. One idea is to send these students to the public library if there is a book they are really interested in but I do not have right now, but that idea runs up against numerous challenges.

Many of these children will never darken a public library door with their parent/caregiver because reading is not a priority in their family. For these children, the school library is their only access to books. Can this be changed? Can visits to the public library become as normal as stops to the grocery store or the laundry mat? Sure, but it will take more than one or two field trips to the public library to make it happen. The adults driving the children also need to buy into the principle that reading is valuable in itself and practical for their family routines.

On this note, I am realizing that one of the largest barriers that keep families from coming into the public library is the fear and threat of fines. When I began working in the school, I had several parents come and tell me that they do not ever go to the public library because the fines are too high, and they are not able to keep the public library books separated from the school library books. Even for parents who have it together, this is seen as far too stressful to bother with so they just avoid the public library altogether.

On the opposite side of the “needs spectrum”, I am also seeing many children struggling under the obvious stress caused from parents who are just not able to keep it together to do ordinary tasks to help their children. For these families in varying degrees of crisis, the threat of library fines is just too high of a stressor.

In the public library field, it seems we have unintentionally created an impression among our patrons that the library values their fine money more than providing access to books. For that to change, we need to end library fines and recommit to re-educating parents that the library is a space that will actually help them.  We need to re-emphasize the fact to them (and perhaps, to ourselves) that our first priority it to put books in the hands of kids. Fortunately, school librarians are key partners in that re-education process, because they have access to all the kids, and potentially, all the parents.

At the same time, school and public libraries should work together to find ways to return books to one another when they are accidentally returned to the wrong place. This can be done, and it would help parents to know that if they return a book to the school library, even if it belonged to the public library, that it will end up where it needs to.  This will help to reinforce the perception that libraries can work together and share the same objectives.

In the public library world, I worked hard every day to find ways to promote our library services and resources in ways that reached more people and were more effective. In the school library, I do not need to worry about outreach in quite the same way because the children are coming to me on a daily basis.  At the same time, I work just as hard to make sure the library remains a magic place in their imagination.

The outreach programs at public libraries serve the same function of creating that sense of magic for children who attend them.  But these “magical moments” only work when the children and parents come.  If the public library wants to be an assertive player in the children’s reading lives, they need to come up with creative solutions to decades-old problems of fines, lost books, and public fearfulness.  School librarians can not meet the literacy needs of their students alone. They need a community of literacy warriors to build up the idea that reading is something valuable, that cool people do it, and that it is a normal part of our daily lives. That is where the power of a public and school librarian working together can shine a light against the darkness of reading poverty in our student’s lives.

Meeting with the school librarians can go a long way toward finding ways for us each to do what we do best, but differently. And, I believe now, more than ever, that public and school librarians have power to effect great change in the reading habits of the children they serve, especially when we can partner together. We are going up against decades old reading apathy and even illiteracy in our communities. For the families and children we serve, we are literacy warriors.

Keep reading, my friends!

Emily 🙂

Mini Golf in the Library!

Libraries are not just about accessing books, DVDs, and magazines. They are spaces where positive interactions between children, their family/friends, and library staff take place and memories can be created. They are also places where ideas are presented. Kids can come, interact with those ideas, and then take those ideas home with them to be further read about, experimented with, and used in their play.  For that reason, I totally felt that setting up a mini golf course in the library was something we needed to do this summer! It was very inexpensive and completely fun!

I also feel that one of our missions as librarians serving youth is to demonstrate for kids and parents how to play using simple materials that they already have. That way, the families can use our ideas to re-create similar experiences and keep the learning going once they get home. This really hit home for me when three parents came up to me while their children were playing mini golf and told me that this is something they would be doing again at home. Yeah!

And, I also feel that the library’s mission is to connect our community to resources that they may otherwise not be able to participate in. For us, the closest option to go to a mini-golf course would be to travel about an hour away, and I wanted to bring this experience to families in our community who otherwise are not able to drive that distance.  It was a total hit!

Here is a video of me walking through our course:

Inspiration: The Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and Maura in the Library were both very helpful in sharing photos of the Mini Golf courses that their library planned. Check them out!

Cost: About $20 to purchase the mini golf clubs that the Dollar Tree was selling this summer and 9 green plastic cups that we used for the “holes”.

Set-up: Our golf course had 9 holes, and each hole was themed using odds and ends from our craft and programming rooms. Kids started playing each hole by placing their golf ball on the green dot labeled “Start Here” and working their way around obstacles to get their ball into the green cup.

9 Hole Mini Golf:
Hole #1: Dr. Seuss
Hole #2: Dinosaurs
Hole #3: Clifford the Big Red Dog
Hole #4: Legos
Hole #5: Chefs/cooking
Hole #6: Star Wars
Hole #7: Travel to all 50 States
Hole #8: Alphabet
Hole #9: Laura Ingalls Wilder/Frontier.

I started off by marking the boundaries of each hole with masking tape, but I soon realized that with kids, their balls would often roll outside of the tape, and we would have golf balls all over the place. So, I found books that matched the theme for each hole and set the books up around the perimeter to form a kind of barrier. It worked great, we just had to re-shelve all the books once the program was done. And, this was a great way to “display” lots of our books!

Another idea to establish a perimeter around your holes is to tape pool noodles down to the floor.

I also had my go-to upbeat song, Shake Your Body Down by Laurie Berkner playing on repeat while the program was running.

Staff: You could probably get away with only one volunteer/staff member being the groundskeeper at this kind of event, but I had several teen volunteers. So, one volunteer took care of the welcome table, where kids came to get their golf club, golf ball, and a scorecard if they wanted one. We found par for the scorecard by just taking my score, but you could also have several volunteers play the course and average their scores for each hole. Here is a Word document download link for the Mini Golf Scorecard and Clubhouse Rules that we had displayed at our welcome table: Mini Golf Scorecard. A second volunteer was in the programming room, and they simply walked around and fixed books or props if they were knocked down by golf balls or golf clubs that got a little too wild.

And there you have it! Mini Golf in the library!


Life-Size Candyland

Candyland! The game of nostalgia and childhood! As much fun as it is to play it as a board game with small game pieces, for the past two years, we gave our community an opportunity to experience this game on a whole new level by building sets out of cardboard to make the board game life-size!

How it happened: Last summer I had over 20 teens hanging out at the library and they asked if there were projects they could help me with. I was not planning on having this many great helpers, and I scrambled every week to find helpful things they could do that they were also interested in. Until, one of them asked if they they could build the sets to Candyland, thinking of how much fun it would be to play the game if it was life-size. Boom! The large project I needed! Teens worked for about 6 weeks to build all the sets, and many of the sets were worked on by several teens coming into the library separately, so there was lots of collaboration. We used lots of cardboard, construction paper, and paint!

We set the game up in our programming room by using just plain construction paper to create the “path” that the kids walked on. Teens also created four dice using square boxes that kids rolled to let them know what colored square to move to. This summer, I had four teens on hand to help run the game, so I gave a dice to each of our four teen volunteers and they would bring a family, or group, of kids through the game. The kids would throw the dice, and the volunteer would retrieve it, and then pass it to the next player. That way the kids never had to leave their square. Also, having four volunteers meant that we could have four groups playing the game at one time. We could accommodate a large crowd this way and no kids had very long to wait as a volunteer would finish their game every few minutes, and then go back to the starting square to pick up their next group of kids who wanted to play.

Music is such a powerful force to set a welcoming tone, and I had Laurie Berkner’s “Shake Your Body Down” song on repeat while families played their way through Candyland. Another song that would also be great is the Lollipop Song.

Here are our sets:

Plum Tree

Mr. Mint 

Gumdrop Pass (made from a tablecloth and sand pails)

Grandma Nut’s House

Princess Lolly

Queen Frostine 


King Candy’s Castle 

And, that’s Candyland! We saved the sets and the paper squares that kids used as the “path” so this is a FREE program once you have it set-up and you can run it as many times as your community needs! In 2018, we offered this twice during our summer reading program, once on a Monday night and again on a Tuesday morning, taking advantage of the opportunity to only have one set-up and one take-down for two huge programs!

Have you create life-size games at your library? I would love to hear about it!

Star Wars Jedi Training

Jedi Knights have assembled children sensitive to the force to test their Jedi abilities. Under the tutelage of the Jedi masters, the recruits must learn how to use the force to wield lightsabers, discover their Star Wars name, design their own ship, shoot down Storm Troopers, assist in a mission to destroy the Death Star and build their own droid. Come and join us, my young Padawan!

We offered “Star Wars Jedi Training” the third week of our summer reading program and it was a big hit! We offered this on Monday evening and again on Tuesday morning! One prep and set-up for two huge program days! And, only one clean up on Tuesday after the program was done!  Horray! The costs were incredibly low and families wanted to stay at the library playing with all the activity stations for about 90 minutes, significantly longer than many parents/kids usually have the patience for with a room filled with excited people! That alone was a great sign!

The skinny:
We offered our “Jedi Training” as a program with eight activity stations:

Because I really, really, really wanted the kids to be able to take a lightsaber with them when they went home, we also had a final station where the Jedi Master would make a lightsaber for each of the kids once they had completed all the activity stations. The lightsaber was a balloon, like the kind you use to make balloon animals. Perfect for my budget! And, all the kids LOVED them!

I also had our Star Wars books set out in a display, and Star Wars music was playing during the program, definately helping to set the Star Wars mood!


  • About $10 for 250 balloons to make lightsabers, which we did not go through.
  • $8 for a balloon pump on Amazon
  • $4 for 4 pool noodles which we turned into pool noodle lightsabers!
  • $2 for regular balloons which we used in the lightsaber training with balloons station.

And, here is my breakdown for the activity stations:

Welcome Table and Scavenger Hunt: 

We set up a table near the door so we could greet families as they came in. I made up a Training Card with all the activity stations listed and told the kids that to become a Jedi Knight, they needed to complete all the activity stations on their card. A volunteer at each station (or a volunteer who was “hovering” and covering several activity stations) checked off their boxes once the kids were done with the station. Here is a like to my Star Wars Training Card. I also had the paper for the scavenger hunt at this table as well, and I trained in three volunteers to be able to help the kids find the objects in the children’s library. This scavenger hunt was done by Jbrary! Thank you! Kids were able to find different areas of the children’s library by looking for the star wars characters on their Scavenger Hunt, a win-win for everyone! You can access Jbrary’s Scavenger Hunt file and post HERE. If you have a volunteer who can help lead kids around your library looking for the characters, that would be best, as some kids found this challenging. I also laminated the Scavenger Hunt pages. The kids wrote on them with crayons, and a tissue wiped the crayon marking right off! Doing this meant that I only needed to print out the Scavenger Hunt on 10 pieces of paper, instead of 80!

Discover Your Star Wars Name: 

Thank you, again, Jbrary! Okay! To find your Star Wars first name you combine the first three letters of your last name with the first two letters of your first name. For me, Emily Zorea, my Star Wars name is Zorem! I gave kids reusable nametag holders which they filled out and wore throughout the program! It was a great way to begin conversations with kids! Before kids received their Jedi lightsaber at the end of the program, the Jedi volunteer asked kids to give him their nametag so we could recycle it. Some kids wanted to keep their name, so they took out the piece of paper, but I think we were able to collect all the nametags again! I had a volunteer at this station, but you could get by without one.

Demonstrate your design skills at the Coloring Station: 


I found amazing coloring sheets created by Amy at EncouragingMomsAtHome. Thank you! I printed them off, and kids loved them, often coloring more than one! I usually set out coloring as an option for many of my family programs, and it can get a lack-luster response. These pages, though, were so cool that kids stayed at this station as long as any of the others! No volunteer at this station.

Attempt to Sink The Death Star

The Lego Librarian had this great idea! We cut cardboard into a large circle, and two of my middle school volunteers helped me paint it into something that looks like the Death Star! We folded a dozen paper airplanes and kids tried to fly their paper airplanes through a hold I cut towards the top-right part of the Death Star to “sink” it. Lots of fun, and harder than it looked! We had a volunteer at this station, but it basically runs itself.

Design your own Star Wars Ship

I set out our LEGOS, and kids had a blast! Seriously, I always underestimate how excited kids will be to build with Legos, and they had some great designs! I had a volunteer here, but again, this station really does not need one!

Defend Against Storm Troopers: 

Thank you again, The Lego Librarian! I found some images of Storm Troopers online and printed them out so we had two images to a page. I then asked our volunteers to paint toilet paper rolls white and then cut out the Storm Troopers. Then, they glued the stormtroopers to the toilet paper rolls so they would stand up. My son brought his Nerf guns and was the volunteer at this station where kids defended themselves with Nerf guns against the Storm Troopers. You definitely need a volunteer at this station to keep the kids controlled, load the Nerf guns as needed (most kids did not know how) and to teach good shooting range protocol. No one was allowed to shoot if someone was between the Nerf gun and the Storm Trooper. Also, kids lined up in a row and they all fired at once and then walked over to the Storm Troopers to retrieve their Nerf bullet. It kept this station going, but also taught important safety. Kids were told that aiming the Nerf guns at another Jedi-In-Training (or family member) was never allowed, and all of the kids followed this rule. Great fun, even with the necessary rules and safety! You will have kids asking if they can do this again and again!


Build Your Own Droid

Thank you again, The Lego Librarian! I used his templates for the droids, and just set out cup-up scraps of paper and glue sticks Kids designed their own droid! We had a volunteer here, but you could get by without one as long as someone comes over every once in a while to clean up the station.

Light Saber Training with Balloons!

I cut a pool noodle in half, and then taped the ends with duct and electrical tape to create a lightsaber. You can also use sharpie markers to create lots of detail. I marked off a space in our programming room with tape on the floor and assigned two volunteers to lead this station. I found out that this worked best for us when I only had four pool-noodle lightsabers at the station at one time (basically, four kids at a time). I also put four balloons in this station and the goal was for the kids to either balance their balloon on their lightsaber, or bat their balloon up and down for as long as they could before their balloon hit the floor, or to pass their balloon to a partner. It went well, and parents told me they were going to make a trip to the Dollar Store on the way home to pick up pool noodles to make their own at home!

Finally…you are a Jedi. Come and receive your Lightsaber! 

I do not have great photos of this, unfortunately. But, here is how this worked. Once kids had completed all the stations my son would blow up a “balloon animal” balloon and twist it into a sword for these “Jedi-Knights No-Longer-In-Training”. The kids loved it.  We had a few ballons pop on their way to the car, but my son kept twisting and made replacements as needed. It also gave the kids something to take home along with their new droid and in addition to those Star Wars books they checked out!

Have you done a Star Wars program recently? I would love, love, love to hear your ideas! Please leave a comment below! May the Force be with you, my librarian friends!



Dinosaur Party!

Wow. That is just about all I can think after hosting our Dinosaur Party last week! It was one of our largest programs I have ever prepped for. We organized our summer reading program differently this year, and I planned our large family programs (like the Dinosaur Party) to run twice, once on Monday evening and again on Tuesday mornings. That way, we are able to offer our large programs to families who need to come in during the evenings, and for families where it works better to come in during the morning. And, because it was the same program, I only had one prep, set-up, and clean-up for two huge programs! What a labor saver!

I planned this out so that we had five activity stations. We had 11 tween/teen volunteers come to lead all the activity stations. That is them up above. 🙂 This is probably the most expensive program I have hosted so far this year, but even so, I would estimate I paid about $80 for everything we needed and the supplies served almost 200 people between both days!

The skinny: Our dinosaur party had a short introduction to bring the group together. This was basically me talking to the kids about dinosaurs, asking the kids to roar, and reading them Dinosaur Roar by Paul and Henrietta Stickland. I had other books to read just in case, including Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp by Carol Diggory Shields but the kids were antsy to begin on the activity stations they saw as they came in. Another great idea is to sing “We are the Dinosaurs” by Laurie Berkner! But, we did one story, and then got right to business! The crowd broke out into five activity stations.  Volunteers manned each station which included making a dinosaur action figure, hatching dinosaur eggs, dinosaur tooth necklaces, dinosaur etchings, and finally a dinosaur fossil dig!

Cost: Again, about $80. Here is what I needed to purchase:

And here is what I already had:

  • Flour, and oil for the salt dough dinosaur tooth necklaces and dinosaur bones
  • Plain white copy paper for the Dinosaur Etchings
  • Red and White pony beads for the dinosaur necklaces
  • Baking soda and oil for the dinosaur eggs

Set-up: I put a large tarp in the middle of the floor (I think our tarp was 10’X10’. This is where kid sat when to begin the program. After the introduction time, we moved under bed storage containers of sand with buried dinosaur fossils onto this tarp. We had no sand mess. The tarp captured everything. Our janitor did not even know what we did the next day when he mopped the floor! I had the other four activity stations set up around the perimeter of the room. Also, I had the soundtrack to Jurassic Park playing on my CD player throughout the event, which helped set a great atmosphere.

A daycare donated dinosaur plastic decorations, so we taped those to the wall. I also made some fun signs using copyright free dinosaur images saying things like, “Dinosaur Crossing”, “T-Rex Zone”, and “Raptor Speed 40 MPH”.  We printed these out and also hung them on the wall. Here are my Dinosaur Signs.

Activity Stations:

Dinosaur Toy:

We made Glue-lee Printable Dinosaur from Krokotak. This is basically a dinosaur action figure that requires no glue or complicated assembly. So simple, even for younger kids! Kids just cut along the solid black lines, and fold along the single dotted line. They loved it. I copied the image template from their website and was able to resize it so that I could print two dinosaur templates on a standard 8.5”x11” piece of green cardstock.

Dinosaur Eggs

I bought a pack of 100 miniature dinosaurs from Amazon for $14 to “fill” the eggs. To make the eggs, I used the recipe from Fun at Home with Kids. Basically, you mix ½ a cup of baking soda in a small dish pan and add 2 Tablespoons of citric acid. Finally, add 1 teaspoon of oil and mix your dough. Your dough should be dry and crumbly, but able to stick together when you smoosh it under pressure. We needed more oil, though, so we added it in 1 teaspoon increments until our dough was wet enough to stick together. Take a small dinosaur and press the dough around it to cover it and make it look like an egg shape. Let your dough dry overnight. Even though the dough was crumbly when we worked with it, in the morning it was solid!

On the day of the party, I put out a large under bed storage container on the table, filled it with water, and told my teens to give out one egg to every child who came to the table. The kid simply dropped their egg into the water, and the dough began to fizz, eventually revealing the dinosaur as it appeared to “hatch” from the fizzing egg. Super exciting!

Dinosaur Tooth Necklaces:

We made four batches of salt dough using the recipe: 1 cup salt, 2 cups of flour, ¾ cup of water. I shaped the dough into dinosaur teeth about 2” in length. Before the dough dried, I poked a hole through the top at the top of each tooth so that we would be able to string them once they dried to make them into necklaces. The dough needed a few days to dry, but we had them on a shelf in our storage room, so it was not a big deal. You will want to turn the teeth over every day until they are totally dry, so that they will dry evenly. Or, bake them in the over on the lowest heat setting for a few hours. Once they were dry, we strung them with string. On the day of the party, I had the necklaces out with white and red beads. Kids were invited to choose a tooth and string beads on the string. Super fun!

Dinosaur Etchings:

I purchased some rubbing plates from Amazon for $8. I matched the plates we were given with FREE PRINTABLE dinosaur fact sheets from Ed Galaxy. That way, kids could make a rubbing, and learn something about their dinosaur at the same time! This again was a very popular station!

Finally, …drum roll….the Dino Dig  Station!

I bought four under bed storage containers and filled each with a bag of sand. We then made dinosaur-looking bones out of salt dough, and filled the containers with them. I set out paintbrushes in each container, so that kids could use the brushes to “paint” away the sand from the bones. I thought that kids would want to just dig in the sand with their hands, and they did, but nearly every one of them used the paintbrush to brush away the sand when they discovered a bone. Some kids wanted to keep them, but I told the volunteers to instead invite the kids to re-bury the bones. Super, super fun!

If you have ever wanted to plan a dinosaur party, do it! This program had a great mix of families and kids from birth-grade 5 came to play! It was one of our largest programs, and we had so much positive feedback during the event, and afterward on Facebook when parents posted great photos of their kids!

Have fun with dinosaurs!



Rock Painting

Hello library buddies! Right now we are in the midst of summer reading programming and our library has been humming! I try to take a break from regular programs for the last three weeks of May so that I have the flexibility to visit area schools to talk to students during assembles about the summer reading program, accommodate last minute requests from teachers to bring their classes to the library for a STEM program before school ends, and to finish all final SRP preparations. I am the only Youth Services Librarian at my library, and it takes those final three weeks to finish everything up so we are ready to go June 1st. That means that I am very anxious to see all our library families again, and June seems to fly by!

I just want to share about a program that we offered which I LOVED. In my town, rock painting and hiding is a big deal. Kids paint rocks all summer, and then hide them around town. Other kids and families look and find those rocks, re-hide them, and the cycle keeps going. It is basically a community-wide Easter egg hunt, but with painted rocks and it goes all summer. We even have a Facebook page about our community’s rock hunting! Access it HERE. So, rock painting was the first family program our library offered as part of the summer reading program.

I am offering something new this year with my programming schedule. This summer, I thought that we would offer a family-style program on Monday nights and on Tuesday mornings. That way, if parents/caregivers needed to come in the evening after working hours, they could on Mondays. If they already had commitments Monday night, they had the option of coming Tuesday morning. And, that way I am able to get two large programs done with one prep, one set-up, and one clean-up as we leave the program out and set-up on Monday night so we can do it again on Tuesday morning! Rock painting was the first program were I tried this schedule out, and it worked great. I heard from many parents/caregivers that having the Monday night/Tuesday morning option was working great for their family and made it easy for them to come to the library since they had both days as options!

The skinny on Rock Painting:

Cost: $0 (We had everything on hand. You probably do too!)

Rocks (Ask at a landscaping center to donate some!),
Washable paints in a variety of colors,
Cups for water,
Dollar store plastic tablecloths (Unless you are okay with scrubbing washable paint off tables. We had to do this for some of our tables, and it was not that bad. But, tablecloths would help!)
Clear spray paint,
Baby wipes/paper towels.

Benefits: Low cost, program basically runs itself after set-up, works for all ages (babies-high school students), makes a great family program since it works for all ages, kids have the opportunity to be artistic, and afterwards, they enjoy the physical exercise of walking around the community and hiding their rocks.

This was a very low-stress program. I asked a local landscaping business, and they donated a 5-gallon pail of rocks. Kids painted all the rocks they wanted, and we did not go through all the rocks from that 5-gallon bucket. I also put out our washable paints, and when kids came in, a volunteer asked them what colors of paint they wanted. The volunteer then squirted a small amount of paint on a Styrofoam plate.

(NOTE: Last year when I offered rock painting the kids were allowed to pour the paint themselves. I would strongly recommend having a volunteer to do this for them. The kids poured out way more paint than they needed and we ended up wasting a lot of paint. Also, this is a great opportunity for a volunteer or staff to interact and welcome families to the program/library!)

We set up some tables, covered several of them with $1 tablecloths, and set out cups with paintbrushes and recycled plastic yogurt containers with water so kids could wash out their brushes. We also had some baby wipes and paper towels on hand for kids to wipe their brushes, or clean their fingers from the paints.

Kids from babies to high-schoolers happily painted for the whole hour that the program went on! Once the rocks were dry, we took them outside and sprayed them with clear spray paint to “fix” the washable paint on the rocks, so that the paint would not wash out when the rocks would get rained on.

Low cost, low prep, high interaction, the program basically runs itself, and a great opportunity for kids to be artists and then physically active as they walk around their community looking for places to hide their rocks! We will definately be doing this again!

Wisconsin Valley Library Service- STEAM in Youth Services Workshop

Tuesday, April 24th brought me to Wausau to present at the STEAM in Youth Services Workshop! Special thanks to Anne Hamland for inviting me! It was a wonderful time to share ideas that we have offered at Brewer Public Library, but I was especially interested in listening to the great ideas of my colleagues and hope to offer their programs at my library soon! 

Here is the PowerPoint presentation from my session time. All the programs that I talked about are linked to their blog post where I included all the resources I used to plan the program, cost, and how the program went:

Engaging Youth, Teens, and Families Around STEAM

I hope to visit my colleagues in the Wisconsin Valley Library Service soon!

Fairy Tale STEM: The Little Red Hen

The skinny: We did this program as a book club program for Kindergarten-5th grade. These fairy tale/STEM/Book Club programs were born out of a mission of mine to incorporate more literacy into our STEM programming. What better way to do that than read a great fairy tale, incorporate literacy vocabulary by talking about the characters and what the problem was in the book, and then engineering our way to a better solution?

Supplies needed: Copy paper, markers, The Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone.

Time: Plan about 30 minutes for this program. counting the time to get the kids their snack, read the book, and do the activity. So, if you are looking for a 30 minute program, this is a good one. If you need to stretch your time a little more, then try adding a closing game at the end. That is something that I hope to do next time.

How it went:  These programs welcome kids in Kindergarten-fifth grade, and the younger kids really do well. The older kids tend to get bored, so I try to verbally give them additional challenges to make the STEM activity harder. It just depends on the age of your group.

I did this program as part of a thematic series using our Cookies and Milk Book Club as the weekly program to draw kids in. We hold this on Tuesdays at 3:45 pm. To prep, I buy a half gallon of milk and a value sized bag of Cookie Crunch cereal. I never know how many kids will come so when they arrive I pour the milk and cookies after the kids have arrived and while chatting with them about anything they think is important. Once they have their afterschool snack, I introduced our book, The Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone.

Everyone already knows this story, but they enjoy eating their snack and following along. It seems that even older kids really like storytime, they just don’t want to admit it. To make it more interactive, though, I do invite the kids to repeat phrases with me such as, “Not I, said the cat” and other sound effects like the sound of the Little Red Hen scratching in the dirt to plant her seeds.

After reading the story we talked about the problems the Little Red Hen faced in this book. It is really fun to hear kids reactions of how angry they can get with the Little Red Hen’s friends who are not helping out! I talked to the kids about a “Help Wanted” poster, and it can be used to help advertise when a person wants to hire someone for a job. We talked about how great it would be if the Little Red Hen was able to make a poster to get some help with all her work!

I invited the kids to create their own “Help Wanted” poster. For the younger kids we talked about what chores the Little Red Hen might need help with: planting seeds, watering seeds, bring the wheat to market, baking the bread, etc. They also drew pictures. Now, we just had a problem with how to send the posters. So, we decided to fold them into paper airplanes and fly them around the room, which we did.

Have you done Fairy Tale STEM in your library? I would love to hear your ideas!

Fairy Tale STEM: The Three Billy Goats Gruff

The skinny: We did this program as both a book club program for Kindergarten-5th grade and as a Kindergarten class outreach visit. Both programs went great! These programs were born out of a mission of mine to incorporate more literacy into our STEM programming. What better way to do that than read a great fairy tale, incorporate literacy vocabulary by talking about the characters and what the problem was in the book, and then engineering our way to a better solution?

The cost: $0. We already had all the supplies on hand. But, if you don’t, you can buy clothes pins online for $6-10 for a pack of 100 and the tongue depressors for about $6 for a pack of 500. And, all the supplies are re-usable! You might also want to buy some small goats for the kids to play with as they are building their bridge. I searched on Amazon for “toy goat” and found some great options, like this pack of 25 for only $10.

Supplies needed: Clothespins, wide craft sticks, and the book, The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Paul Galdone.

Resources: Check out the Teach Beside Me blog where I got the bridge building idea for this program!

Time: Plan about 30-40 minutes for this program.

How it went: For the book club I did this as part of our Cookies and Milk book club series. We hold this on Tuesdays at 3:45 pm. To prep, I buy a half gallon of milk and a value sized bag of Cookie Crunch cereal. I never know how many kids will come so when they arrive I pour the milk and cookies while chatting with the kids about anything they think is important. Once they have their afterschool snack, I introduced our book, The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Paul Galdone. I had kindergarten through 5th graders, so everyone knew the story already. But, they had a glass of milk and another glass of cookies, so why not be excited? I read the story, having the kids help with the narration by asking, “And what did the troll say?” just to keep everyone engaged. After reading the story we talked about who the characters were (The Three Billy Goats Gruff and the Troll) and what the Billy Goats’ problem was (they did not have a safe bridge to cross). I brought out our clothes pins and tongue depressors and asked them to make me a bridge that would be safe. Some of the kids struggled with this, so I showed them a few ways to build. What I really liked about this was that it was simple enough for the youngest kids to do on their own, and yet difficult enough for the older kids to come up with bigger and better ways to build.

Have you tried Fairy Tale STEM? What are your favorite programs? I would love to hear from you!


littleBits in your Library’s STEAM Programming: Part 2

This is Part Two of my posts on littleBits programs we hosted at Brewer Public Library. Click here to read Part 1 where I explain the kits that our library is using, discounts available for librarians, and four lesson plans using the Workshop set.

Before last year, littleBits were not familiar to me. However, there is a very generous foundation in my city and they invited me to submit a grant on behalf of Brewer Public Library’s youth services department. I looked online for ideas of popular STEAM based programming at public libraries that I could use as models for my grant, and WHAM, I discovered littleBits. We have a very small budget at our library, and I try to stretch our funds out as much as I can (I budget $0.30 a child, and usually I try to do programs for less). This grant, though, allowed me to dream about programming options that I would never be able to offer otherwise.

I offered four littleBits programs in January, and parents/kids kept asking if I would continue the littleBits programs throughout February, so why not? Finding lesson plans was a little tricky, but we came up with four lessons that stretched the kid’s ideas about circuits. Our programs lasted from 30-60 minutes (including time at the end of kids to sort their littleBits and clean up). Also, we had attendees ranging from 5 years old to 12.

The videos were created to help promote the programs on Facebook. Many parents told me they came to the program just because they saw the video of what the kids would be creating. Click on the title of each lesson plan for links to outside resources that provided the inspiration for these lessons.

Lesson 5: Olympic Torches

Bits needed: Battery and cable, power, wire, latch, inverter, RGB LED.

Bit+Co. had a great lesson plan for birthday candles made from littleBits, and I just adapted it for Olympic torches. Again, I placed all bits required (power, cable, battery, wire, latch, inverter, and the RGB LED) into Ziploc bags ahead of time to not confuse kids about what bits they needed to make the project. I also had popsicle sticks, rubber bands, tissue paper, and tape out on tables. After creating their torch, I opened up all the littleBits to them for free exploration.

Lesson 6: Three Wheeler

Bits needed: Battery and cable, power, DC motor, light sensor, wire (2), wooden skewer, cardboard circles for wheels.

Full disclosure: This program did not work when we did in on program day. Sure, it worked for me when I tested the lesson plan out. Sure, it worked for the three kids who peaked around my desk to see what I was doing and wanted to make one to. But, on the day, it was a real opportunity to let the kids know that science and engineering is about working through challenges. We used chopsticks and cardboard cut out into circles for the wheels and axles, which did work, but I think that using LEGO wheels and axles would work better. However, all the kids were able to get their three-wheeler working before the end of the hour program!

Lesson 7: Art Bot

Bits needed: Battery and cable, power, DC motor, chalk/crayon/marker, rubber bands.

Again, full disclosure, we had a hard time getting this one to work too. But, all the kids were able to get it working in some capacity, and again, it was a good moment to let kids know that it is okay to struggle.

Lesson 8: Backpack Security

Bits needed: Battery and cable, power, light sensor, pulse, buzzer, screwdriver. We ended our programming on a high note with this one! Kids loved the idea of a security system at school that they could build for themselves!

More Lesson Plan to Try: 

While looking for lesson plans I found sever more that would be great to try in the future! If you have already done these, let me know!


Olympic Skier



Kids STEM Lab: Paper Airplanes

Building paper airplanes is the stuff of kids and imaginations! Intentionally incorporate some physics vocabulary terms, with some experimentation time, and you have a fun program to interest kids of all ages!

The skinny: This was one of the more challenging programs I have done. I try to plan our STEM programs so families can come together, and we have kids who are three years old with siblings who are ten years old. That is a big age difference, but my most successful programs happen when I am able to find activities that allow kids of differing abilities to acomplish the activity successfully. Airplanes are hard because making folds in paper according to directions is not something that young kids intuitively know how to do. But, it was a great exercise in showing kids how to follow directions, a necessary skill in STEM.

The cost: $0. I set out some white copy paper, pink construction paper, and masking tape. We also set out pennies from past programs that we keep saving and re-using.  We already had all these supplies on hand, but if you needed to purchase the paper and masking tape, I would estimate maybe $5 in supplies. At most.

Resources: There are great blog posts out there on airplane STEM, but two of my favorites planning this program were Airplane Science by the Show Me Librarian and STEM Paper Airplane Challenge by Kids Activities. I also utelized the book, Paper Airplanes by Jenny Fretland VanVoorst.

  How it went: We began the program by sitting in a circle and talking about paper airplanes that we had all built in the past. Kids have great stories about planes they have built and the different “flight” patterns their planes exhibited, and it was a great way to build comradery in the group and practice conversation skills. By the way, I had kids in the program as young as two and as old as ten. I then took out the book, Paper Airplanes by Jenny Fretland VanVoorst. Depending on the group you might want to read the whole book, or, especially focus on pages 12-19. For our program, we focused on the physics vocabulary terms” Gravity, Thrust, Lift, and Drag. After reading the book I wrote those four words on the whiteboard and we talked a little bit more about those terms with an example paper airplane.

Then, it was time to build! I had a copy of instructions for the classic paper airplane open on the table similar to these instructions. Some of the kids were able to fold the paper into the pattern, and some of the kids needed help. No problem. After building their plane and testing it out, I invited the kids to tape down pennies on the wings, bottom, and sides of their plane. The challenge was to see which plane could carry the most money “cargo”. After the kids had taped their pennies down, we had a contest of sorts where the kids were able to line up and fly their airplanes. WARNING: be sure that no one is in the way when the planes go off! Pennies will fly off the planes, so just be careful! No one got hurt, lots of kids were laughing and smiling, and parents chuckled to see their kids having so much fun. It was also a good way to practice safety instructions, which will be helpful as these kids keep advancing in school and taking science courses.

The kids loved seeing their planes fly! We went back and forth between flying and going back to the work tables to tweak designs. In the end, I think we had about 12 rounds of flying the planes before having everyone sit down in a circle again. We talked about our four physics vocabulary words that help explain the forces behind why paper airplanes fly (and crash). I also was able to ask the kids how much money cargo their plane was carrying at the last round. After a few minutes of sharing, I asked the kids to help me pick up pennies that had dropped to the floor. Kids asked to keep their airplanes, which was a good sign they had enjoyed themselves. One mom commented that during a snow we had about a week ago her sons had built 70 paper airplanes in one afternoon! However, they did not know how to fold them correctly, so none of them flew as well as her sons wanted. She specifically brought her boys to this program to learn how to fold their paper airplane so it would fly, and I think her sons were some of the proudest children all evening of what they were able to build by following the directions.

Have you done a paper airplane STEM program at your library? I would love to hear about it!

STEM Themed Valentine’s Day Party

Valentine’s Day. For some, just the mention of it brings smiles, for others groans. For myself, I have always appreciated the day as a time to remember family and friends who I care about. And, for the elementary school children who still make Valentine’s day bags and boxes and exchange valentines, it seems that the day is a positive one for them as well. What to do when a library STEM program falls on this special holiday? Plan a Valentine’s Day STEM Party, of course!

The skinny: This was a fun program because I gave myself a constraint: I wanted to create multiple activity stations that all used Valentine’s Day conversation candy hearts. In the end, I was able to design five different activity stations, and after each program, I polled the kids to find out which stations were their favorite. Each station received approximately the same number of votes after running the program five times for five different classes. So, you can be sure that there will be activities here that your kids will enjoy. What I also liked about these activity stations was that they were easy enough for three-year-olds to do successfully on their own, but fun enough for fifth graders to also spend an hour with. This made a great multi-age program, making it perfect for families.

Cost: $30 for all the supplies. I ran this program five times, with brought the cost to about $0.40 per child. But, there were lots of supplies that we did not go through, so it gave me lots of extras for next time. Once I had the stations set up I just kept the supplies on a table in my storage room and brought out the activities for each class as they came to the library for the program, so we were able to use all the supplies over and over. The only casualty was the hearts that we used in the boat building station. Those dissolve in the water after an hour, so be prepared to throw those away (and have a sink nearby for kids to wash their hands!)

Preparation: I set up five tables, each with a different station. I also went online and added some photos of examples of the station to a PowerPoint slide which I printed out and placed at each table as a table-topper so that the kids could see at a glance what the challenge was at each table. I wrote out a few instructions, and voila! Done! Here is a PDF of all the table toppers I had out. All the photos are my own.

Valentine’s Day STEM- Candy Hearts Table Toppers

Resources: I utilized two blogs for the activity stations. Please check out STEM Activities for Kids and Joy in the Works blogs!

How it went: We had five stations for this program:

Candy Heart Wall

Supplies needed:  Candy hearts, straws.

Heart Bridge

Supplies needed: Candy hearts, index cards, plastic cups.

Candy Heart Chute

Supplies needed: Candy hearts, plastic cups, toilet paper rolls, old cardboard, boxes, clothespins…basically any supplies you have in your craft room. Just set it out and watch kids figure out creative solutions with it!

Candy Heart Boat

Supplies needed: Candy hearts, tin foil, containers for water.

Candy Heart Catapult

Supplies needed: Candy hearts, tongue depressors, spoons, rubber bands.

This was a very fun program! It reminded me of my Valentine’s Day party when I was in Kindergarten! We had been doing lots of very specific STEM programs over the past few months, and having multiple activity stations that kids were free to choose and spend as much time as they liked with was a welcome change, for the kids and me. We began with some circle time (all the kids and myself sit in a circle) and we had a great conversation as our program opener about Valentine’s Day, how the kids decorated their boxes, who they care about, etc. Then, I walked around the room and introduced each station by telling kids what the challenge was and what supplies they had to work with. I told them they were free to go where they wanted to but to try to get to all five stations before the hour was up. After that, it was time to ask them to use walking feet to choose the station they wanted to try first! I also did this with a class that needed more structure, and we timed it so that groups of four students were at each station for ten minutes (which seemed like a great amount of time for them).

This program was very relaxed, and parents/grandparents/teachers were able to walk around and participate as much as the kids. Even the stations that I had worries about turned out to be incredibly popular, such as the Build a Candy Heart Wall. I watched the kids work on their walls for 10-15 minutes, in kind of relaxed zen-like state. It was wonderful. After an hour I invited the kids to come back into a circle and asked anyone who had something to share to raise their hand. We went through multiple comments, and then I took a poll to find out which station was the most popular.

And, that is a wrap! I hope everyone is having a wonderful February. Spring is on the way!

littleBits in your Library’s STEAM Programming

Before last year, littleBits were not familiar to me. However, there is a very generous foundation in my city and they invited me to submit a grant on behalf of Brewer Public Library’s youth services department. I looked online for ideas of popular STEAM based programming at public libraries that I could use as models for my grant, and WHAM, I discovered littleBits. We have a very small budget at our library, and I try to stretch our funds out as much as I can (I budget $0.30 a child, and usually I try to do programs for less). This grant, though, allowed me to dream about programming options that I would never be able to offer otherwise.

LittleBits has many kits to choose from, but I wanted something that would allow me to lead a whole room filled with kids in a program. I wrote my grant to purchase the Workshop Set, which allows 8-24 kids to build at the same time. This kit was $2,000, but I was able to purchase it on Black Friday when they had a sale. Also, as an educator (or librarian), you receive a 5% discount. if you plan to write a grant to purchase your own littleBits, the good news is that littleBits has already done lots of research for you that you can refer to in your grant application. On their website, littleBits has already posted how littleBits connect to Common Core standards, so you have lots of research to prove the value of this resource.

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Go back in history with a Renaissance Faire!

In the frigid cold of January, on a magical Saturday, our library was transformed into a warm castle of medieval times for a community Renaissance Faire. And, a merry time was had by the volunteers and families who enjoyed costumes, food, crafts, and activities belonging to a time long gone by. This is the first kind of “living-history” program I have hosted, and I think it is one of my top five favorite library programs we have ever offered. So, if you are looking for something totally different to liven up your programming, and something totally budget-friendly, read on!

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Kids’ STEM Labs: Newspaper Geodesic Domes

You never know where an idea for a STEM Lab will come to you. For this project, it was while driving to Grandma’s house over Christmas break. My son needed to create a geometry project that was due the day after break ended. Although my son knew about this project in October, like any teenager, he had procrastinated. So, when my husband realized that our son had not yet begun to work on this project, and it was due in a few days, he went into brainstorming mode. The result? My historian husband began talking about geodesic domes. These domes are made completely out of triangles, yet, they have the strength of rounded arches! They do not require any internal support or walls, in a natural disaster, they are one of the safest structures. Obviously, this means we need to plan a STEM Lab around them! Read more


Kids and Legos. Is there a better combination? I am not sure. But, I do know that a LEGO Expo was one program that I had on my wish-list all year, and at the end of November, we made it happen!

This program was both difficult, and easy. I usually have Legos out in the children’s library on Tuesdays after school for kids to come in and build with freely. But, for this Lego Expo, I wanted the kids to be able to show off the projects that they work so hard to build. I heard a great idea from a colleague (thank you, Kelly!) about how her library hosts Expos, where kids are invited to build their Lego project at home, and then bring them to the library to be entered in the contest! A judge comes and awards certificates! Kids gain recognition for their creations! And, the Lego projects are left at the library for several days/ weeks for community members to see and enjoy viewing what kids built. Sounds like a win-win all the way around! Read more

Fall LEGO Building Challenges

Thousands of tiny LEGO pieces on the floor… kids working to recreate a photo from tiny bricks…kids and caregivers taking a break to have a moment of time where their only responsibility is to be creative…and lots of requests for photos of their completed work. Sounds like a great Kids’ STEM Lab to me! We hosted a fall themed LEGO building challenge, and even though it was super low prep, I think this was one of my favorite programs so far! We had a small handful of kids at the beginning of the program, but the open-ended nature of the project drew in more kids who did not know there was a program going on, but wanted to join in!

The skinny: This was a FREE program for us because we already had the LEGOs. The STEM Laboratory offered a free download of photos representing fall objects (black cat, tractor, pumpkin, apple pie, among others). You need to give your email address to access the free download. This program was very open ended, so it would make a great activity if you know kids will drop in, and not necessarily be there at the beginning.

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid Party: The Getaway

The 12th book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, The Getaway was released yesterday, November 7, 2017! Could our library let an occasion like that go unnoticed? I think not! We hosted a Book Launch party complete with games, activities, mom bucks, and presented a copy of the newly released book to a very happy elementary school student. Definitely a lot of fun. Definitely, something I want to do again (and, as quickly as Jeff Kinney seems to be able to get these books out, that will not be long!).

This is the first DOAWK party that I have planned, so I looked to my colleagues for inspiration and support. After an internet search, I found many blog entries incredibly helpful in brainstorming some ideas (I included a list of blog posts and resources that were especially helpful at the end of this post. Check it out!).

On the day of the party, I set out a copy of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid paper scavenger hunt from Thrive After Three as well as a drawing page for kids to be able to design their own book covers so that kids who arrived early right from school would have something to do.  Both of these documents needed a little editing. I cut off the bottom of the scavenger hunt form and updated the information to promote The Getaway. I also cut off the top of the book cover design page, and just ran off copies of my physically shorter page. The kids never knew the difference.

When the kids arrived at 4:00 p.m.  it was party time! We began by sitting in a circle and I asked each kid to tell me what their favorite Diary of a Wimpy Kid book was, and why. Then, I told them just briefly that The Getaway is about the Heffley family spending Christmas vacation in Mexico, and instead of it being a relaxing trip, everything goes wrong. I then asked the kids to tell me about a trip that they went on where things either went well and they had fun, or things went wrong.

These conversations took up maybe 8 minutes, but they were a great way to get started, and it gave us some time for kids who were coming in late to feel that they were not missing anything.

Then, we transitioned to a game of Cheese Touch. It is like the game, “hot potato”. I asked the kids to remind me what the cheese touch was. After hearing how they described it, (“It is like being infected”) I showed the kids the Moldy Cheese bean bag I had made. This is just a bean bag covered in yellow felt. A friend used markers and white-out to create the mold effects. I told the kids that I was going to play some music, and they needed to throw the bean bag around to each other. I would randomly pause the music, and the child holding the beanbag, or the last person to have touched it, was out. I used the “Capitol Kids Christmas” CD and used the Twelve Days of Christmas track because it had the faster beat that I wanted to keep the energy up. The kids loved this, and we played three games. When I do this over, we will spend more time on this, because it was a favorite!

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Creepy Crawlies! Spiders! Webs in the dark! Does it give your give you goose-bumps just thinking about it? Add kids and a few lessons about the science of arachnids, and you have a program that gives new perspective on a creature that inspires most to squirm…or scream!

The skinny: We hosted this program days before Halloween. I wanted to give the kids who came a different way of appreciating spiders, because I used to be very afraid of them myself. This program lends itself to a host of fun ideas, but in the end we read a book together that give great information on spiders in a humorous information style, walked through an interactive Prezi presentation, and finally tried our hands at building our own spider’s web while working on some fine-motor skills and problem-solving techniques.

The cost: Pennies. Literally. I would estimate that we paid about $0.05 for each child for the single paper plate and the yarn.

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2017 Kids Coding Club- Weeks 4 & 5

Whew! Our coding programs have been a lot of fun these past four weeks! We do not have the technology for this program, and I am really thankful to have been able to borrow the laptops from our system to have made this happen!  I am writing Lessons 4 and 5 into this one post because I think a lot of the information is the same. If you are interested, here are the links for Week 1, Week 2, and Week 3.

We are still following the “Beginning Code Camp with” lesson provided by Jen Fait on WisCodeLiterati. Where Jen’s program went for 6 weeks, we stopped at 5. This was practical because our students were able to finish the course that I assigned when I began this program.

In week 4, the kids were still pretty energetic, so I did a super simple unplugged activity inspired by the teacher’s lesson plan. We talked about conditionals, and I simply held up different cards, encouraging them to cheer if the card was red or pretend to cry if the card was black. We also connected the idea of conditionals to their experience with parents putting conditions on this like, “Yes, you can watch your TV show after you clean your room.” We re-wrote that sentence in computer code to look something like, “If (room is clean) {


Else {

The kids then went to work with the online lesson: Conditionals with Bees. Some of them got through this lesson more quickly than other students, and moved them into the Flappy Bird Game. This was what I had planned for Week 5, but I let them experiment with it until the end of the program. The kids who were not that far were really interested in getting to Flappy Bird, and it was great to stir up some excitement.

In Week 5, I had the kids tell me about some of the things they remembered working on last session, and some of the things they worked on during our coding club. I asked them to tell me about something they learned. Some of their answers were silly (I forget their comments now. 🙂 ), and some were more serious, like, “I learned how to move the blocks over to write my code program.”

I had no Unplugged Activity, and the kids got right to work on Flappy Bird. This is where kids actually get to program a game and make it interactive. They had a lot of fun, but it was a struggle for them to find out what the program wanted them to do to run their game. I think this is because they were coding two or three events in their program, instead of just one like they had in the lessons previously. But, they were able to figure it out by trial and error. Sometimes, though, I think they just kept guessing until the program worked, and they did not know what they did to get it to work. But, I gave them lots of credit for coming up with the solution on their own!

At the end of the program, I asked them to show the group one of their Flappy Bird games that they were proud of. We went around the room, watched their program, and clapped to recognize their efforts.

When our time was almost done, I asked everyone to set their laptop near the wall, and told them that we finished our six weeks of Kids Coding Club. We would be having a week off, and then start up again in November. All the kids were interested in programming more with games, so I will do some research and see if I can find a curriculum, possibly even on, that is similar to what they were asking for.

And that is our wrap!
If you have used and know of other ideas that I did not use, please leave a comment! I would love to connect with you!

Some things I am thinking about: I had a 5th-grade class come to the library for a STEM day, and I put them on for our program. The kids were mesmerized! Their teacher was very interested in having her students keep working in when they got back to school. I sent her the information on how to get started with a teacher’s account, and how all the lessons tie to Common Core standards. I also gave her the link to the Wisconsin Coding Initiative.

I was also asked by the Middle School if I could lead coding programs there. I bought a sample lesson in, and again, the students loved it! I need to figure out what we will be doing since I have been invited to come every week.

And finally, I met with some representatives of a local organization that serves Hispanic/Latino needs. We talked about coding education, and how it can be a great way to children to learn a job skill that our labor force will be needed in the coming years.  It was great to begin those conversations, and think about how we can begin to offer after-school coding programming for Hispanic/Latino families.

Keep coding everyone!