STEAM-y Storytime: Independence Day

Storytime at our library is on Wednesdays and this year the first storytime of July landed on July 3rd. We couldn’t let the week go by and not celebrate Independence Day. The trick was how to tie STEAM activities into the program. While I certainly could have focused on the art element of STEAM, I wanted to continue the success of the summer’s STEAMY-y Storytimes and include some of the other elements.

What is a librarian to do? Fireworks in a Glass, of course! But first…


141692454X-olivia2_zoomOlivia Forms a Band by Ian Falconer (Athenuem Books for Young Readers, 2006)

While I find that the humor and subtle elements in some Olivia books go right over the head of preschoolers, this one seems to work well in the storytime setting. It tells the story of the lovable Olivia and her ideas about July 4th.


In between books we took the lead from Olivia. I distributed red, white and blue shower rings (Credit: Mel’s Desk) which we waved all around while we marched and sang around the children’s library. I even slipped in a learning moment and had the kids shaking their rings up high, down low, to the left and to the right.

Music: “This Land is Your Land” from Nikki Loney’s album You Are My Sunshine: Favorite Sing-Along Songs (broadcast on speakers via iPhone).

betsyrossThe charming book Betsy Ross by Becky White and Megan Lloyd (Holiday House, 2011) tells the story of the American flag with simple, rhyming text (including sound words like “snip, snip” and “drip, drip”) and illustrations created using cloth. The combination gives the story a warm feel. The author’s note about Ross’ contribution of the five-pointed star to the flag and the instructions for how to make a five-pointed star with one snip of the scissors are excellent additions.

Activity Stations:

IMG_0761Fireworks in a Glass

Materials:IMG_0731 Water (warm in a tall glass container like a vase)
Vegetable oil (in a small glass for mixing with the food coloring)
Blue and red food coloring
tray for all of the materials (optional)

Mix the food coloring into the oil in the small glass. Coloring will break up into small drops. Slowly add the oil mixture to the warm water. After about 30 seconds, the food coloring will separate from the oil which formed a layer on top of the water and float downwards, looking like blue and red fireworks.

What are the bags of cotton balls and beans for? I used them to talk about density (same volume, but different density) and why the oil, food coloring, and water act differently and create the fireworks effect.

Credit: So Tomorrow via ALSC blog

IMG_0732Fireworks painting

Black construction paper
plates of white, blue, and red washable paint
pipecleaner brushes
plastic table cover (optional)

To make the pipe cleaner brushes, take 3 pipe cleaners and bend them in half together. Twist the bent pipe cleaners 3 or 4 times t form the handle. Separate the untwisted ends and fold over so they are flat, forming a star when laid on a flat surface. Press the pipe cleaner paint brush in the paint and then press it on to the construction paper. For best results, paint the other additional colors over the first color but turn the brush clockwise slightly to offset the colors.

Credit: Juggling with Kids

Toilet Roll Firecracker



  • Toilet roll
  • Red, white, and blue themed scrapbook paper
  • Heavier weight paper cut into circles approx. 2″ to create the nose (I cut a triangle out of the circle to make it easier to form the pointed nose. Join edges after cutting the triangle out and it will create the point.)
  • Red, white, or blue ribbon
  • Glue
  • Tape
  • Stapler

I prepped the scrapbook paper and the noses by cutting and IMG_0734measuring them.  I was sure to include a variety of colors. Kids and caregivers worked together to glue or tape the paper around the toilet roll, attach the nose, and then staple the ribbon on the bottom of the roll. Some kids chose to color their firecrackers with the crayons and markers I always provide.

Five Point Star

We followed the instructions from Betsy Ross to make five-pointed stars. With six folds in plain white paper (cut to 8 1/2″x10″) and one cut, a star is born!

This activity was the one many kids and adults went to last, but ended up staying with for quite awhile.  Kids liked seeing the paper folded smaller and smaller and then once cut, opened up to reveal a star! A pdf of the instructions is available from Holiday House.

Book images courtesy of: Holiday House and Junior Library Guild


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