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?

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: