Friday, March 28, 2014

Read It and Eat Book Club: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic

Read It and Eat is our monthly Monday night book club for 'tweens.  Learn more about Read It and Eat here

What We Read:
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic by Betty MacDonald

What We Did:
While the kids ate, we discussed the book.  Then we learned three simple magic tricks:
The magic tricks!  The kids were psyched to learn the tricks, practice them, and take all of the supplies home to share them with their families. 

Not So Hot:
The book got mediocre reviews.  Since it was published in 1949, some of the material is dated.  The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books were some of my favorites as a child, so I tried not to take personal offense. 

Sanity Savers:
Each person got a gallon-sized ZipLoc bag to put their magic trick supplies in and take home.  The only things they didn't take home were the crayons, juggling scarves, and pennies.  If I were a little braver, I would have also brought permanent markers so the kids could write their names on the bags before we started learning the tricks! 


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Percy Jackson Celebration and Movie

We've hosted this program twice; it's a great spring break or winter break event.  It takes about two and a half hours, and during school breaks, a lot of families in our community are looking for things to do that are substantial in terms of the time they take up.  Also, we're able to accommodate a lot of kids at this program; whether we get 20 or 60, the prep time is about the same. 

We start off with Greek-inspired projects.  My two favorites are Olympic Torches and Paper Plate Pottery.  For the pottery, we use gold and silver Sharpie markers (use a disposable tablecloth!), and I set out books featuring photos of ancient Greek pottery.  The torches are really simple: roll a large piece of paper (we even used newspaper once) into a cone, tape the edge into place, and stuff red and yellow tissue paper inside. 

Greek-style snacks follow the projects: olives, stuffed grape leaves, cucumber slices, and feta cheese.  We do the projects and finish the snacks before the movie begins to save on clean-up time at the close of the program. 

Participants are asked to register for this program so that we can have an idea of the number of snacks and project materials to prepare, and so that we can ask about food allergies. 

After we've cleaned up the art projects and snacks, we settle in for one of the Percy Jackson movies.  Two hours later, we say our good-byes, and kids go home ready to show off their torches and pottery. 


Monday, March 17, 2014

Celebrate Kanani!

Our "Celebrate Kanani!" event was planned in honor of American Girl character Kanani, who lives in Hawaii.  After reading the first chapter of Aloha, Kanani, it was time for activity stations:

  • Make a lei using straws, string, and mini cupcake liners
  • Hula hoop-a-rama (usually when I want to do incorporate something like hula hooping into a program, I tack on "-a-rama" to the end or "extreme" to the beginning, so I don't have to call it a contest but it still sounds like fun)
  • Limbo
  • Decorate and write postcards from Hawaii
  • Make a tissue paper hibiscus (Hawaii's state flower!)
We played Beach Boys music in the background. 

We offered two back-to-back sessions; the first was for kindergarten through second grade, and the second was for second grade and up.  The few minutes between the sessions gave us the chance to break out a few extra art supplies (glitter!) for the older kids.   

The Best Part:
I love station-based programs!!!  Participants get to circulate around the room at their own pace, choosing the activities they want to do and spending any amount of time on them. 

In a Perfect World:
I would have added a photo station, with some kind of ocean backdrop and a surfboard.  And I would have added an "ocean in a bottle" craft.  I also would have served pineapple, but since we didn't ask for registration, I didn't have food allergy information. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Read It and Eat Book Club: the Basics

We started our Read It and Eat book club for grades 2-6 in January of 2012.  The club meets one Monday each month during the school year from 6:00-7:00pm.  Kids bring sack dinners, and the library provides drinks and fresh fruit for dessert.  While everyone eats, we discuss a book that we've read ahead of time, and we spend the last 30-35 minutes doing an activity related to the book.  When I can, I like to choose physical activities and projects that get kids working together with one another. 

Logistical Details:

We ask participants to sign up for this program.  Once they sign up, they're welcome to come to as many meetings as they like (in other words, they don't have to sign up every month), and they can sign up at any point during the year.   We can generally expect 20-25 kids.  We ask for a phone number or email address for each participant at sign-up. 

I create a list of meeting dates and titles for the entire year, and it is distributed in August.  I make sure to include a line on the handout stating that dates are subject to change.  We've only ever had to change one date, and we knew about it several months in advance, so we were able to give families a lot of notice. 

We make reminder calls/emails on the Thursday or Friday before the program.  A simple email list makes the email reminders very quick! 

Sanity Savers:

Choosing projects that can easily be adjusted for slightly larger or smaller groups is key.  I don't want to waste my time (or anyone else's time, for that matter!) tediously prepping materials for a certain number of kids, only to have a different number attend.

Build in time for clean-up!  We usually pause between dinner and the activity, and I make sure that all straw wrappers, napkins, food tidbits, etc. have made it to the garbage can.  These kids are old enough to clean up after themselves, but they're also young enough to forget if we don't devote time to the task. 

The Best Part:

Kids are hilarious.  They seem to really enjoy having a chance to talk about books (and just hang out) outside of school, and I've loved getting to know them through Read It and Eat. 

The Hardest Part:

The wide range of ages makes selecting books a bit of a challenge.  It's tough to come up with something that's accessible to a 2nd grader but interesting to a 6th grader.  I usually shoot for 3rd-4th grade interest level, even though I'm aware that we're losing some older potential participants because of it. 

In a Perfect World:

I would host two Read It and Eat book clubs each month, one for 2nd-4th grade and one for 4th-6th.