rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
Sometimes I write blog posts about whatever's on my mind. Sometimes I THINK about writing blog posts but never actually do. Sometimes I think about writing ACTUAL WORKS OF THEORETICAL ART but never actually do (the bunch of you who read my early chapter book the other week? I thank you again. I'm thinking about your ideas. I still haven't actually put any of them to use yet). But I rarely even think about writing anything of PRACTICAL USE, which is a shame, because that's actually the only type of writing I've ever been paid for, until I was replaced with a SurveyMonkey. Also, it's, as I said, useful. And it OCCURRED to me the other day, as I was surfing the 'net for programming ideas, that sometimes I came up with ideas that were WAY BETTER than the ones I was finding, so maybe I should possibly share some of them myself?

I think maybe it might be useful of me to post monthly about what I've done at the library. Since this season's programming started halfway through September, I'll add on the first few weeks of that, too, this month.

I have two basic in-house programs: Library Explorers, which is a STEAMish sort of thing for elementary students, and Family Night, an all-ages evening storytime. This season I'm doing them both on the same night so sometimes I'll use the same topic for both and just mix up the activities a bit. Here's what happened:

Welcome to the Library!
Wanted to start off the season with something introductory for both groups, but what, I wondered, can I do that's more interesting than just a library tour? Last year I'd given Library Explorers a scavenger hunt that turned out a bit too hard for the age group-- it's K-4, but Ks in their first month, um, USUALLY CAN'T READ YET AMY. I searched for a more exciting twist and finally decided on a cartoon character scavenger hunt. I collected images of 12-16 popular characters, printed and laminated a few copies, then stuck characters up throughout the nonfiction stacks near "subjects that might interest them" (benefits of actually having kids in the age range I work with-- I'm pretty familiar with a lot of currently popular characters AND what subjects they might be "interested" in-- I put Elsa in the "Weather" section, though I don't know if she's particularly INTERESTED in weather). Then I passed out cards of the characters, so each kid was responsible for finding certain characters and bringing back a book from each section they found, to share with us what kind of books they'd found.

I also bought "Hello My Name Is" stickers. On mine I wrote "020.92" which is the Dewey number for books about librarians. Then as people came in, I had them secretly write three things they were interested in on a slip of paper, then I chose one of those topics and gave them a name tag with the Dewey number for it. While they were finding their characters, they also had to find their own number-- leading them to books they were certain to like!

I planned to do these activities for both groups, but no one came to Family Night, so I can't even remember what book I had planned to read.

Pointillism with Library Explorers
I think I'd tried to do pointillism for International Dot Day the other year, but this year I'd seen this post at GeekMom and knew I could do it RIGHT for once. I had a feeling most of my group would stick with the simplified color-a-coloring-page-in-with-dots technique, but I went out and found a pack of tracing paper just in case, which my artsy daughter immediately fell in love with. "I'll bring back any leftovers," I promised, which turned out great for her because I was the ONLY person to try this technique. Everyone else was perfectly happy with the coloring sheets.
SAM_0386 (800x671) This is the fish off the cover of the tracing paper tablet.

Animals on the Farm with Family Night
Sure, we could make pigs out of paper plates or whatever, but I wanted INTERESTING activities, that would actually TEACH a bit about raising animals! I hid plastic easter eggs under various stuffed animals, because on my very educational farm, teddy bears lay eggs. And then I made this guy: SAM_0385 (800x624) Why? Because it was fun. The job would then be to shear the sheep and then use the shorn cotton to glue into clothes on a die-cut paper doll.

For storytime itself, I chose Click Clack Moo by Doreen Cronin, Fiddle-i-Fee by Paul Galdone, and Punk Farm by Jarrett Krosoczka, because they all get the audience to chime in with animal noises... and other noises as the case may be. I have used all these books with much success with groups before.

But tonight's group was a couple of toddlers who WEREN'T interested in making animal noises, and barely sat through Click Clack Moo. So we moved on to activities. I always try to make my Family Night activities flexible for a wide variety of ages, and it turned out the egg hunt was exactly this group's speed. Only one of them had any interest in sheep shearing, though, and he was mostly just interested in rubbing glue stick on his hand.

Marble Run! (LE)
I'd always wanted to try this with Library Explorers, so I recruited the rest of the library staff to help collect paper tubes (they're still doing it, too, because I keep forgetting to tell them I don't need any more). We watched some introductory/inspirational videos (which unfortunately I did not save to link you to), then set to work.
The biggest challenge was convincing the kids to work together to build an actual COURSE, rather than just taping as many tubes into one long tube as they each individually could. But once we got the knack, this is what happened.

Otters! (FN)
It turns out it was Otter Appreciation Day, so I said, "Well, that's easy, then," and turned to my trusty One Book guide for 2012, for Stop Snoring, Bernard!, which I naturally would have read for storytime. Our program time perfectly coincided with Feeding Time on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Live Otter Feed, and I figured we'd watch some more of the cute videos I'd found back when, too. We'd make paper bag Bernards, and THEN I came up with a brainstorm that I wished I'd thought of back when I was writing the Guide: otters crack open shellfish with rocks, right? So how about I stick gummy rings (they're very clammy, right?) inside last week's plastic easter eggs (best I could think of), and the kids can use big rocks to pop them open? Okay, this activity might not be EVERYbody's cuppa, but I thought it would be fun.

But it didn't matter, because no one turned up. :P

Space (LE)
There's a lot you can do with Space, so I decided to focus on stars. This time I saved a link to ONE of my inspirational other-librarians posts, thanks, Abby: I did the bit with sticking stars on black construction paper to make constellations, though here I had them design their OWN constellations, and make up a mythological story to go with it, inspired by this rather lovely constellation book I found: Constellations: a glow-in-the-dark guide to the night sky by Chris Sasaki. They also made pinpoint constellation viewers with black paper over the end of toilet paper tubes, since I had so many left over from last week (this time they used real constellations). I DON'T have my source written for that. I wasn't planning on writing a blog post on it at the time! I also don't have the source written down for this next great find: http://www.shatters.net/celestia/ which is a free, NASA-approved, exploring-the-universe software

Star Wars Reads (FN)
It was the Tuesday before the official Star Wars Reads Day, and we have SO many different Star Wars books, and I for one am a big Star Wars fan, so it had to be done, yes? Only thing is, Family Night wasn't doing very well in this time slot, patron-attracting wise. On the other hand, Star Wars. I pulled a variety of books to show off, and printed off several activities from the official SWRD Activities Guide, figuring if no one showed up I'd just transfer everything to a display for people to pick through the rest of the week. Which I DID end up doing, but I ALSO, luckily, got a small crowd tonight, too! I had no idea what to read for the read-aloud. Nothing I found was really yelling out at me as a storytime book. But everyone dove right into the crafts and the looking at books, so no one missed ME reading to them. Besides, I had selections from the soundtrack playing. Gosh John Williams makes me happy.

Unfortunately my hair is no longer long enough for Leia buns.

Dinosaur Digs
I made a LOT of brown play-dough for this activity. I tried to make it in several different shades of brown. Then I layered it in a two-quart plastic container with dry pasta in various shapes inside. Then the Library Explorers became paleontologists, examining the different layers of soil (though, granted, not for long), then digging through the clay with sticks and brushes to find the "fossils" (pasta), which they cleaned clay off of as best as they could (or as best as they cared to) and then glued into their own "dinosaur" shape on a piece of paper. Okay they weren't very DISCIPLINED paleontologists, but they were enthusiastic and creative.

For the Family Night I wasn't sure if anyone would turn up for, I kept the same theme. Since the audience skews a little younger, I didn't worry that the beautiful geological layers had all mixed together, and I just packed all the play-dough and leftover noodles back in the bin for people to dig through however they liked.

And I DID get a couple of sisters, the eldest of whom (who turned out to go to school with my daughter) took dinosaurs very seriously. When I said, "Well, we have some silly dinosaur books and some serious dinosaur books to choose from," she picked "serious." Kids DO that?!?! WHAT A WEIRD KID! Luckily I'd found a nonfiction picture book that managed to be a decent read-aloud. I don't have the title written down anywhere though. But I also couldn't help reading a silly book which her mom and sister found hilarious, and she admitted wasn't too bad: The Really, Really, Really Big Dinosaur by Richard Byrne. We did T is for Terrible by Peter McCarty,* and I skipped When Dinosaurs Came with Everything by Elise Broach, because that was FAR too silly.

Color Chemistry (LE)
Normally I don't have a read-aloud at Library Explorers, but Herve Tullet's Mix It Up! arrived in the library just as I was planning this, and I thought, okay, much more fun way to introduce color mixing than me giving a short lecture to start off class, right? And it WAS fun-- kids of all ages enjoy playing along with Tullet's "interactive" books. There was much laughter and good spirits as we took turns "making things happen."

Mostly this program was an excuse to reuse (or, use for the first time) an activity I'd had prepped for a different program last year that no one came to. We layered tissue paper in between two pieces of clear contact paper, discussing the effects of different colors overlapping and so forth. We trimmed the edges neatly and/or into shapes, and they made nice suncatchers.

Reptile Awareness (FN)
In considering this for a topic, I ran a search for related books and discovered this book on our shelves: Crafts for Kids Who are Wild About Reptiles by Kathy Ross. I mean whodathunk? A whole book right there, and most importantly, it was full of some REALLY COOL ideas, many of which I could see one dedicated kid pulling off at home but less likely as something for many kids of varying ability in a library setting where I have to find materials for everybody. The one that most caught my fancy was for a striking cobra made out of an old necktie, but WHERE would I find enough old neckties in time for the program?

Then, a week before the program, I was helping my mother-in-law clear out her parents' old house, and spotted a pile of my late grandfather-in-law's old ties. "Have those been claimed?" I asked, and she replied, "No, would you have a use for--" which of course I did.
For story time I read Bill and Pete by Tomie DePaola, Lizard’s Home by George Shannon, and The Turtle and the Moon by Charles Turner. The very serious dinosaur girl was back again, and was kind of annoyed we didn't have anything MORE serious, though I did find an original "folktale," How Honu the Turtle Got His Shell by Casey A.McGuire-Turcotte, which she seemed all right with.

It's Magic!
I went through our magic book collection and pulled out a few simple tricks that I could learn and therefore teach. From Magic For Fun by Peter Eldin, we made magic bags from paper bags, cut Mobius strips, and I never actually DID teach the Linked Paper Clips in a Book trick because I was going on the "Books are magic!" theme. I did three card tricks from Cool Card Tricks by Steve Charney: Flip-flop, Key card, and the Four Pirates, the latter of which is a story trick I changed into an opportunity to recite "The Queen of Hearts," because, literature. Even when I messed up-- which I did-- even the adults were amazed.

Cats
This was the one I was searching ideas for and said, "You know what? I have a better idea. Maybe people would like my idea." My idea is this: you know mustaches on a stick? How about whiskers on a stick? Twist three pipe cleaners (or whatever they call them nowadays) around a popsicle stick, cut out a little heart-shaped nose and glue it on top, and voila. This came in handy for my daughter's Halloween costume, as they weren't allowed to do makeup for school. SAM_0391 (640x480)

We also made-- not for my daughter, but for the program-- simple paper headbands with cat ears.

Stories tonight were Cat Secrets by Jef Czekaj, Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag, and I had Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes if anyone wanted more after that, but they were already running to the craft table.

Well, I've been chipping away at writing this for a few days now, but now I'm sick-- I might have strep, probably taking a trip to MedExpress tomorrow-- so I've finished it off as quickly as possible, and now I'm going back to bed. Have a nice day!
---
*Random Fact: when I was a teenager my imaginary Perfect Guy was named Peter McCartney. I can't help chortling at this author's name now.

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