Monday, November 24, 2014

We were guest speakers in a littleBits webinar!

Jessica Lamarre, children's librarian, was excited to be a part of a panel about Library Makerspaces  hosted by littleBits. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Preschool Science wraps up its first session

It was hard at first to wrap my brain around doing a science based session of story times as a stay alone program for 10 4-5 yr olds for 30 minutes. In my 9 years of experience, I've never hosted a stay alone story time (crazy right?). How do I even begin? How messy should I get? What happens since I'm by myself trying to conduct experiments without parental help? What about food allergies? What kinds of questions do I ask? I decided that the whole session would be us pretending to be scientists, using their tools, and experimenting/observing a new theme each week.

One of my main concerns was organizing the flow. I like stations but it's hard to do that without more supervision so we tried to do as much as possible as a group first and then had a few choices to play with afterwards.

This was a great jumping off point for me from the Boston Children's Museum STEM Family Activity Guide & the Boston Children's Museum Sprouts.
Then I went to Pinterest for the rest. It's amazing how much comes up when you use the keywords Preschool, STEM and sensory.

Here is my outline of the sessions with some tips I learned along the way.

Class 1: What is a Scientist?
Book: What is a Scientist? by Barbara Lehn
We discussed the 5 senses that scientist use to experiment and observe.
Introduced magnifying glass
5 Senses song from Hi 5
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes song
Magnet board game with 5 senses
Sound: Animal sound app guessing game
Touch: Mystery Box
Sight: Eye Spy with chalkboard dice
Take Home: worksheet exploring the 5 Senses at home

Using the songs was really jarring for them and I don't think they got much out of it. I actually over-planned this one as a group. I think this is one of the few that would have been OK with stations and have the kids choose where to go themselves after the magnet board game. It's hard with all the allergies worries to do anything with taste or scent so I stayed away from it but we did talk about it.

2. Color
Talk about scientists and how they use their 5 senses to experiment and observe
Book: Mouse Paint by Ellen Walsh (alternative: White Rabbits Color Book by Alan Baker)
Color Wheel discussion with them filling in color worksheet
Flashlights with CDs and color paddles to explore prisms and color mixing
Colors of the rainbow Song by Singing Time with construction paper
Talked about eye droppers and safety goggles
Color Volcanoes with baking soda, food coloring, and vinegar
Take Home: Color Wheel bookmark

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED:  The song once again was too fast and the kids were far beyond color recognition anyway.  Make sure to have enough supplies for EVERY kid each time something is passed out.  I also passed out markers so kids could fill in their own color wheels but it would have been a better take home or station project with marbles or buttons. The kids loved the volcanoes. I should have went from the color wheel diagram with color paddles straight to the volcanoes.   I had tubes full of baking soda and cups of mixtures of vinegar and food coloring on the side with eye droppers. This is very messy so take predations especially with their clothing. It was good practice with the droppers.  Be aware that some kids might not want to get messy and have something for them too (I just left the color paddles out and the flashlights).

3. Sink or Float
Talk about scientists and how they use their 5 senses to experiment and observe 
Book: Does it Sink or Float? by David Adler (did the experiments in the book as we read)
Experimented with various objects as a group with a Tupperware bin full of water ie: rocks, cups, balls, spoon, ice cubes, coins.  Passed a cup around to talk about weight before/after water in it.
Introduced scales and weighing objects to make predictions
Pre-filled water table with Sink or Float kit from Lakeshore
Take Home: Sink or Float worksheet at home

I thought the water table would be a sure hit and it was for some kids but many just wanted to hang out by the scales and weigh things so I brought out marbles and anything else I had handy so they could compare.  If I had more hands for this one, I would have separated more of the experiments in the Sink/Float kit and guided them a bit more scientifically. Most kids just dumped as many stones/animals as they could until it sunk.  A count of the stones and weigh in would have been better.

4. Matter
Talk about scientists and how they use their 5 senses to experiment and observe 
Book: What is the World Made Of? by David Adler (passed around objects and talked about it's state: Solid, Liquid or Gas following book's model. They didn't like the lavender scent I sprayed during the air test)
Made Slime with liquid starch, Elmers glue, and food coloring in Tupperware.
Take Home: The slime

This one was my favorite of the series. The kids loved the slime part and it was few enough ingredients that I let them experiment with pouring different amounts in and pointing out the differences between the two. Liquid starch was the gluten free option but it seemed watery. Borax might have been a better choice even though it's more toxic.

5. Air & Bubbles
Talk about scientists and how they use their 5 senses to experiment and observe

Book: Pop: A Book About Bubbles by Kimberly Bradley
Talked about air in our lungs and how it can blow up balloons, make pinwheels go or even through a straw to push a ball.
Had ball races
Talked about blowing bubbles: do they have a shape? 
Bubble experiments using sugar, honey, salt, vegetable oil, liquid starch, glycerin.What works? (I premixed all this)
Introduce measuring cups
One tub of regular bubble solution: 1 cup water for every 1/4 cup dish detergent with different utensils like slotted spoon, colander, bubble wands, and pipe cleaners to experiment. Do bubbles change shape? Can you touch a bubble without popping?
Graduation Handout: STEM tip sheet from BCM sprouts

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED: This one had a classic case of many kids not wanting to get messy so they spent 15 minutes with straws trying to move balls around the room and have races. I had different weighted balls and taped them up a race track to try.  Meanwhile, 2 kids were going nuts pouring stuff into our huge experimental tub (created on the spot) to see if the bubbles would blow after adding the solutions mixed with each ingredient. They LOVED pouring (but pre portion stuff).  After about 1/2 of the salt container went in, we could safely conclude that after adding the salt, the bubble solution does not work.


Find things with only a few ingredients so they can pour themselves
Go over different scientist tools and leave time for them to play with them
Keep repeating vocabulary but only a few things like Experiment, Observe, and Predict and use them every class
Focus on simple scientific topics: Air, water, light. They're only 4! 
It was good to always talk about the rules and what a scientist does before each class
No songs (at least due to time constraints)
Plan for clean up (usually 1/2 hour) and towels, LOTS OF TOWELS
30 minutes wasn't enough, next time I'd go 45. 
Always have on hand another experiment for kids that don't want to get messy or become sensory overstimulated
Get someone to take pictures (my hands were always dirty).

Thursday, November 13, 2014

New companies offer alternatives to electronic card design

I'm very excited to try out Chibitronics, electronic circuit stickers to implement into our upcoming Holiday Electronic Card Tinkering Thursday this December. Many of the issues we had previously in our Mother's Day blog post should be rectified with these stickers providing a more stable solution.  
With their easy tutorials, I learned that you should not rip but fold the tape down when turning corners to ensure a stronger connection with each circuit. No wonder they had such problems working previously! Not to mention our conductive tape role was over 2 inches wide.
The opportunity for adhesive LEDs with tutorials for multiple circuit paths will provide easy instruction into multiple lights and even command them to blink. The stickers are reusable so kids will have a take home that can be used at least once more. The starter kit begins at $29 with a deluxe kit at $99 that includes effect and sensor stickers.  Some of you may have things at home and you can just purchase separate items on their own. The stickers will work with conductive paint, thread or even aluminum foil.   
Another more expensive but intriguing solution to electronic circuit design is Circuit Scribe which guarantees a quick drying conductive liquid with their own designed output bits that are magnetic. The possibilities are becoming endless with such quick advances in technology. It's a great time to be a librarian doing STEM programming.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Taking STEM Toys on the Road

This week as part of a Mass. Library Association Youth Services Section Workshop at the Turner Free Library, I took our popular STEM toys, Arduinos, littleBits, and Makey Makeys to offer local librarians hands on time with these products and to share my programming experiences. Noelle Boc from Tewksbury Public Library presented on her popular Hexbugs parties.
We also talked about iPad implementation and new marketing strategies. A link to all our handouts and presentations can be found soon on the YSS wiki. 

With the new emphasis on STEM programming, there aren't many opportunities to try before you buy with so many new businesses coming from Kickstarter and other start up internet based only companies. (Although a special announcement that littleBits will now be offered at select Radioshacks around the country.)   So librarians out there, be thinking about the toys that you have to share with your local librarian community to support and enhance their professional development at workshops, roundtables, annual conference and beyond.  Not only did we provide hands on opportunities to try equipment but we offered easy explanations into introductory circuitry.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Getting adults and girls in on the Arduino action

Sidney codes the blinking light array with her dad
while Bill Johnson shows them his Arduino sensors.
We finally invited adults to come discover the wonders and power of Arduino microprocessing kits. With his real life application story of using Arduinos in an industrial diagnostic setting, Bill Johnson added an urgency and interest level for the adults to consider. Getting familiar with Arduino and code is a ticket to an innovative job, he says.

Jess showed us her clever Halloween applications and then the teens went to work showing their parents just how the bread boards, code, and micro-processors work together. They ran through the blinking lights exercises pretty fast and moved directly into coding messages in their LCD panels. Whew!

Lily shows her dad how to change the message
on the LCD screen through re-coding.
Jacob shows his dad how the Arduino works.

Julia works next to Sandra and digs out the
potentiometer for her project.
Our Simmons GSLIS intern, Anne, and I
find the right pin to match the pattern.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

We were featured on the littleBits website!

We are very excited to announce that we were the next featured case study on the littleBits education blog.  High fives all around for the hard work of our staff and students who were eager to learn circuitry with us over the past year.