Wednesday, September 10, 2014

New programs, new ways of connecting

While primarily being a resource for individuals to do their projects, we also plan to run group sessions using as a great teaching tool for groups as well as individuals.

We did a soft launch over the summer for our new Digital Media Lab with well-attended sessions on Windows 8 and how to buy and sell of Ebay. We had advertised in the traditional way: in the building, on Facebook, on the web site, in the local newspaper.

Now, with the start of school year, we are eager to reach out beyond the usual library patrons and people who read the local newspaper to find new patrons of the library who may not realize we have something they might need.

Hence, having paid for an initial 6 month Meetup membership to try it out and using it for an Adult Board Game Meetup group and a Crafting group, we thought creating a Duxbury Adobe Explorers Meetup group might be a good idea. Almost as soon as we posted our first Meetup for last night, we got 19 members. Eight of them came to our first meeting with 4 others gleaned from traditional sources. Folks from Duxbury, Marshfield and as far afield as West Bridgewater came!

Since we are eager to develop patron interest groups at the Duxbury Free Library, hosting Meetup groups seems like a natural fit. Discussion and feedback are easy to initiate on Meetup and we feel it gives us access to people with serious interests and yet we have control over membership.

With an emphasis on individual use of the resources, we are also trying to create a buzz about our resources AND create on-going interest groups that, hopefully, can provide networking and end up being somewhat self-directed.

Social media companies like Meetup get the word out about your programs to people for whom the subject is a passion!

Here are the links to our Meetup groups:

Duxbury Adobe Explorers

Duxbury Adult Board Games Meetup

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The New Reference: Teaching tools, Skill-building

As we adjust our print reference collection to suit the needs of the community, monies open up that we can spend on resources our patrons are excited to use - specifically ten seats in our building for and the full Adobe Creative Suite in our new Digital Media Lab.

Our patrons are looking for services too expensive to purchase in a home setting and the skills to use creative digital products. We have discovered another service we can provide.

David Murphy was able to give a practical class on buying and selling on Ebay last night using our subscription to as well as the Digital Media Lab and his own experience on Ebay. Suzanne Gunnerson held a similar class in July on mastering the Windows 8 operating system.
By using video classes, we can learn together, stop the video, answer questions, restart, jump ahead, or re-watch an exercise we might not have fully understood. We find that our patrons enjoy getting an overview togther with others and THEN coming back to the library to watch the course more slowly and in greater depth on teir own.

In September, we plan to host introductory course on a number of Adobe products: Photoshop, InDesign, Acrobat, Muse, and Dreamweaver.

In fact, if a patron wants to acquire a highly coveted Adobe Certification on a particular Adobe software product, they need only be diligent enough to take the entire course for free at the library and then sign up with Adobe to take their certification exam, which costs a pretty penny itself, but gives a person an amazing credential for their resume. They can learn at their own speed and take the exam if and when they are ready.  All done by maximizing their available resources at the public library.

This is a great way we have found to be resource to our patrons: purchasing teaching tools, expensive software suites, and equipment such as professional scanner and conversion software so they can convert VHS to DVD, scan their precious family photos and documents, learn to start an online business, the list goes on and on!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Getting comfortable with Arduino micro-processors

Carol plays with code changes.
 Taking the time to set up our computers before our Arduino  group gathers really paid off. We were ready jump right in and  work through the excellent little Sparkfun Inventor's Kit booklet  one project at a time. Chris Connors supervised, gave advice, and  encouraged us to explore the options in the code once we set up a  project.  We played with LED light sequences, sound sequences,  and blinking speed.
 Joining us were Jed Phillips, from the Ames Library in Easton,  and Melissa McCleary, from the Pemborke Public Library.

David Murphy's blinking light circuit.
 We are now thinking, "What can we build with this?"  Halloween  comes to mind and our Halloween maven, Carol Segar, is already  thinking about setting up some spooky rooms here at the library  powered by Arduino.
For me, the lesson is: don't be put off by the unfamiliar. Give a new medium a chance to reveal its potential to you! It took me two tries, months apart, to begin to be comfortable with working with micro processors. It's new, but with good tools and a plan of attack, you can go beyond your comfort level and discover new avenues of creativity!
Suzanne works through the book
at her own pace.
Jess and Jed download new sounds
to use with their buzzer circuit.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mad Scientist Lego Challenges completes the library Lego week.

Last Wednesday the children's room hosted a Mad Scientist Lego Challenge night for families. This coincided nicely with our upstairs Lego Contest display. I'm really getting into themed weeks at the library for programming although the caveat would be if someone was on vacation that week, they'll miss out on everything surrounding the theme but as librarians we learn that we can't always please everyone (but we sure try hard!).

Upon entry to the night, participants were given a bingo card and asked to complete at least 3 of the 9 challenges. We had 9 different challenges around the room:
Challenges: Can you building something that...

1: Survives the zip-line
2: Goes down the ramp
3: using littleBits
4: using just one color
5: using 2 x 2 bricks only
6: Stop motion
7: Lego firewalk (this one differed in our other challenges. We told the parents we'd like them to experience what it was like to step on a random Lego. In true kid fashion, they all said the walk "wasn't bad".)
8: is wearable
9: is awesome (to appeal to those kids that just want to build without restrictions).

This program was open to ages 5 and up with an adult for one hour. Everyone who finished received a Lego bookmark. I think our conceptual idea of makerspaces can have so much reach when paired with the popularity of an inter-generational toy like Legos. It is all about building and experimenting!

Mad Scientist Lego Challenge 2014 from Duxbury Free Library on Vimeo.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Lego Contest is a Sure Hit!

I was overjoyed this morning when I counted 57 entries in our 2nd Annual Lego Contest. The Lego Contest is one of the easiest program we've had all summer and by far, my favorite.  Participants of all ages (up to 12) create a scene from their unique Lego World at home, write a story about it, and bring it in. We host a week of bringing in entries and a week of displaying them all over the children's room while our staff judges deliberate.

Judging is based on good stories, creativity, and attention to detail. The size requirements is no bigger than 11 X 14 inches and it cannot be a set built from instructions. Those are the only guidelines I give. e try to keep entries as close to the front desk as possible and pictures are taken just in case anything gets knocked over.

Entries ranged from a working gumball machine to a futuristic civil war to a drive-in movie theater. It was great to see so many girls participate this year. I hate to admit it, but I think the pink Lego friends franchise combined with the popularity of a strong female character in The Lego Movie has made a huge difference.

My favorite part of the contest is the literacy component. It's one thing to look at Lego people in a house and think "Oh that's nice" but they take on a whole new perspective once you read their stories. It's important to have a venue like the library where kids aren't graded for their stories. I found the ones in conversational tone quite charming. We had entrants as young as 4 years old with their parents writing down what they said. 

A special album is posted on our Facebook page to include the pictures and stories of all the entries for people to "like". Whichever creation gets the most likes by Thursday will win a special popular prize.  Feel free to like your favorite! I warn you, it's a tough choice.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

What Does STEM Look Like in the Children's Room? Week 4

This week was beach week. We headed down to Duxbury Beach on Monday night and held a Mad Scientist Sand Sculpting Event. It was open to all ages without any prizes or contest pressure. The sand sculpture event has been a staple of the summer reading program for many years. Beach sculpting is an art and science of its own. One thing we had to think about was when the tides come in and out. It just took a quick call to the Harbor master to schedule. Holding library events off site is a great opportunity to meet and greet new people. Some families joined into the event just because they happened to be at the beach that night. I loved that the sand sculptures all had their own stories, a wonderful literacy component. This one picture above was a favorite of mine, complete with a light house and guard house.

For our weekly Backyard Ballistics on Tuesday, we built boats with DC motors, AA Battery packs, and popsicle sticks. We left out a wide variety of floating materials such as foam, plastic containers, solo cups, and duct tape. Chris Connors, our Resident Maker, said it was hard finding plastic propellers so he made them out of Popsicle sticks that he dremmeled a hole into that fit the DC motors.  What to do about the design of the propellers since the sticks are flat? Nothing a little hot glue on the top left side and the back right side wouldn't fix. This mimics the slant design of a propeller.

We showed a few examples of boat construction and off they went. A kiddie pool full of water and rubber ducky passengers were suggested for testing during the process.  This was true tinkering for us and the kids as we troubleshooted the dc motors even before the program.  The DC motors come with wires that need to be stripped and connected to the battery packs. The wires need to be twisted to ensure connectivity (which is harder than it sounds) so we decided to solder the wires onto paper clips for easy connecting.

I was reticent about immersing electronics in water but Chris told us it was OK as long as the battery packs stayed dry (salt water is the type to watch out for).  By the end of the hour, we had a few students that would have to take the boats home to finish.  It's a good lesson to learn that it's OK not to be completely finished by the end of the program.  Perhaps some programs need to be left unfinished to ensure kids will continue tinkering and learning at home? It's about the journey, not the destination sort of speak.

On Wednesday Laura from the Mass Audobon brought a beach themed touch table with many living specimens of crabs right from Duxbury Beach. She also told stories, shared the science of local wildlife with fine motor activities and everyone made a craft.

This week was full of very successful themed programs that spanned all ages and 2 library departments with community collaboration.  A librarian's dream come true!

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?