Summer, 2017: Two Teen Successes

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m assessing the 2017 summer program in bits and pieces as time allows. Here are a couple of successes to share.

Teen Scratch Ticket Challenge

We connected with a wide variety of teens this summer with the help of scratch tickets, of all things. The idea is borrowed from the genius, Kat at the 5 Min Librarian. In May, I read her post about the Scratch Ticket Challenge and thought it was a great idea. (Read her post to find out the tech details. I followed her lead and used her template with little variation.) Using the tickets was a last minute addition, but her description seemed easy enough to pull off in my small library as a pilot and I was looking for something new to spice up the teen summer reading/learning experience. (I’ll post more about the passive challenges we also had success with soon.) Ultimately the goal is to encourage teens to keep reading all summer and if a method other than the traditional “keep track of reading” works, why not try it?

We offered every teen who checked out a book or audiobook in the physical library a scratch ticket (1 ticket per day, maximum) which either got them a prize from the candy drawer, the surprise prize drawer or no prize in which case their ticket was entered into the grand prize drawing at the end of the summer. It was easy to keep track of the number of tickets printed for statistical purposes and my coworkers found it easy to manage. They loved giving out the tickets to unsuspecting teens!

Not only did we connect with teens who don’t want to keep track of their reading (in a digital or paper log) yet still read all summer and checked out books from the library, we also caught the attention of teens who are not regularly represented in program attendance; for example, teens who live remotely and visit the library sporadically or those who have limited family support. Our teen participation went from 24 last year to 83 this year. Most of the increase was thanks to teens who were not registered for the reading challenge. The teens who loved the scratch ticket game the most were on the younger end, 12-14. Why? My guess, after looking at the names of these kids, is because they recently graduated from the kids’ reading challenge and like the idea of participating in a game type program. I also saw lots of names I had never seen in any library program ever. Some teens participated both in the game and in the official reading challenge so they were entered into the 2 grand prize drawings multiple times.

What I like about this scratch ticket idea is that it meets teens who are reading where they, or at least some of they, are- at the circ desk checking books out. Teens were pleasantly surprised so to be offered a scratch ticket! Next year we plan to continue some version of the scratch ticket game; using it to both “reward” regular users and attract more teens to the library.

DIY Virtual Reality Goggles

Teen making DIY VR Goggles

Our DIY Virtual Reality Goggles program for teens was another successful teen program, but not in the usual stats sort of way. On a spreadsheet, it might not seem like a win compared with other programs I host. It was one of those programs that required a decent amount of planning time and didn’t see significant numbers. It’s beauty lay in the conversation that unfurled during the 2 hour program, in the confidence that filled the teen makers and in the new interests the project sparked.

Imagine 4 teenage boys crafting and chatting about a variety of topics for two hours and you’ll get an idea of what happened. (The cardboard goggles require measuring, cutting and gluing cardboard from shoeboxes or pizza boxes, plus fitting lens and other materials.) Yes, we talked about Virtual Reality, we briefly tested out the goggles at the end and I gave them a list of VR apps (see below) to try at home, but mostly they wanted to “hang out, mess around and geek out” (HOMAGO), as they say.  Eryn, the teen mentor who has helped me for the last two years with everything from the maker club to storytime, and I were amazed.

If you have teenagers and you drive them in a car much, you can imagine the kind of conversation that rolled out over the two hours. When teens are in the right space with the right group and at the right time, they talk about everything in such an uninhibited way. There was nothing shocking revealed, just a group of boys, plus Eryn and I, tinkering and talking. The kids who didn’t know each other, verbally danced around topics until they found common ground. When one didn’t know what the other was talking about, the group filled him in. Eryn and I were enveloped into the conversations without hesitation.

After two hours, we eventually had to “kick them out”  and finish cleaning up. For most of the four, the goggles they made were considered a prototype and the templates they took home will be used to make the next, more polished pair. This was a program that capitalized on the allure of new media, got teens making and learning, provided access to a new technology and connected teens with each other. Win. Win.

The funniest quote? “We’re actually going to make VR goggles? I thought we were just going to watch a video about them.”

DIY VR Goggle template and cardboard laid out on table

Materials (planned for 8-10, plus 2 extras):
lightweight cardboard (from shoe boxes or pizza boxes)
2-3 X-acto knives, used at a “precision” station to avoid sharp tools being lost amongst the cardboard remains
metal rulers to help make folds clean
scissors capable of cutting cardboard, enough for each teen to have a pair
glue stick and white glue
45mm focal length biconvex plastic lenses (see template link below for details)
velcro
rubber band
table coverings to protect surface
*We didn’t use the copper tape button. It works just as well to use tap the phone screen with a finger. (See template instructions.)
Instructables template and instructions

And here are the VR apps I shared with the group of teens:

Summer, 2017! No wait, Fall!

dead pink salmon on rocky beach

It’s officially Fall here in Homer, Alaska. I know that because of the yellows, oranges and reds that dot the landscape, the dead and dying salmon whose bodies lie on local stream-sides and because of the darkness, the elusive darkness that we trade each August for the long, fun-filled days of summer.

Every year I plan to spend August reflecting on the summer programs, assessing what worked and what needs to be modified in the future. I also dream of having a couple of weeks to plan the months ahead. Once again, the reflection has been squeezed between program planning and hosting, grant writing, leading trainings and webinars, desk time and reviewing Caldecott submissions. Hours of reflection are a figment of my imagination. You know what I mean.

One thing I do know is the summer was a good one in so many ways. Not every aspect of our summer learning program went as planned or had the outcomes we intended, but overall we succeeded.

  • Kids, teens and families kept reading, learning, playing and creating all summer long and they often did them together.
  • Families found support at the library.
  • We continued to find ways to fill learning voids in our community.
  • We provided supported access for a diverse audience of kids to all sorts of media.
  • I mentored another young woman who graduated from the local high school and spent one last summer mentoring younger kids in a variety of programs before heading off to MIT. (I’m so proud and sad to see her go.)
  • We grew positive community partnerships.

I’ll share my reflections on specific aspects of the summer program in following posts.

Everyday Early Literacy Fair

Early Literacy Fair flyer

Part of my role as Youth Services Librarian is to develop community partnerships in support of families and literacy. One partnership I love, although it meets somewhat infrequently, is the Language and Literacy Task Force. We’re a group of professionals from local early childhood organizations that meet to discuss ideas, strategies, issues, challenges and potential collaborative projects. One of the projects we developed together was the Early Literacy Fair which was held at the library in the Fall of 2015. I’m writing about it now, because we are in the planning stages of the 2nd annual event.

The fair came to be after talking to families about what early literacy support they needed and wanted beyond what I share in storytime, in the monthly Growing Readers newspaper column, and brochures, handouts, etc. What I heard from multiple parents with older children (K+), was that when their kids were little they felt like they knew a lot about early literacy, but in actuality, they discovered later, they did not. Sone parent recommended targeting kids and whole families- proposing that the kid-focused approach to the event would be more effective than a parent education class or workshop. We took that advice to heart and felt we could design an event that would include parents that were already confident, but might benefit from more information and strategies, as well as families who might be intimidated by the class or workshop format and need a lot of information. The partnership aspect also helped us target families new to the library but familiar with other community organizations and services.

We designed the successful event based on Every Child Ready to Read’s five early literacy practices and created five associated stations. Four different organizations managed the five stations (2 representatives from one organzation were included). The event took place on a Saturday in the children’s library so anyone dropping by could also participate if they wanted. Most of our programs for young children happen during the week because of limited staffing, so this was a great opportunity to support families who can’t make it Monday through Friday.

At each station, families found tips on how to support one aspect of early literacy at home. They collected the tips, printed on cards, and took home a set of five to help them remember what they learned. And more importantly to the under 8 crowd, each station also had a fun, hands-on activity for young children related to the early literacy practice.

The Stations

Reading station image #1

Reading Station 2 image

Reading Station 3 image

Reading: I organized the reading station and featured great books, in all formats. I also featured one of my “10 Ways to Explore a Book” posters . I talked about different ways to read a book to young children, depending on the child, the context, and the content. (Yes- it should remind you of Lisa Guernsey’s 3 C’s for digital media use with young children.) Caregivers could take information about getting a library card, our storytime programs, accessing the library’s digital library, and digital media with young children. Kids could play with a tray full of magnetic letters and create words, spell their name, etc. We offered free books while supplies lasted. We had some funds to purchase a small amount of books from the local bookstore and the rest were donated.

Talking Station 1 image

Talking Station 2 image

Talking: Kids were able to build a snack bag at this table and a local speech therapist modeled for families how to build a conversation around everyday activities and add vocabulary to make for rich conversation by talking about what foods they were adding to the bag, for example. We also included a sensory bin full of dried beans and an assortment of plastic fruits and vegetables. I made laminated cards with the name and image of the same fruits and vegetables found in the bins so families could play a find game and match the plastic version with the photo/word version. I’ve used these sensory bins in a food storytime as well.

Playing: A local educator from a community environmental organization brought puppets and a variety of natural history materials to play with in a dramatic play station. I forgot to take a picture of this station, but it was a nice tie-in for the many families in our community who are outdoor-oriented.

Singing Station 1

Singing Station 2 image

Singing: This station was a hit with young makers! It featured homemade shakers and a representative from the local early childhood services organization supplied plastic eggs, dried beans and rice, and colorful duct tape for the musical instruments. She provided tips on why singing is important for early literacy and shared musical books that are fun to read and might interest families. She included lyrics to fun rhymes and songs in the take home tips and featured some of the CDs from the library’s children’s music collection.

Writing Station 1 image

Writing Station 2 image

Writing: A woman from the ELL program at the local college with many years experience in early literacy and family engagement provided tips on incorporating writing into everyday activities. She talked with families on a one-to-one basis about what writing looks like at different ages and stages. She was near the library’s windows so she provided kids with window markers to draw on the windows (washes off easily), small notebooks for kids to write and draw in at the library and then take home, and a variety of coloring/writing tools like gel pens, markers, and crayons pencils.

Apps for Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies

Along with the book lists, movie suggestions, and website recommendations I share as part of Summer@HPL each summer, we add related apps to our library’s Pinterest boards. Here are some of the apps for children I am introducing families to as part of my media advisory efforts. These apps are tied to the summer learning program’s theme of “healthy minds, healthy bodies” and the various events at the library.

Toca Kitchen 2

 

Toca Kitchen 2 (storytime)
Toca Boca
iOS and Android

 

Miximal app

 

Miximal (storytime)
Yatatoy
iOS

 

img_4619

 

Never Alone (Maker Camp: Game Design)
E-Line Media
iOS and Android

 

 

unnamed

 

Minecraft (special program)
Mojang
iOS and Android

 

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain

 

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain (mounted iPad)
Little Pickle Press
iOS

 

This is My Body

 

This is My Body- Anatomy for Kids (storytime)
Urbn Pockets
iOS

 

Human Body

 

Human Body (media advisory)
Tinybop
iOS

 

toca dance

 

Toca Dance (Maker Camp)
Toca Boca
iOS

 

Harry's Healthy Garden

 

Harry’s Healthy Garden (mounted iPad)
Baby First & American Heart Association
iOS

 

Sago Mini Monsters

Sago Mini Monsters (storytime)
Sago Mini
iOS

 

 

LEGO Movie Maker

 

LEGO Movie Maker (Maker Camp: Video Design)
LEGO
iOS

Summer@HPL 2016

Our summer learning program, Summer@HPL, began on May 23rd and I have been busy putting into action a robust schedule of events for kids, teens, and their families. At the same I’ve been collaborating with a fabulous coworker, @hollyfromhomer, to get the Homer version of the Great Reading Adventure up and running. We’re piloting the digital platform for other libraries in the state of Alaska. More on that soon.

It’s been a busy Spring!

Summer@HPL headerOur program, based on the Collaborative Summer Library Program‘s theme of On Your Mark, Get Set… Read!, is focusing on the concept of “healthy minds, healthy bodies” and runs from the Monday after school gets out until the end of July. Many families spend the few weeks in August before school starts traveling, so I schedule our program during the first 10 weeks of summer vacation. It works well for us and keeps the library hopping, especially when summer reading families are combined with the many summer visitors and seasonal workers who base out of Homer (for commercial fishing, etc.) and use the library regularly.

Here are the programs I have planned for kids and teens. There is mix of inside/outside and high tech/low tech events to keep families active and engaged with the library, the community, and each other. The blend involves lots of opportunities to learn, create, and share, reflecting the needs and interests of local families.

A note on adults- My library does offer a year round reading challenge for adults that we will continue to market during the summer, but I haven’t planned any specific events for adults this year beyond the occasional author readings sponsored by the Friends. With limited resources, I had to decide where to focus what I’ve got. I’m concentrating efforts on intentional, whole family engagement at many of our kid events. I was inspired by the conversations I’ve been having with library and research friends across the country as part of the Libraries for the 21st Century: It’s A Family Thing learning community (sponsored by PLA and the Harvard Family Research Project).

EXPLORE Family Storytimes (weekly): In the summer I expand the preschool storytimes’ targeted audience and include 6 & 7 year olds. I do this for a couple of reasons. Siblings are more likely to tag along and feel included with this age range so families will return each week. We also don’t have the capacity to have a lot of separate programs for each age group and this helps include these kids in a very conspicuous way- they feel included.

We include traditional elements in the storytime and several activity stations instead of the one or two art and craft projects we offer in the Winter. These storytimes are advertised as STEAM-injected and many families respond to the STEM connection. The STEAM elements might include open-ended art projects, pint-sized engineering problems, using apps and other digital tech, and of course developmentally appropriate math (counting, patterns, and computational thinking).

In June we’ll be reading and playing with themes that include: bodies (humans, monsters and other animals), re-engineered fairy tales, simple machines, travel, and play.

Small Fry Toddler/Baby Storytimes (weekly): This is a 20-30 minute storytime for ages 2 and under and their caregivers. It is a program we offer year round, but we include it in the schedule events to help connect families with babies and toddlers in the library-wide effort. Check out some of my toddler/baby storytimes for a complete details.

Victoria Jamieson is on her way to Homer (and then Anchorage) as I write for a fun visit! We’re excited to have an amazing author/illustrator come to town, a rarity in Homer. She’ll do a program for younger kids around her book Olympig! (Dial Books, 2012), a timely tale that works well with the summer theme and the 2016 Olympic Games. In the afternoon, Victoria will lead a comic workshop for kids and teens ages 10-15. We have lots of Roller Girl (Dial Books, 2015) fans in Homer, even without a roller derby team.

Summer Maker Camp (weekly): Maker programs have been an annual summer feature for four years. We don’t have the physical space for a permanent makerspace, so we integrate a pop-up makerspace once a week and include the maker concept in many of our other other programs. We were able to expand on this popular summer series during the school year thanks to an ALSC Curiosity Creates grant and kids 8-15 are excited to hang out again. We’ll meet every Thursday starting later this month.

We’re focusing on game design (digital and board) in June and video in July to give everyone time to work on their projects instead of focusing on a new tool or skill each week. We had a chance to better understand how these young makers wanted to work over the school year and we think this will be a good fit.

To kick off the June maker sessions we’ll be Skyping with two different game designers so we can talk about what makes a great game and how games are made. We’ll chat with Brian Alspach of E-Line Media (one of the creators of Never Alone, a beautiful digital game made in partnership with Alaskan elders) and Jens Peter de Pedro of Little Frogs (a founding team member of Toca Boca and leader in the world of kids’ interactive media). I love connecting mentors and our community of young makers! Skype is our friend!

Yoga for Kids (series): We are teaming up with a local yoga instructor to offer a series of four one hour classes for 5-8 year olds. This ties in nicely with our program theme. many of our programs and events don’t require any registration, but this one does because of space.

Dog Jog (with the Kachemak Bay Running Club): We’ve teamed up with the local running club for an all ages 5K beach run during a particularly low tide. They club’s volunteers are adding a 1 mile route for Summer@HPL families to walk or run. Any families who participate will get a secret code to redeem in the reading log for a digital badge, one of many kids, teens, and adults can earn this summer. (Other secret codes are available at library programs and at city parks around town.)

Stone Soup Puppet Show: The Krambambuli Puppet Theatre will present a show and string puppet family workshop for ages 3-10. Our families love puppet shows, so we’re excited to offer not one, but two, puppet shows this summer and get kids making from a young age!

Teen Read What You Want Graphic Novel Book Club: Back for a second summer, this book club is casual! Teens ages 12-17 meet me at the library to talk about what they’re reading over pizza. The group isn’t huge, but it’s a good way to hang out and talk about books, movies and anything else on our minds.

Country Fried Puppet-Palooka: Our second puppet show will be presented by the zany puppeteers and storytellers at Mcmazing Tales who are visiting Alaska again this summer. The family show will be silly and Alaskans will recognize the puppet designs from the Moose: the Movie, created by Tundra Comics maker Chad Carpenter.

Movies: We’ll offer three movie showings at the library this summer. One for younger kids and their families and two for teens.

Scientific Illustration for Kids: National Geographic Kids author/illustrator Hannah Bonner will be visiting a friend in town and offered to be part of a program for kids ages 8-13 who love to draw and/or who are fascinated by dinosaurs and prehistoric life.

Roustabout Circus: An active summer has to include the circus! The Roustabout Circus duo is visiting Homer and making a stop at the library to entertain local families. Their shows and workshops are always a hit!

Pool Party: Instead of pool passes, this year were hosting a pool party for ages 11 and under (and their adults) at the community pool inside the local high school. Kids are SO excited for this event! Swim club kids even asked if I could make a special swim challenge at the event. We’ll have to give out tickets for this event, but we’ll include a lot of families.

Minecraft Challenge: We’ll be playing Minecraft with teens at the Chippewa River District Library! The four hour challenge is always exciting, and also a bit dramatic. This event brings a lot of kids and teens to the library that we rarely see at other summer program events.

2016 LEGO Contest: We are sponsoring the 6th annual LEGO contest this summer for kids and teens. We regularly get 50+ entries which we display at the library or a week. Local judges choose winners in three age categories and the public votes on a people’s choice winner.

Ice Cream Celebration: We conclude our summer program for kids with a big celebration that includes carnival type games, ice cream, and prize drawings.