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!