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!
https://www.blog.google/topics/education/libraries-across-us-are-ready-code/

 

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 Wiscode.org. 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.

Cost:
$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!

 

 

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!

Downloads:
2017 Checker Tournament

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!

Books:
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.

 

Kids’ STEM Workshops: Thinking in Three Dimensions with KEVA Brain Builders

Today we get to work with puzzles! You only get 20 planks, and they all look the same. How many objects can you create with those 20 planks? A lot. How much fun will you have? Again…a lot!

The skinny: This was a very simple program to put together. I ordered six sets of KEVA Brain Builders from Amazon for $15 a set. This was much more than the $0.30 per child budget that I have been working with. However, these sets were made available to us through a grant. Also, I am able to use them over and over again. So, in time, the price for these sets will go down to less than $0.30 because of the repeated use.

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Kids’ STEM Workshop: Binary Code!

We live in a binary world. Our computers, music, books, magazines, almost every form of media is digital and it all runs on the binary code. But, it is surprising how little many of us understand about the code that influences so much of our lives. For Teen Tech Week in March 2017, I wanted to do a program for tweens on coding and showing them the binary system. But, is binary code easy enough for kids to understand and write? Can we do a coding program without a computer? As we found out, the answers are yes, and yes!

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A Little House Party at the Public Library!

“Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs.” So begins Little House in the Big Woods, the first book in an autobiographical series written by Laura Ingalls Wilder about growing up in 1800’s American. 150 years later, the Little House stories and activities are still wildly popular. And what better way to celebrate Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Birthday than to have a party at the public library as one of our Family Super Saturday events?

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Murder at the Public Library! Oh My!


Have older students coming to your public library, and you want to do something more memorable than simply giving them a tour and some reading time? Would you like a fun, 30 minute program that would have your students racing to every section of the library, and learning lessons about where resources in your library are located in the process? Would you like to do all this, for no money needed? Well, I have the program for you! Introducing “Murder at the Public Library! Oh My!”

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Kids’ STEM Workshop: Marble Maze (Push and Pull Physics!)

Put kids and marbles together and you automatically have a great time planned. Add a few lessons about Push and Pull, and you have an experiment in physics that combines fine motor skills, creative design, an understanding of force, and lots of marbles that went home with happy families. We held this program as a our second Workshop in January of 2017.

The skinny: This was a super fun program, although it was one of our shortest ones yet. I talked with the kids for about 15 minutes giving them some background in forces, balance, and push and pull physics. Then, I turned the kids loose on building their own marble runs. It only took the kids 15 minutes to design their own, which was much less time than I expected. In the future, I will try to combine this with a second activity to stretch it out, because I do like these workshops to go for 45-60 minutes. It was budget friendly, with supplies left over for me to do this again during our summer reading program.

Inspiration: I found this idea on Buggy and Buddy Blog. Her photos were so engaging that I thought, “We can try that!”

Cost: About $0.25 per child. I ordered a large box of Wikki Stix from Amazon for $23 (this box should serve 156 children, so we will certainly be doing this project again to go through it all!). I also ordered a large bag of Soak-Proof Foam Dinner plates ($4) so that the kids would have something sturdy to build on, and these plates had high edges. I also purchased three packs of 50 marbles for $1 at the Dollar Tree. We also used tape and scraps of construction paper that we had on hand. Each child received one plate, one marble, three of the Wikki Stix, and free access to the paper, markers, scissors, and tape.

Materials:
Foam Plates
Scissors
Scrap construction paper
Wikki Stix
Tape
Markers
Marbles

STEM at work: Building a marble run on a paper plate, which is meant to be held and moved back and forth to make the marble go on the desired path gives children an opportunity to experiment with physics principals, Newton’s First Law, the force of gravity, and creative engineering through original designs. To keep it focused, I decided to talk about the forces of Push and Pull.

Set up: To keep the kids on track (and not using more supplies than they needed) I took the time to prepare individual bags and place settings for each child. That way we did not have to fight about which color or Wikki Stix each child wanted. In each bag I placed 3 of the Wikki Stix, all in different colors and 1 marble. I set up the tables so that each table had five plates with the prepared bags, and I also pre-cut a piece of blue painter’s tape about 8 inches long and stuck it to the table. That way, each child has the materials they needed. I also pre-cut about 200 strips of paper approximately 1″ by 4″ to use for building arches and guards for their marbles. The paper strips were placed on the tables in pie tins so that the kids could grab them and use them at will.

Resources: I used the book, Give it a Push! Give it a Pull! A Look at Forces by Jennifer Boothroyd.

How it went: I brought all the kids and families into our Storytime/Programming Room. The kids sat on our magic carpet and I started off by placing a toy bus on the table. I asked the kids what the bus was doing. (Correct answer: nothing!) I then gave the bus a push. Now what is it doing? (Moving!) Why? One girl answered, “Because of the wheels!”) Really? I turned the bus on its side and gave it another push which sent it a few feet away. We got to the part that it was moving because I pushed it. I then pulled the bus over to me, and the kids go that it moved because I pulled it. Push=move something away from the force. Pull=moves something closer to the force.

I then took out our book,  Give it a Push! Give it a Pull! A Look at Forces by Jennifer Boothroyd. I try to use a book at least for a few moments every Workshop because it shows that literacy and STEM go together in fostering curiosity! I did not read every page of this book. Instead, I prepared some post-it notes and I placed them on pages where I wanted to ask the kids questions. This helped keep the book engaging, and kids and me asking questions about what we were reading.

After finishing the book, I showed the kids the marble run that I had created, and how they would be tilting the plate to push and pull and marble towards them, or away from them, for the marble to go through its maze. I had the kids count and time me to see how long it would take me for my marble to go through the maze that I had created. (Answer: 6 seconds!)

I then had kids volunteer to bring the tables out from the corner of the room and into the center. One little girl was frustrated with her partners who were not lifting the table and she said, “Why is this table not moving?” I could not help it, and I had to answer as I went to give them a hand, “Because we are not applying enough force”. J I have found out that kids love to help me set up and take down the programming room after a program, and this is an important time for me to build positive relationships with them by thanking them for helping.

With the tables in place, the kids were ready to build! Like I said above, it only took them about 15 mintues to finished their maze. Then, the kids raced each other to see who could make their marble go through the maze fastest. I am getting smarter at this, and after the program I asked the kids to give me back and sandwich bag that held their marble and three Wikki Stix. I can re-use the bag, which cuts down on waste and cost! Some kids wanted to keep their bag, though, so their marble did not get lost on the way home, which was fine.

Another STEM Workshop in the books! Stay tuned for our February Workshops: Human Heart Science and Write Your Name in Computer Code!

 

 

 

Storytime: The “Mitten” Week Two

I try to pick one new folk tale each month and present that story in my Storytime by choosing different books from different authors and illustrators who interpret the basic story each a little differently. In January, we are learning the folk tale, The Mitten. I have noticed that the kids enjoy knowing at least one of the stories as the month goes on, and I am able to layer in more interaction (ask the kids to join me in telling the story, acting it out, repeating after me, and making predictions) because the kids know what is going to happen. This lesson plan shows our second week on the folk tale, The Mitten.

Second week of January Storytime
The Mitten: Week Two

Books:
The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt
Snowballs by Lois Ehlert
Red Sled by Lita Judge
Spot’s Snowy Day by Eric Hill

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Kids’ STEM Workshops: Marshmallow Igloos!

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!

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Winter Passive Program: Make Mittens!

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?

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