Everyone, everyone, everyone loves balloons! I think they are one of the fastest ways I know to get kids to smile and feel engaged. So, why not plan a whole STEM program around them?

I researched two programs posted by Growing a Stem Classroom and Both were excellent resources and helped me envision what I wanted to create with this program. I was also able to find these sites which also have great balloon STEM activities:

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2017 Kids Coding Club- Week 1

This week we held our first Kids Coding Club meeting! This is the first official “coding” program we planned and scheduled for kids at the library. I was able to use a variety of resources to put together a plan that I felt comfortable leading. If you are, or thinking of, leading a coding program, read on!

My biggest fears about offering a coding program are probably not that different from any other librarian’s:

  1. No kids will come. (Actually, that is my biggest fear for any program. And yes, it is okay to admit it).
  2. I am not sure where to begin putting together a lesson plan.
  3. I do not have the technology to offer a program like this.

Thankfully, kids did come, a little help from an awesome librarian pointed me in the right direction for lesson planning, and we were able to find enough computers through some clever asking and borrowing.

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Upcoming (FREE) STEAM Webinar!

Hello library friends!

Please plan to join a free webinar provided by the Youth Service Section of the Wisconsin Library Association on Wednesday, October 4, 2017 from 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM CDT. I will be there presenting along with two of my colleagues. Here is the blurb:

STEAM Programming for the STEAM-Anxious
 Are you intrigued by the push to do library programs that feature science, technology, engineering, art and math, but intimidated by the technical skills you do not possess?  Feeling pressure to put together some STEAM offerings but worried that you will just pass on your anxiety about math?  Worried to try something only to have it fail miserably?  Or just not that interested in the STEAM craze, but getting requests from your community?  Julie Kinney (Marathon County), Jenna Gilles-Turner (Chippewa Falls), and Emily Zorea (Richland Center) will share tips and ideas to bolster your confidence and interest, and put STEAM programming in your grasp.

Click here to register: STEAM Programming for the STEAM-Anxious


Plant Parts Storytime

With summer winding down, we chose to give our Storytime families and kids a taste of a little science by introducing some plant vocabulary including, “root”, “stem”, “leaves” and “fruit”. Although I originally thought this topic might be a little bit too hard for the kids, they were able to grasp it, even the ones as young as three!

Plants Can’t Sit Still by Rebecca E. Hirsch
I love this book! Totally great for Stortime and keeping the kids engaged! The books illustrate how plants are not sedentary, rather, they are always wiggling, growing, squirming, reaching, climbing, creeping, and tumbling! Great vocabulary words! I had the kids help me act out all of the actions that the plants make. The action words are in red, which is also great to point out to parents to watch for different colored text to give us clues on how to make books interactive, and draw attention to the print! Again, I loved this book!

Up, Down, and Around by Katherine Ayres
A cutely illustrated gardening story! I love that it really shows the plants in the illustrations! For example, we see a cross section of garden to see carrots, worms, and bugs all together under the soil. This is great to bring up the “root” vocabulary word, and it is so obvious that “roots” are under the ground! The book keeps repeating the “up, down, and around” line, so it is great to have kids mimic since they know what is coming!

From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons
I love Gail’s work! This can be a long book, so if your crowd is restless, skip right to page 20 (the pages are not numbered, so just count), where you see the large yellow seed. Use the “seed” vocabulary as you follow the seed through the next two pages. On page 22, we see the “root” vocabulary word introduced again. On page 23, we see the “stem” and “leaves”. On page 25, we see the “flower” or “buds”. Let the kids know that the flower part of the vegetale plant produces the fruit. Turn the page, and we are greated with an abundance of crops, many that come from the “flower” of the plant.

Rooting for You by Susan Hood
A clever little story. A seed is afraid to set down its roots, and then reach for the sun. A worm, however, is a very vocal cheerleader, and helps the seed have confidence that it is meant to be up there in the sun, air, and breeze! Several of the pages fold out unexpectedly to give us more room for illustrations that “grow”. The kids really liked that the illustrations opened up, but they were not into the story for some reason. Try to preview the book, and maybe just summarize the reading, instead of going word for word. Also, try to talk about encouragement, and what we say to each other when we are being encouraging. That might help the kids put the story in context.

Extension Activities: 

Our local Farm to School educator came and helped with this lesson plan. She had a diagram of a plant on her easel and talked to the kids about the different vegetables that are roots (carrots, potatoes, etc), leaves (spinach), stalks (asparagus, celery), fruit (tomatoes). The kids had a little bit of a harder time grasping the lesson, but they were engaged the whole time. Afterward, she prepared some vegetables already cut up and served it to the kids on bagels or tortillas with cream cheese. A yummy snack to end Storytime with!



Happy Birthday Storytime

Happy Birthday Storytime!

What to do with a Storytime also falls on your birthday? Plan a Birthday themed Storytime, or course!

The Fairytale Cake by Mark Sperring
A very cute tale where familiar fairy-tale and nursery rhyme characters work together to bake a cake for a youngster. Of all the books I used, I think I would switch this one out in the future. It was hard to tell the story while also finding the familiar characters. I thought I would read the book through, and then we would go back and find them, but once we were done reading the story, the kids were already restless to move. I loved the illustrations though!

The Secret Birthday Message by Eric Carle
A child receives a letter giving them directions to where they will find their birthday gift. I love that the directions are partially told though shapes. The kids helped tell the story by identifying the shapes as we read, and then making the shapes with their hands or body. Everyone loved the birthday gift at the end!

Don’t Spill the Beans by Ian Schoenherr
It can be hard to keep secrets! Bear has a secret, and so many friends! Okay, maybe just tell a few friends…whoops…the secret is out! I asked the kids to play while we told the story. They leaned over to their neighbor and made whispering sounds while cupping their hands like they were telling a secret. They loved the ending and how the birthday theme came out with writing! The kids old enough to read loved shouting the last line out loud!

Where is Baby’s Birthday Cake? By Karen Katz
A great lift-the-flap book to end Storytime on! I really enjoy these baby kind of books to end Storytime with. They are great for pulling everyone’s attention back on the book at the end of our time. The books are always colorful, and everyone loves to see the flaps lifted and the big reveals! Baby is looking for his birthday cake! Where could it be? It is just a little thing, but I loved that baby is wearing a purple shirt with stars on it!

Other Birthday themed books:
If You Give a Pig a Party by Larua Numeroff
A Birthday for Cow! By Jan Thomas
The Birthday Box by Leslie Patricelli
Happy Birthday, Bunny! by Stephanie Graegin

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When you Receive a Call from Google about your Library’s Coding Program!

Hello everyone! After attending the 2016 WLA session, “A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Coding go Down” lead by Tessa Michaelson Schmidt, Ryan Claringbole, and Jen Fait, I knew that I had to bring coding education into my library programming.

Computer science is a new world for me. My major was in Communications. I did take two computer sciences classes my senior year, but that education was minimal. As I was working through the college courses, and the continuing education I have pursed in coding since attending that session, the more I realized that almost every part of our lives is touched by a computer program. If you dial your phone, a computer program will has been written to give your phone instructions to complete that task. If you start you car, computers in your car operate so that your car runs safely, without your even knowing the computers are there. If you turn on your washing machine, a computer program regulates how hot the water temperature will be.

Since our lives are so intertwined with computer programs, I believe that coding is a necessary 21st century skill for both youth and adults. Still more, I believe that anyone, regardless of education background, can learn to code. 

Today, the jobs and futures of our children depend on their being able to look inside the black box and see how coding works. Even more, they deserve to be not simply consumers of media, but also know how to create it in code. In the coding programs we have lead it always amazes me how interested both parents and kids are in coding, and how excited they become when they learn they can create media on their own–all by using code. I lead a Scratch program with one class of 5th graders. Afterwards, I heard comments from their parents that their child was not asking for time to play on video games. Instead, they were asking for time on the computer to create their own games. I checked in with this class at the end of the school year, and each of the kids had original and creative ideas for websites, games, or apps that they were hoping to learn how to create with code. When I asked a similar 5th grade class, they had trouble understanding what coding was, and what it could create. A simple one-hour program changed how the first class understood coding, and made them understand that their creativity and ideas belonged in the coding world. 

The more I learn about coding, the more ideas I find that I want to try. I have been able to blog about a few of our coding programs that we have hosted.  What I did not know was that the blog posts were given to Google, who chose to feature our library on their blog post releasing information on their Phase III “Ready to Code” initiative! I received a phone call last week from Nicky from Google asking if they could use our library’s name and program information for their big announcement! Yeah! 

Have you planned coding programs at your library? I would love to chat with you and share notes! Happy coding! 

And…here is the Google blog announcement!


Kids’ STEM Workshop: Tabletop Coding

Tabletop Coding

One aspect of the coding revolution that is sweeping libraries around the country is the idea that we can expose youth and adults to coding concepts without even needing a computer. This is based on the idea that coding follows logic, and logic we can demonstrate and experiment with without fancy equipment. This is great news if you have a large group for a coding program, and you know that you do not have enough devices or gadgets for everyone!

I was able to lead a no-tech coding program for a class of 5th grade students with no computer needed. We worked on the Tabletop Coding kit, which you can download from This lesson plan does not require any technology, and instead uses a checkerboard, two game pieces, sticky notes, and index cards to show students that computer programs are made from sets of instructions to achieve a pre-determined goal.

And…even without technology…our students loved this activity!

The skinny: This was a great program, and my students ran with it! They developed complex ideas and games just using their checkerboard and some random objects that I made available to them. Two students turned their checkerboard into the house in the Westing Game book. The goal of their “program” was to help a kid travel through the house without being hurt. I was surprised at how creative they took this, just using the simple instructions I gave them.

$0. We already had the checkerboards already on hand! You will need one checkerboard for 2-3 students. I would not try to make the groups any larger than 3 students.

Time needed:
For this 5th grade group, this activity took about 30-45 minutes.

How it worked:

I followed the lesson plan from WisCodeLiterati. I showed the students a checkerboard and gave myself two checker pieces. I randomly placed my red and black checker piece on the board and told the students the object of their program was to write instructions to make the red checker piece land on top of the black piece without moving the black piece. I showed them the cards that I made them, and how the “X” cards allowed their red checker piece to move horizontally, and the “Y” cards allowed their piece to move vertically. I then placed  a basket filled with odds and ends from my craft room on the floor. I told them that they could place these objects on their board to close off certain squares. They would have to write their program to go around these objects. I then gave groups of 2-3 students their checkerboard, two checker pieces, their deck of “X” and “Y” direction cards, and told them to have fun!

As I said, I was really surprised at how seriously the kids took this activity! They looked through their cards, and quickly found the order that they needed to organize their cards to bring their checker piece where they wanted to go. Then, they began to add obstacles and then arranged their cards again to avoid those obstacles. It was a lot of fun to see how creative they were!

This is a very simple activity, and the students caught on to the computer science of it right away! If you would like to begin offering coding programs, I would highly recommend this program! It can be adapted for any age, and it requires very low cost, set-up, and preparation!

Have you tried a “no-tech” coding activity? Do you have ideas to share? I would love to hear them!

Happy coding!



Honeybee Window Decoration Passive Program Craft

Every Tuesday we offer Crafts for Kids. Basically, we set out several craft projects as a passive program. Surprisingly, it is very well attended, with people driving into town on Tuesdays just to make the crafts. This week, one of our projects was a honeybee window decoration. I have attached the template to this post so that you do not need to try to draw it out on your own, unless you want to. It may be hard to see in the photo, but the yellow body of the bee is made from contact paper. Kids stick on little squares of yellow tissue paper to make the stained glass kind of look. They can hang it on the window if they like, and see the light come through the body of their honeybee!

You will need:
Black paper
Yellow tissue paper
Contact paper
Glue sticks

Happy crafting!

Template Download: 
Homebee Window Decoration Template

Farm Friends Storytime

Farm Friends Storytime

Before We Eat: From Farm to Table by Pat Brisson
My Farm Friends by Wendell Minor
Counting Cows by Woody Jackson
Color Farm by Lois Ehlert

What better way to celebrate June Dairy Month than to plan some Storytime fun, and honor our local farmers at the same time? Where our library is located, I think within a 10-minute drive any direction, you can find an operating dairy farm. Weaving stories about farming into Storytime gives our children local vocabulary they need to describe the world they see.

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Youth Checker Tournament

To kick off our summer reading program in the past, our library hired an entertainer. It was a stress-free way to begin the summer, and I could understand why any library would love to bring entertainment to town. However, when I took over the youth programming last year, I realized that first, an entertainer would take half of my yearly programming budget for an hour program, and secondly, I had no guaranteed attendance at that program. So, in one hour, I would see half of my budget gone, and the real possibility of only a handful to children there to see it.

Wanting to offer something that was not so hard on my budget and still offered youth valuable learning experiences, I offered a checkers tournament both last year and this year as our first official youth program in the summer. We received about 20 kids at each program. My total budget is $30 and the winner of each of the three age categories goes home with a $10 bill. I have three age categories: Grades 1-4, Grades 5-8, and Grades 9-12.

 Set up involves moving 6 tables to the programming room, and setting up 12 checkerboards. This would accommodate 24 people, and so far, we have always been just under that. I have about 20 checkerboards in my supply room, so if we did get more kids, I could bring those out within minutes. I asked my teen volunteers to help me set up the tables this year and all the checker boards. We were done in about 15 minutes with everyone helping.

On the evening of the event, kids come in and the facilitator signs them up on a tournament bracket for their age category. Here is the one I think we used: Printable Single Elimination Bracket. It is single elimination, so once the student has lost once, they are no longer eligible to win the $10. However, both years I saw that the kids really just wanted to play, so we kept teaming them up with another student who had lost, and they played each other until all the winners in each category had been announced. They loved playing, and I think that we might try to host a checkers night here at the library. We would not offer prizes, just bragging rights. The kids loved playing, and I think we may even offer to have some tutoring available to show students some strategy, and talk about good moves vs. not so wise moves.

I heard this idea first from another library, and they told me that after years of offering it, kids have begun to count on it, and start to get excited weeks before the contest. I hope that happens for us!

Here is the editable PowerPoint slide that I used to create the flyer which we used for promotion. Have fun!

2017 Checker Tournament

Bookmarks, Posters, and Increasing Community Ownership at your Public Library

This March, with summer reading program plans dancing in my head, I decided to try something new: why not have a poster and bookmark contest to promote summer reading! The idea was not entirely my own. I heard that my friends at Platteville Public Library had hosted a bookmark contest the year before and that it had been incredibly inexpensive to run. (Thank you, Platteville Public Library!). Our city is just over 5,000 people, and our service population encompasses another 10,000 who live in the rural areas around our city. I am always looking for ways to increase our community’s sense of ownership in our public library, and few activities promote as much ownership as seeing your creative work displayed as a poster, or given away as a bookmark!   

In the past, our library purchased bookmarks and posters from professional library supply sources to promote the summer reading program. This year, we decided to use this opportunity to showcase local artistic talent by printing designs created by local artists. In late March, I created a registration form with the rules for the contest, and made this form available at our circulation desks, on Facebook, and on our website. We had four categories: K-3rd grade, 4-8th grade, 9-12 grade, and adult.

I was worried that we would receive almost no entries. Anytime our library does something new, it takes time for our community to know about it, and begin participating. However, two of our area art teachers saw that registration form, and gave it to their students as an optional assignment. With these teacher’s partnerships, our library received over 40 entries. After the entries came in, we taped the artwork to black construction paper, and using sticky tack, we attached them to a wall and placed a number by each entry.

I also wanted our community to feel ownership, even if they had not submitted artwork. So, I made a simple ballot and asked our circulation librarian to give the ballot to each patron when they came to check out their items. I also took pictures of all the entries and uploaded the photos to Facebook so patrons could vote via that medium.

After a month I simply counted up the votes to find out which designs would be our winner. I contacted a local print company in our city, and they were able to print 500 color bookmarks (2.25 inches by 7 inches) and 14 posters for about $100.

The contest was a huge success. We were able to submit the contest results to the local paper, along with an invitation to the community to pick up a bookmark to take home while signing up for our upcoming summer reading program. Great publicity for everyone!

This was a lot of fun, and a wonderful way to bring our community together around the goal of promoting summer reading. The bookmarks are now out at our circulation desks, and the posters decorate walls that had just a little too much white space. Our patrons have begun to notice them, and realize that they were designed by local artists. We will certainly be doing it again in the future!

I think the largest takeaway for me is to look for an opportunity, any opportunity, to allow your community to find a way to leave their mark in their library. Doing so bring people from outside the library walls in, and our library grows and strengthens because of it.

Here is the registration form we used (I am so sorry. I was not able to find the editable word document on my computer):

Here is the ballot that we used: Poster and Bookmark Contest Ballot

And, here are a few more posters:



























Week 4: Coding Together, Learning Together (Community Partnerships)

No project is meant to be completed without sharing it with others. Coding is no different. With community partners, you can share the process of coding, and not just the final results of what your coding club is creating. Our lives are better together!

This is the final post for the Coding Together, Learning Together series. Here are my posts for Week 1, Week 2, and Week 3. Enjoy!

If you are interested in taking this course, it is being offered again July 31-August 25, 2017 by UW-Madison’s SLIS Continuing Education Department. This course was a game changer for me, and answered so many of the questions I had about coding that was stopping me from planning out a coding program at our library. I highly recommend taking this course.

Community Partners

The more support you have, the more you can do.

Local Schools may be your Best Community Partner:

  • Use the vacation or early release days to reach students.
  • Can help advertise your programs!
  • Ask: “What (if any) coding programs are already being offered?”
  • Older students may be available to volunteer as mentors or student leaders for community service.

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Week 3: Coding Together, Learning Together (Structuring Your Coding Program)

Putting Your Coding Club Plans On Paper!

Still blogging about the “Coding Together, Learning Together Course” that just wrapped up! If you are interested, here are my links for Week 1 and Week 2. Stay tuned for our final week blog post coming up!

If you are interested in taking this course, it is being offered again July 31-August 25, 2017 by UW-Madison’s SLIS Continuing Education Department. This course was a game changer for me, and answered so many of the questions I had about coding that was stopping me from planning out a coding program at our library. I highly recommend taking this course.

Our third week was all about putting our plans down on paper, or in my case a Word document, and actually figuring out how to structure and plan a coding club!

There are two basic ways to organize a coding program: structured and unstructured. Which one you choose will depend on your:

  • Program goals,
  • Target Audience,
  • Frequency and Length,
  • Materials Needed and Resources available.
  • What need is our coding club meeting?

Think back to our community needs assessment. What did our community members say they were interested in when I asked them about coding? As a public library, how does coding fit within your mission or vision?

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Conference STEM Presentations

Whew! What a week! I had the great privilege of presenting our library’s work on Kids’ STEM Workshops at not one but two state conferences on Thursday (WAPL in Steven’s Point) and Saturday (Wisconsin AfterSchool Association in the Wisconsin Dells). This was my first solo presentation. Thank you to everyone in the audience for being so friendly as I shared about our STEM adventures this past year!

Here is my PowerPoint from both those presentations. It was wonderful to meet so many energized colleagues from across our state and hear about what they are doing in STEM and STEAM. I am on the lookout for great program ideas. If you have done a STEM program, please let me know about it! I would be happy to use it as a model for our community! September is coming, and that means a whole new year of lesson planning!

Thank you all so much for what you do every day for our communities. It re-energized me hearing from you and the work you do!

A Year of Adventures in Kids’ STEM Workshops (PDF)

A Year of Adventures in Kids’ STEM Workshops (PowerPoint)


Week 2: Coding Together, Learning Together (Coding Curriculum, Apps, and Gadgets)

In our second week of Coding Together, Learning Together we began to dig into different options for coding gadgets, curriculums, and apps! (You can find my Week 1 Notes here).

This week we looked at different options for presenting coding programs. There are lots of options out there, and it is easy to be overwhelmed! However, sometimes just knowing what is out there is the first stop. Check out these resources!

Coding Websites (Credit: Casey Ineichen) 
Gadgets & Kits to Teach Code (Credit: Casey Ineichen)

Common Sense Media App Reviews:

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Week 1: Coding Together: Learning Together

Coding is everywhere right now! Lesson plans are on Pinterest, kids are talking about it, coding clubs are springing up all over the nation, and libraries are now offering coding programs to showcase how to create computer code for our youth, families, and adults. This spring, I was privileged to participate in the four- week online “Coding Together, Learning Together” course provided through DPI and taught by Casey Ineichen. This course was designed as a quick introduction to the wealth of coding opportunities and options for public libraries when planning programs. These were the course goals:

Learn the basics of coding and how to plan a coding event for your library so that: 

●You can share the basics of coding with your library patrons.
●You can select appropriate coding tools and software for your library and community.
●You can plan coding events for your library and community.


I found that this course was exactly what I needed to put my abstract plans about coding into a plan that was specific and timely. I understand that this course will be offered again, so if you are interested, stay tuned to Wisconsin’s DPI.
I will be blogging about my experience in this course. If you would like to learn more about code, like I did, try to work your way through some of the activities and websites that I will be posting.

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Easter Egg Storytime

Whenever it comes planning any program close to a holiday, as librarians we strive to make sure all families that we serve feel included and valued in our programs. This is my lesson plan for a scheduled Easter themed Storytime that was very successful and appreciated by the families who attended. I had given the parents a message before this week that this Storytime would be Easter Egg themed, and the parents were ready to see what fun we could get into!

Minerva Louise and the Colorful Eggs by Janet Morgan Stoeke
Fun story about silly Minerva Louise. It was fun to ask the kids to point to the page to find the Easter eggs that Minerva Louise kept finding throughout the story.

Happy Easter by Kurt Wiese
What happens when bunnies need eggs to dye into Easter eggs? They ask their friend, the hen. I think this book may be out of print. But, the pages have an old-fashioned feel that I really enjoy when I read this book.

Where’s My Easter Egg? by Harriet Ziefer
Great book to end Storytime on. The kids loved lifting the flaps to see if Nicky the kitten’s egg was under there.

Additional activity: Easter egg hunt!

I hid some eggs around the Storytime room while the kids (mostly) closed their eyes. Then, the kids went to hunt them down!

How it went:
As excited as the parents were as they arrived for Storytime, this was one of the most tired group of kids I have had all spring. I think several were missing a naptime. They kept telling me how tired they were, and how they just “couldn’t do it” when I asked them to sing, or play with shakers, and look at the book. I needed to make every book interactive to make it work for them. They enjoyed the Easter egg hunt, and it was also a time for parents to enjoy sharing this moment with their children. I chose not to spread the activities out to long, though. Just as the kids really were having enough, I sang out goodbye song and I then high-fived the kids and thanked them for coming to see me at the library.

After Storytime we went into the main Children’s library where we had a craft prepped by a volunteer, so each child was also able to go home with a paper baby chick hatching out of a paper plate egg.