Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What Does STEM look like in the Children's Room Week 3

This week we had perfect weather for some outdoor science activities!
Our Mad Scientist Mondays included outdoor stomp rockets.  They are very easy once you get the launchers made (which we did with teens in a separate program). We used PVC pipe, a piece of wood for stabilizing, rubber tubing, and some PVC brackets.  You can also make it entirely out of PVC. Once the launchers are complete, you need 2 liter soda bottles, tape, and paper for rockets to complete the experiment. Discarded magazines and scrap paper come in handy.

The most important thing is to leave out a PVC pipe of the same size so kids can measure the width of the pipe. The rocket needs to loosely fit on the launcher. We used this template and edited it to fit our pipes. It is also imperative that there are no air leaks in the rocket so use lots of tape when assembling. What was interesting to note is that our 99 cent generic soda bottles broke only after a few jumps while Sprite bottles held up for 2 hours of continuous stomping. The plastic of Sprite bottle appeared to be thicker.

A few of the kids decided to build parachutes out of paper. It was a good science lesson about air resistance and gravity because they hindered the rocket's trajectory. They also experimented with the placement of the bottom fins.We found that when fins were curled it helped with distance and direction of rocket thanks to our brilliant teen scientist volunteer.
Inside the children's room we made simple catapults out of Popsicle sticks, elastics, and spoons.  We decided to use pom poms instead of marshmallows. Marshmallows that get stepped on are tough to get out of our carpets!

A page of examples to build upon the simple catapult like this one were left on the tables to encourage kids to test out different configurations.  Without much prompting they began a game using Solo cups to see who could get the pom poms in.  We also left out glue for the bottlecap launchers but kids were impatient during the drying so I'd skip that next time we do this.

On Tuesday, we built ETV (Egg Transportation Vehicles) for an egg drop out the 1st and 2nd story window as part of our backyard ballistics program.  We made our egg drop open ended by leaving many materials such as duct tape, plastic bags, egg cartons, packing peanuts, straws, pipe cleaners, foam, elastics, yarn, recycled yogurt cups, and lots of cardboard on the table. During my research, I found that most egg drops do not permit parachutes or packing materials of any kind but we wanted to encourage the eggs to stay in one piece since we were dropping them right outside the staff entrance over a tarp. Make sure to put a sign to warn unsuspecting staff. Without any pictures to guide them and a quick explanation about gravity and air resistance we said, "See what you can do." Gr. 3-5 and 6 and up were split up in different rooms so we could see what ideas popped up. We allowed 40 minutes for design and testing before the drop. Hard boiled eggs in ziplock baggies were given out so students could allow room for the proper egg dimensions without incident. No one got an official egg until it was time for us to drop them and the students had to provide directions on a post it note for any special instructions. Librarians were the only one hurling them out the window much to their disappointment.  Students were outside under supervision to check their ETV after the drop. They had the best view in my opinion.

The goal was for the ETV to survive the 1st story drop without cracking the egg. If the egg survived, we dropped it from the 2nd story.  Most of the eggs miraculously survived both drops. I think the packing foam helped a great deal. It was a great experiment in tinkering as I found myself trying not to give hints along the way.

Overall, it was alot of fun. Next year we are thinking of posing stricter rules like no parachutes with dimension and weight requirements. We would encourage families to work as a team at home and then all we will do is provide the space to drop the ETV.

Check out our video to see all the action.

Egg Drop 2014 from Duxbury Free Library on Vimeo

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What Does STEM Look Like in the Children's Room this Summer? Week 2

Our Mad Scientist Monday for this week was dedicated to cartoonist and "inventor", Rube Goldberg. I just learned that he did not actually create these machines but rather drew these silly contraptions only on paper. What an influence he has had! There's a challenge devoted to him every year hosted by high schools and colleges all over the county. You can sponsor your own teen team at your library or encourage them to apply to the international online contest. Each year has a goal such as apply toothpaste to a toothbrush and the kids are invited to make their own contraptions to accomplish the goal. Having an open experimental day like ours would be a great introduction to forming your team.

Set up:  Thanks to our iPads we featured a video with 75 Rube Goldberg Ideas to explain our vision. We also downloaded the official game, Rubeworks app ($2.99 for the iPad).  Each level features an animated cartoon Rube Goldberg challenge like squeeze an orange for orange juice with suggested objects to make the machine.
Challenges: Different physical challenges were placed around the room to get the creative juices flowing. Challenges included: make something that: pushes a car, destroys a building, grabs a tissue, knocks down pins, swats a bug, draws something on paper, and puts a ball into a cup. Keep in mind the space of the area you are willing to devote to this. We had spread it out to the entire children's room which made it problematic if anyone was actually trying to get books!

Materials List: cardboard tubes, pulleys, rope, tape, marbles, KEVA planks, Legos, dulpos, magnets, dominoes, styrofoam tubing, cardboard boxes, tennis balls, fly swatter, bowling pins, scissors, toy cars, crayons, paper, and solo cups.

I was amazed with the problem solving and patience the kids had. This was a great program for inter-generational opportunities with whole families working together. The parents and grandparents were hands on the entire time, with kids integrating them into their inventions. If something didn't work, it was easy to prompt with questions like maybe you need a heavier ball to propel the ball faster.

Check out our vimeo video to see all the ingenious inventions:

Mad Scientist Monday: Rube Goldberg from Duxbury Free Library on Vimeo.

Monday, July 14, 2014

We're a Makercamp!

We signed up to be a Makercamp site, sponsored by Google + and Make magazine, who gave us a box of goodies ("swag") in exchange for hosting STEM programming to the public. We now have a plethora of DIY/Maker books, a Makey Makey, an Arduino and breadboard, and a grab bag full of electronic goodies like LEDS, Batteries and 2 soldering irons! FOR FREE. I really hope this continues next year because YA librarians would love this.We were already doing science programming this summer for our theme so this fits in nicely.

Each week of Makercamp is themed and can be done entirely online for FREE through Google +, YouTube videos, and links to daily projects. Since you need to be over 13 to have a Google + account some of the projects may need adult supervision and their recommended age is 10-18. They do suggest asking younger family members to ask their parents to log in with their Google + accounts. Every Friday is a virtual field trip with famous celebrities or highlighting new Google products. Libraries, as a host site, can choose to do the projects, host virtual chats on Google +, or their own interpretation. Hanging posters, handing out stickers and wearing the t-shirts around the library are a big marketing push for them in itself. You can find tons of ideas by checking out their list of signed up camps and scoping out library websites.  Some libraries like Ida Grove Library will be hosting the virtual field trips on Fridays for teens while San Jose Library is hosting the live chats from professional makers Monday-Thursday from 11-12. Ridgefield Library has their own Google + and they encourage teens to share their projects with them from scarf making to 3D printing and lastly Keene Public Library is hosting pop up makerspace time on Mondays at 5pm to work on specific projects highlighted on the website.

Based on my research in other makercamp library sites, all you need to be a Makercamp site is to host programs loosely based on the themes. Week 1 was "Makers in Motion" and we did just that hosting a Stomp Rocket Workshop for our Backyard Ballistics Tuesday with Gr. 5-8 and a 2 day Stop Motion Workshop for Gr. 3-5.

Check out our Stop Motion Videos on Vimeo:

Stop Motion Workshop July 2014 from Duxbury Free Library on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Is fear constraining our language and activities?

As we prepared for the "Fizz, Boom, Read" Maker-style national summer reading program, we received reactions that we found surprising and a bit disturbing. When advertising our weekly Middle School hands on program, Backyard Ballistics (limited to air and water propulsion - no, we decided gun powder was off limits), we advertised on our teen web page and in the local newspaper: "Making stuff that moves, propels, explodes, and causes other stuff to happen." Teens and their parents quickly signed up and we currently have a waiting list. Our first activity was Stomp Rockets and we played a bit with rocket design to see what shape would travel the furthest.

An older couple read the newspaper blurb and asked to speak to the director. She found out that, although they were completely clear that our intentions were benign, they felt others might think that we were promoting terrorism and bomb-making. Hm.

Over the winter our resident knitters did a program called "Yarn-
bombing" which involved wrapping trees, railings, edges, static objects with whimsical knitted pieces. The effect was eye-catching and prompted an interest in knitting as a hobby among a slightly younger demographic. While researching the concept, we found out that another library in the metro Boston area had to change the wording of their similar project to Yarn Storm . Hm.

This same library is not allowed to host any activity that involves projectiles of any kind - no matter how safety conscious. Hm.

Here at the Duxbury Free Library we allow children and teens to wield knitting needles. We have soldering programs at the library. We play cardboard tube wars. We plug things in and turn them on. We allow kids, teens and adults to carefully explore potentially dangerous equipment and materials with the understanding that, although we provide a safe environment and plenty of supervision, responsible behavior is fundamentally an individual choice. We reserve the right to deny flagrant safety abusers the privilege of using our equipment and attending our programs but rarely need to enforce this dictum.

We ask people to sign waivers and permission slips when it seems appropriate. We don't take careless chances with safety, but we also don't let the remote possibility of an accident keep us from providing opportunities for youth and adults to learn new skills and competencies.

My questions are these:
  • Are we abdicating control of both our language and our playful activities to a Master called FEAR? These are not issues of political correctness. No one's feelings are in jeopardy. No ethnic or religious group is insulted. 
  • Is it really off limits to use the words "explode" or "bomb" when we are referring to yarn and water balloons? Really?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What Does STEM Look Like in the Children's Room this Summer? Week 1

In honor of our science theme this summer, we hold Mad Science Mondays here in the children's room on Mondays from 2-5pm.  This is very similar to our Makerspace Mondays held last summer with an additional preschool "science" lab, where our program room is transformed into a separate science lab for the younger set to explore with their parents. This is a drop in program that we provide with the emphasis that we will provide the materials but the parents/family members must work together to complete the weekly science projects with little supervision from the librarians on the desk.

Our first week's focus was on building. In the main room for Gr. K and up we hosted building challenges.

Challenge #1: Building the tallest structure you could out of paper and solo cups.  We bought this great tape that sticks to the wall with inch measurements on it so kids could record how high their structure was but we had no idea one would almost touch the ceiling. What a cheap science craft!

Challenge #2: Build a Bridge that spans 6-8 inches in length and can hold weight using just a deck of cards. Our handy measurement tape came in hand again for this one. I thought this one may be a bit tricky to start so I added an lift the flap hint piece of paper in front of it.

Challenge #3: Master KEVA planks.
KEVA planks were used many times last year in our programming and we always have a box out for anytime use. They continue to be a fan favorite and at only $50 a worthwhile purchase. We left instruction booklets out and the families got right to work troubleshooting their structures.

For our preschool science lab, we had many building block projects of different age levels/ fine motor proficiency. This one was by far one of the easiest ones to set up with most of the materials we already had on hand.  In future preschool story time programs, I hope to do this with The Three Little Pigs as I saw in this awesome ALSC blog post.
Stay tuned for next week where we explore Rube Goldberg!

Magnetic Blocks

Foam Blocks

Melissa & Doug Puzzles

Cardboard Blocks

Bristle Blocks

Duplo Table

Monday, July 7, 2014

Who else is gonna do this?

After a brief hiatus, we are back to tackle all the ins and outs of building new uses for libraries. Here are some great new voices in the library-as-center-for-innovation:

Friday, June 20, 2014

Transforming Libraries

 Hearing Bill Derry from the Westport, CT. public library talk about transforming libraries is heady stuff, but it wasn't until I starting talking to young people myself that I realized the urgency of the mission.

Bill Derry talks about moving libraries from thinking "collection development" to "connection development." What does that mean? I think it means actively seeking out the people in your community who have skills to share and people who need to learn those skills. Then providing the community with a place and resources to facilitate making things.

He juxtaposes these old vs. new library polarities:
  • Library Centric vs. Learning Centric
  • Language Literacy vs. Multiple Literacies
  • Answers vs. Questions
  • Library as Grocery Store vs. Library as Kitchen
  • Little time for Science vs. Emphasis on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math)
Here is how South Carolina public librarian, Melanie Florencio, explains it in a TEDX Creative Coast 7 minute talk:

Talking to a few young people in my circle of connections reveals an urgent need to build new competencies and explore new job skills. No longer can you go to grad. school, pass your classes, get your diploma and be set in a career. In today's constantly evolving work world, acquiring new skills and competencies are a given and people need to have a place where they can come back again and again to study and practice new technologies and new ways to be productive.

Enter the new library. Place to learn and create, all at your own pace and featuring the freedom and support provided by the ever-evolving public library.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Duxbury Free Library hosts a Minecraft world

Do your teens play Minecraft on your public computers every afternoon? Ours do. We've been trying to figure out a way to host a Minecraft game for some time at the library and played around with setting up a LAN at a couple of Game Nights, but thought it would be more fun and good outreach to host a world on a more on-going basis. After all, do people have to be in the library to participate in a library program?

Last week we heard Bill Derry from Westport, CT Public Library say, "You don't have to do it all yourselves, tap into a cadre of enthusiasts."
Enter my former Bookmarks, Colby and Callum, both in college now and experienced gamers. With their help, we chose a Minecraft hosting company, set up an account, trouble-shot our initial obstacles,signed up a Beta testing group of eager 8th graders and we're off to the races.
Truth: I would never have been able to do this so quickly without my wing men.  Lord only knows how our Minecraft world will evolve. They've all signed waivers for good behavior. Let's hope that doesn't stifle them too much. Let the Games begin!

Here's a great practical article about what you can do in a library Minecraft world.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Lessons from the Big Guns: Westport Connecticut Public Library blazes the trail

We had the privilege of attending a Makerspace in Public Libraries session recently sponsored by the ITS sub-committee of NELA in the beautiful Portsmouth, New Hampshire Public Library. The highlight of it was hearing Bill Derry, the Assistant Director of Innovation and User Experience, talk about how Westport, CT Public Library "does" Makerspace.
Here is Bill's resource page.
Download his PPT from this page for use in your library.
It's really comprehensive.

Major take-aways were:
  1. The library is THE place in the community to get people started making.
  2.  You don't have to do everything: be the conduit into the Maker World by connecting folks with other Makers and grassroots Makerspaces in your area.
  3. Make your programs as intergenerational as possible.
  4. Don't assume that just because the schools are getting new equipment (e.g. 3D printers) that the public will have any access to them. Schools have to be very cautious and buttoned down. Libraries are THE place for the democratization of resources, tools, and knowledge - always has been, always will be IF we stay current.
  5. You shouldn't have to do it all: build a strong volunteer brigade to help staff and train people.
  6. Get a monthly or seasonal rotation of Makers-in-Residence. This give people the scope of what can be done.
  7. Let clubs and Makerspaces meet at the library and collaborate closely with others.
We are looking forward to creating our new Digital Media Lab in our Upper Level Reference Area and will be posting about that throughout the summer, we hope.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Guerilla Marketing for Summer Reading

Every year as children's librarians we ask ourselves, "What am I going to do when I visit the schools to promote summer reading?" We love schools visits. They have a direct impact on our summer reading statistics. Where else can you talk to a captive audience of 100 + kids who begin coming in THAT DAY to sign up? I cannot tell you how many years I have seen the summer reading report at the end of the year change based on which elementary school I had/had not visited in previous jobs. But once you get your foot in the door, how do you excite an auditorium full of kids who are eagerly counting down the days till the school is over? Some librarians act out plays, sing songs, dress in costumes, bring props or just rely on some personality and a loud voice.  This year, with science as the theme, it was an easy sell for me to incorporate littleBits into our poster props. Although ideally I had wanted to master Arduino by now, we have been too busy planning for summer events to make my interactive wall. I decided to use the next best thing, my favorite toy, littleBits.

Our slogan this year is Fizz, Boom, READ! with some catchy graphics thanks to the CSLP. My poster theme was based on the 6 questions to ask during the scientific process: What, Where, When, Why, Who and How? These were used to explain our summer reading program rules and events. The What question, as seen behind the main poster that stood for what else can I do besides READ? was an entirely different poster to highlight just events. It was great having some prompts to make sure I didn't forget anything.

For the main design of the logo using littleBits I wanted to get as close as I could to a FIZZ and BOOM with my bits so I used the vibrating motor underneath the Fizz beaker for a fizzing/buzzing sound.  The Boom beaker got an LED bargraph because of the clever placement of the OO's.  I really wanted to use the buzzer for BOOM but if anyone has ever played with that one they know that sound gets old FAST. The READ got the servo motor because it's flashy and fun. I used lots of tape.

littleBits used:  power, wire(s), vibrating motor, servo motor, bargraph, button
Once we are done with school visits, I think I might rig up the motion sensor in place of the button.

Fizz Boom Read Summer Reading Poster from Duxbury Free Library on Vimeo.

It worked like a charm. The first question I was asked after going through my explanation of the program was "What's that?" and of course everyone wanted to press the button after.  I told them they had to come into the library to press it, how's that for marketing?