Things alone do not make us happy, but the right tool at the right time can make all the difference in our sense of satisfaction! In our jobs as librarians we are asked to be organized, informed, energetic and agile. We are asked to make the library the best place it can be for our patrons, but I believe that in taking care of ourselves we do a better job taking care of others. I don’t often say that a “thing” changed my life, but these products and services changed the way I do “Library” in 2016. (And no, I am not being paid anything for promoting these products or services. I just hope they are as helpful for you as they have been for me!
“Who have guessed that a box of straws could be so entertaining?” one of my parents at our Kids’ STEM Workshop: Straw Towers remarked to me after watching her children totally engrossed for 45 minutes with their creations. And, what a great way to get kids to use their fine motor skills working with materials that are not usually used together! The challenge: build the largest tower you can with straws and paper clips. Or, build another structure and go for the most creative, or, the most similar to a famous tower or building. Go!
The skinny: The night when we offered this program it was incredibly cold, rainy, and otherwise not “go out to the library” weather. I honesty thought we would have no one come, but a nice crowd showed up despite the conditions, and our Children’s library was alive!
With snow on the ground and Wisconsin suffering from a cold snap, it was the perfect night to talk about how Inuit people build houses with nothing by the natural materials their environment gives them: snow and ice. And, what better way to learn about it than by experimenting with geometric shapes to build igloos of our own…in the comfort of the heated library with marshmallows and toothpicks as our building materials of choice!
The skinny: This was a wonderful winter themed STEM program, and it brought in working with 3-D geometric shapes, which is a program that I had not done before. We had many families attend, which was surprising since they it was January and many families were still out of their normal routine with December not so far in the past. But come they did!
I try to pick one folk tale each month to highlight in Storytime. I try to find 3-4 different books that tell the same tale and I use a new book each week in Storytime. There are some folk tales that are part of our cultural experience. I have even heard that some teachers as part of the 4 and 5 year old Kindergarten screening will be asked questions about folk tales that every child should know, such as “The Three Little Pigs”. So, why not tell these stories in Storytime? And, why not use Passive Programs to re-emphasize these stories once Storytime is over?
This was the first Kids’ STEM Workshop we offered. We had a great attendance, and it was a wonderful way to kick off our series and let parents and kids know we would be doing this twice a month by offering an incredibly low cost program. And, what kid does not want to build the tallest tower in the room?
The skinny: This was a wonderful program, and it cost us $0 to offer it. The kids and parents enjoyed working together on something incredibly simple: build a tower out of nothing but newspaper and yarn that can hold the most weight possible.
Our last STEM night was very close to Halloween. What else but wrap ourselves up in toilet paper and practice some math skills at the same time?
The skinny: This was a very successful program, and it was the first program that I saw parents actively pulling their phones out to take pictures of their kids all wrapped up in toilet paper. When parents are taking pictures, you know you are on to something good. Also, this was a program that used the “Math” part of STEM, which is something that can be tricky to have good programs for.
Snow & Mittens
(I have to thank two of our Americorps service members, Emily R. and Tiffany J. for their help with this lesson plan!)
The Mitten by Jan Brett
One Mitten by Kristine O’Connell George
Lost. Found. By Marsha Diane Arnold
Bunny Slopes by Claudia Rueda
The skinny: This program went amazingly well! We had 60 people attend, and during the activity boat building time parents were taking out their phones to take pictures of their kids and their boat creations. It was also an incredibly cost effective program to offer.
In December, we wanted to offer something different. Enter “Gingerbread Imaginative Play Station”!
I purchased a play dough mixer from Amazon for $25. Then, I went to the dollar store and bought two cookie trays, two spatulas, a bag of googly eyes, and Christmas colored pom-poms. I then went to Walmart and bought two Gingerbread Men cookie cutters. One of my fellow librarians offered to help trace out the cookie cutters on brown paper, and cut them out. We cut out 100 gingerbread men to start with, and I placed a bowl of glue sticks on the table. The kids loved this station, and I even had high school students come in and make one because they said, “It was so cute!”
Kids’ STEM Workshop: Catapults!
This has been my most popular STEM program. We had 120 people attend, including about 60 parents/children who I had never seen in the library before!
To prep, I learned as much as I could about catapults. These websites were especially helpful:
What I love about children’s literature is that the main character can be faced with any number of difficulties and injustices, yet they do not despair or fall into cynicism. They remain optimistic and confident that good will win, tenacity yields rewards, and forgiveness can be given even when it is not deserved. This is why I love Gertie. I read this book in two days and am excited to share it with youth and adults alike in my public library.
Because of a busy college semester and a full time job it had been several months since I was able to read a book that was not a textbook. This title was recommended by a friend and it was the perfect title to break my drought. I finished it in two days. Having experience with cancer, I can say that this book was not unduly melodramatic, it showed a family with positive parental figures trying to cope and raise healthy children in the midst of a horrible health reality, and three children who really do love one another despite their fear and anger over what has happened. These are themes I wish were more often portrayed in books for children
What I admire most about librarians is how much they love sharing information. Whether it is with our patrons, or our colleagues, we do everything we can to provide access to ideas for anyone who asks. When I became a Youth Services Library, everything was new. Blogs, however, put the knowledge and experience of my colleagues within my reach. Their writing and photos–so generously shared–became my mentors. Blogs allowed me to look through ideas and use the programs and resources posted as models for my own community. I hope that you will similarly find information here useful. There are so many good ideas out there. Let’s keep them circulating…because providing access to information is what librarians do best.