Friday, March 4, 2016

Summer Reading Alterna-Prize

At our library, we're all about clearing the clutter and sending home less plastic with kids.  One solution that has worked well for us during the summer reading program is an alternative prize.  We call it a "give back" prize when we talk about it with families, and we explain it like this:

"You could choose an ice cream certificate, or a bowling certificate, or a pass to the pool, or you could choose our Befriend an Animal prize.  When you choose this prize, we take the money we would have spent on a different prize for you, and instead, we send it to the zoo so that the animals can have better habitats and care."

When a child chooses the Befriend an Animal prize, he or she gets a trading card of the animal we're befriending that year (we choose a different one each summer, and we were fortunate to get the trading cards from the zoo), as well as the opportunity to sign a greeting card to the animal.  Of course having a card full of kid signatures to send off to the zoo at the end of the summer is adorable, but it also gives us a really easy way to figure out how many participants chose this prize.  With the card, we send a check. 

Our local zoo has an official Adopt an Animal program, which is how we got started, but if yours doesn't have one in place, it might be worth asking about.  We offer this prize to kids from birth-age 12, but it really has a lot of meaning for 'tweens.  Last year we had over 50 kids choose this prize!



Friday, February 19, 2016

Star Wars Fans Unite!

We've hosted Star Wars origami programs in the past, but this year, we decided to mix it up a little with new activities and special guests.  We held our program on a Saturday afternoon as a one hour open-house style event, with no registration and no age limits.  Here's what we did:

  • Created Chewbacca bookmarks out of construction paper using the printable templates found here.
  • Made lightsabers using glow bracelets and black and gray tape (similar to these, substituting tape for the nail polish).

  • Crafted Yoda ears out of paper; I used sentence strips from a classroom supply store for the band that goes around the head, and participants free-handed their ears on matching cardstock. 
  • Browsed a book display of Star Wars-themed materials.
  • Took home Star Wars printables.
  • Mingled with Darth Vader and his buddies!  We connected with a local chapter of Vaders 1st 501st Legion through this website, and they were so much fun to work with!
My little storm trooper, Sophie, and my husband, Karl, got in on the action!
 Words of wisdom:

Skip the printable take-homes.  I brought these kind of as a back-up, in case we needed more time (thinking that we might do them during the program), but we were busy bees all hour long!

The lightsabers, yoda ears, and Chewbacca bookmarks are all inexpensive, 'tween-appropriate crafts, and littler kids can do them with the help of a grown-up.  We had several volunteers for this event, and we stationed one at each craft area.  This helped a lot! 


Friday, February 12, 2016

Brush Bots

This month's, our Read It and Eat Book Club books were all robot-themed (Robot Dreams by Sara Varon, House of Robots by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, and Curiosity by Gary Blackwood).  We followed our discussion with a brush bot activity.  I had ordered electric toothbrushes though a dollar store, and I bought 72 little fingernail brushes through Amazon.  I initially thought I'd be able to easily pop the motors out of the toothbrushes, but in the end (after a lot of one-on-one time with needle nosed pliers), it seemed most practical to leave the motors in the brushes.  I was able to snip the heads off with a wire cutter pretty easily. 

I had anticipated attaching the toothbrush motors to the fingernail brushes with duct tape or hot glue, but thankfully the curved handles of the fingernail brushes fit exactly around the body of the toothbrush.  It was basically a miracle. 

We experimented with using one fingernail brush, two fingernail brushes, even four fingernail brushes.  And we added all kinds of decorations!  We had lots of fun, and I think this activity would have occupied the kiddos for hours. 

One word of advice: have a few extra batteries on hand!  The toothbrushes come with batteries, but some are duds.  It would have been great to have a few extras to pop in. 


Monday, February 1, 2016

Acts of Kindness Club

We started an Acts of Kindness Club for 'tweens (grades 2-6) in the fall.  We meet once a month on a Friday afternoon from 4:00-5:00.  I left our projects completely up to them, and the first thing they decided to do was hold a winter clothing drive.  We live in Wisconsin, so coats, boots, snowpants, hats, and mittens are necessary!  The group made a plan at one meeting, and at the next meeting, we created posters, wrote a newspaper article to publicize the drive, and decorated a bin for collecting items. 

We held the drive for about a month, until our next club meeting.  At this meeting, we sorted and bagged all of the donations, and we had a visit by the Executive Director of the organization that took our donations and got them out into the community.  We collected over 200 items!  Get a load of this pile of outerwear:

One of the neatest things about this club is the sense of ownership the kids have, and the pride they show in the club's accomplishments.  I'm looking forward to being a part of their future endeavors! 


Monday, October 26, 2015

Monday Mayhem: Dinosaurs!

We had an after-school program for 'tweens as part of our new Monday Mayhem series.  The program was an hour long, and kids could drop in any time during that hour.  We did ask for sign-up so we could prep the right number of materials and ask about food allergies.  I set up the following stations:

  • Chocolate Chip Excavation: kids "excavated" chocolate chips out of cookies, using toothpicks. 
  • Play-Doh Fossils: participants pressed plastic dinosaurs into Play-Doh, resulting in really cool imprints. 
  • Feet and Teeth: I wrote the measurements for T. Rex feet and teeth on the whiteboard, and kids measured out the actual sizes on large paper, cut them out, and took them home.  Just putting the M in STEAM!

  • Make-and-take 3-D raptors 

  •  Dino Drawing

I would definitely do this program again.  It was well-received, and kids loved having the freedom to choose which activities to do.  The activities were pretty easy to put together, and they kept our group busy and happy! 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Who Was? Display: Give the People What They Want

For about a year, we've heard this request on an almost daily basis: "Where are your Who Was? books?"  The answer: they're sprinkled around, mainly in the biographies, but a few in sports, art, and monuments.  In other words, they're all over the place. 

Each time a patron inquired, we'd have to search the catalog to find out which titles were in and where they were, and then locate the individual titles on the shelf.  Not ideal.  We quickly realized that patrons wanted just about any book in this series, and our organizational system meant housing them by subject rather than all together. 

Our fix: a semi-permanent display.  It's front and center in the kids' section, and it has been hugely popular.  So popular, in fact, that despite owning multiple copies of most titles, we often need to supplement with non-Who Was? biographies (which also get checked out!).  This has been a nice time-saver for staff, and a nice feature for browsers who like to see which Who Was? books are available at any given time. 


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Marshmallow Builders

How have I never done this program before?!  It's inexpensive and quick to set up, and it's a crowd-pleasing STEAM activity!  There would be a million ways to structure this program; here's what I did:
Before the event (I actually had early arrivals help me with this) I distributed cups of regular size and mini marshmallows, along with spaghetti noodles, penne noodles, toothpicks, and paper plates, to each table. 
As participants arrived, they assembled themselves into teams; each team had its own table.  I asked teams to name themselves, which was a nice icebreaker.
I gave the first challenge: Build something you could use to survive in the jungle.  Teams worked together to build something to meet the challenge.  When all teams were finished, I had them take turns shouting out the names of the items they built. 
After the first challenge, I rewarded each team with a cup full of jumbo marshmallows.  This was a HUGE hit! 
I gave additional challenges:
Build something you could use to survive in outer space.
Build something that's alive.
Build something really tall.
Build something really long.
I had extra supplies on hand, and teams were welcome to help themselves without any limit. 
There was no competition aspect.  We just had fun building together. 
One piece of advice: use plastic tablecloths!  I tried getting teams to build only on paper plates, but that lasted about 3 seconds.  Save yourself some clean-up time and cover your tables!