Family Storytime: Heroes, Flight & Gravity

This summer, we’re celebrating heroes in our summer learning program along with many libraries across the US. It’s quite a fun theme because it incorporates superheroes and comics on the one hand while also providing a great backdrop on which to celebrate the hero within. Many of the books and ideas I plan to share this summer during storytime will encourage kids to do great things. This week was no different.

I have been using letter cards at the beginning of storytime as a welcome activity to support letter recognition, to get kids physically stretching, and to break the ice, so to speak. My pack of letters has 26 cards (plus some duplicates) and each one has an uppercase letter and the picture of a child forming the shape of the letter with their body. I keep the cards in a bag and, one at a time, kids pull out the first card they touch. I hold it up so all can see and we say the letter’s name and then make the shape with our bodies. The cards include a diverse group of kids which I appreciate.

This week I decided to only have the letters that spell AIRPLANE in the bag. After we played the game, I organized the letters into the word as a hint for the storytime theme. I was glad that I simplified things because kids kept pouring into the room and I never would have had enough letter cards for everyone to pick a letter. Frankly, we would have been there all day playing just this one game if we went through the entire alphabet. During some storytimes in the Winter I can get away with every child who arrives at the start picking a letter because the crowds are smaller, but not in the Summer.

Once everyone was settled down on their storytime mat (with a little help from the song If You’re ready for a Story), it was time to read.

Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen (Photo source: Zoobean.com)

Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen (Photo source: Zoobean.com)

I recently came across the book Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen (Dial Books, 2008) and knew I had to read it at storytime for a couple of reasons:

  • Violet is a “maker” and designs her own airplane,
  • She stands up to bullies,
  • Her parents support her creative passion,
  • The story has several historical references to innovators, and
  • She is recognized as a hero when she rescues a group of boy scouts stranded in a river instead of competing in the airplane competition she was headed to when she discovered them.

The book also gave me a great opportunity to talk about flight and gravity, the focus of this storytime. Too technical for storytime and the 3-7 year olds who attend, you say? No way! I infuse STEAM in my storytimes every week and have found that breaking down big concepts, like flight or electricity, into bite size pieces can work. Kids may not be ready for rocket science, but everyone starts somewhere. Why not at the library storytime? We do that with reading, why not with science, technology, engineering, art and math?

Before I shared this book, I asked the group what we needed to fly. I was delighted when a girl said “lift and thrust.” The adults were blown away! Over the course of storytime I explained the ideas and what parts of a plane handle lift and thrust using the two books I read, the books’ illustrations and the experiments we did in the second half of storytime.

One thing I would do differently if I wrote this book is make sure the boy scouts are wearing life jackets in the rescue illustration. Drowning is a significant problem in Alaska (many families spent a lot of time on the water) and we are always driving home the idea that everyone needs to wear a life jacket when they are on a boat or dock (young kids). I took a moment to talk about life jackets when we got to that part of the story, but it would be nice to have the book model this important practice.

Kids were wiggly by the time I was finished with Violet’s story, perhaps in part to the large number of people, so we got moving. I had my phone and a portable speaker on hand with the storytime playlist ready to go. I also had my collection of shakers to use with Laurie Berkner’s The Airplane Song. I actually ran out of shakers for the first time ever, but the kids without them handled it well. The song is full of action and the movements work with or without shakers.

Flight School by Lita Judge Photo Source: simonandschuster.com

Flight School by Lita Judge Photo Source: simonandschuster.com

We then read Flight School by Lita Judge (Atheneum Books for Young Readers (2014). It’s the story of a penguin who desperately wants to fly, but can’t so he goes to flight school. While his body is meant for swimming and he can’t get airborne on his own, the other students get him off the ground, demonstrating heroism on a smaller scale and helping penguin fulfill a lifelong dream.

Time for experiments! I like to refer to this storytime as Physics for Preschoolers.

Boy, did I miss my summer assistant this week! With three stations going and over 60 people, I could have used an extra hand. She is on vacation so we made do without her…just barely. Designing multiple stations lets me offer a variety of activities and most kids will find at least one that appeals to them. It also helps to spread out the crowd a bit.

Gravity Painting

Station: Gravity Painting
I love painting during storytime. I can handle the mess and so can the families who come. Kids know to wash their hands as soon as they are done at the painting tables (there is a sink in the kids’ room) and caregivers often help clean up. I make t-shirts available, but they never get used. I stick with washable tempura paints to make things easy. Gravity painting was an easy leap for me. I modified a project I found at the Artful Parent, a great place to find ideas that can be adapted for storytime.

Gravity Painting ExampleBefore storytime, I built 12 stands for this activity. I used aluminum trays I have stored away and book ends. I taped the back of the tray to the book end to keep them upright. To paint, kids used eyedroppers to suction watered down tempura paint out of bowls on the tables and then squeezed it on to the 1/2 sheet of cardstock paper in the upright tray. The paint slides down the paper, thanks to gravity, and creates beautiful designs. Some families taped the paper in the tray until painting was complete. We talked about gravity in a very basic sense, remembering again, that we’re introducing big ideas in bite sized pieces.

Materials:

  • aluminum roasting trays (1 per painter)
  • tempura paints in various colors (I had 4 colors at each table)
  • eyedroppers (1 per color)
  • bowls or containers for paint
  • book ends (1 for each tray)
  • packing tape (to attach tray to book end)
  • white cardstock (1/2 sheet)
  • pencil (for writing names on paper before painting)

Straw paper airplaneStation: Straw Paper Airplanes
We’ve made these airplanes at the library before and I love them. They seem ridiculous, but always fly. I got the idea from the DIY Network. The materials are minimal and I have a nice spot for creating an airstrip where kids can measure how far their play goes and practice throwing the plane. Some kids ended up adding wings and other decorative pieces and then tried to fly them again. Pretty cool.

Airstrip

Airstrip

Materials:

  • Paper straw
  • 1″ x 10″ strip of cardstock for large circle (plane’s tail)
  • 1″ x 5″ strip of cardstock for small circle (plane’s nose)
  • Scotch tape (to attach circles to straw)
  • Blue painters’ tape for marking distances on carpet airstrip

Balloon PlaneStation: Balloon Planes
I spent the most time at this station since it it was the least self-explanatory. I used a similar experiment at a Maker Monday: Forces of Flight program for older kids last summer and thought it would be fun to show the younger kids. it was a hit! The idea is that a blown up balloon provides the thrust to push the straw it is attached to along a string. One end of the string is tied to a chair  and I held the other end. Kids or adults blew up balloons and we taped them to the straw. I talked to them about Isaac Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion and explained that the air escaping the inflated, but untied balloon would cause the balloon to go in the opposite direction. This helped them position the balloon with the tail towards me and the round, or top part of the balloon, int he direction they wanted it to go- towards the chair. I held the one end of the string so we could see if holding the string up higher or lower changed the speed at which the balloon and start traveled. Many kids tried this experiment over and over. Here is the balloon airplane in action.

Materials:

  • Paper Straw
  • String (like kite string)
  • Scotch tape
  • Balloons
  • Chair
Robot Factory by Tinybop

The Robot Factory by Tinybop (Photo Source: tinybop.com)

As a nice compliment to the storytime activities, we offered the app The Robot Factory by Tinybop on our children’s library mounted iPad. While the app isn’t useful during storytime, it’s a nice sandbox style app that extends the tinkering and learning we did during storytime. The app was available throughout the week. (For more about my library’s mounted iPad and the curated apps I feature see this related post.)

The Robot Factory app is a design studio for young inventors & lets kids build robots from more than 50 parts that can be placed on a robot body in a variety of configurations. Once the robot is built, inventors can test the creation & its physics-driven movements. The design can then be modified as needed or added to a robot gallery. Individual profiles can be created for multiple builders. The app includes a parent dashboard w/tips & settings. :: $2.99 :: For ages 5+. (Source: Homer Public Library’s Kids App of the Week Pinterest Board)

An iPad for Anytime Use Now in the Library

2015/01/img_1662.jpg
Just last week, we finally made an iPad available for use in our modest-sized, but busy, children’s library! I’ve been using iPads in programs for almost two years now, but this is the first time we’ve had one for families to use anytime. The first week has seen regular play by kids, mostly in pairs or groups.  We’ll be adding another iPad to our Teen Space soon, but here are the ins and outs of managing our first mounted iPad.Friends Play With the Felt Board App

First of all, we chose the iPad, versus another device, for several reasons.

  • the App Store has by far the best selection of high quality apps at this point
  • the iPad screen is a great size for viewing toy and story apps as part of a pair or small group
  • the mounted iPad is one of several we received as part of a grant so apps can be shared with the other devices we use in programs
  • I am a savvy iPad user so installing an iPad was helpful because I am the primary manager of this device

We mounted the iPad horizontally on one of the few free walls in the space using a MacLocks Wall Mount. It is across the room from the desktop and AWE computers, and also on the other side of the children’s library from the space where families with young children most commonly sit and read together. It is, however, in clear site of the circulation desk through the windows that separate the children’s library. The iPad is actually nicely situated in amongst the stacks in a part of the space that needs a draw- the 900s, biographies, magazines and audiobooks- and the device may be another tool for broadening kids’ exploration. While kids may like these types of materials, the device is actually attracting them to a space they may not naturally gravitate towards when they visit the library.

One unexpected wrinkle we’ve been dealing with is charging the iPad. There is an outlet located right below the iPad, but it’s difficult to plug the charging cable into the device while the iPad is in the mount, which we were hoping to do. Since we don’t want to open the mount every night to charge the device, we decided to tuck the cord into the mount and leave the small square piece that goes in the outlet out of reach until it gets charged at night. We’re hoping that works.

Like other libraries we decided to offer one app at a time on the iPad. We don’t have the resources to switch out the app each day, but we are going to keep each app on the iPad for one week. The device is locked into the one app using Guided Access and prevents kids from accessing the settings or other content we want left alone. The one app method also has proven to help kids focus on the task at hand and self-regulate their digital media use. Once they are done exploring the app, they move on to another activity and allow other kids and families to have a turn. We don’t enforce time limits based on our experience with the AWE computers which targets a similar age group. Over time we found that AWE users rarely explored for more than 30 minutes and so we don’t feel the need to control their use.

Because this iPad is in our children’s library, we have chosen to focus on apps, both toy and story, that support early literacy among kids under 9. Will older kids test out the apps and even enjoy them? I have no doubt. In fact a group of 10-12 year olds giggled away as they told each other stories with the iPad this past week.Felt Board app and Older Kids

To select apps for the public iPad, in addition to apps I share in programs, I use the rubric I mentioned in an early post. The first app I added to the iPad was Software Smoothie’s Felt Board. It’s one of my favorites and it doesn’t use sound. While sound isn’t a deciding factor in what apps we’ll feature, we didn’t want to add much more background noise to the children’s library. It’s a non-shushing space, but after school the volume gets pretty loud with just a conversational level because of the number of people.

Every week I also add the App of the Week to my library’s Pinterest App of the Week board so family’s can find the apps we’ve previously recommended.

What’s up for next week? Toca Boca’s new Toca Kitchen 2, an updated version of Toca Kitchen. Here’s why:

Toca Kitchen 2 let’s kids play with pretend food and imaginary guests who respond to meals in silly, and sometimes surprising, ways. This is a toy, not a game with points, coins, or levels, and kids will delight in the freedom to create digital concoctions from the array of whole food items found in the kitchen’s fridge. Food can then be prepped, cooked, or juiced and fed to one of three culturally diverse guests (a woman, a man or a kitchen monster).
The mostly wordless app supports multi-touch and is easily enjoyed by friends or family members playing together. The app is free of 3rd party ads, links and in-app purchases.

Toca Kitchen 2 is currently only available on iOS. The special launch price is $.99. The app is great for ages 3-6, but older kids (and adults) may enjoy playing along also!

Evaluating Apps and New Media for Young Children: A Rubric

Over the past year and a half, I have been working on a rubric for evaluating apps and new media for young children. I wanted something for my own purposes, to use when reviewing apps for program use or to recommend to families, as well as something to share with other librarians and educators. I’ve have finally come up with something that works for me. Take a look and try it out on the next app you evaluate.

Let me know how it works for you!

The rubric, and other helpful information for evaluating new media, is included in a chapter of Little eLit’s bookYoung Children, New Media, and Libraries: A Guide for Incorporating New Media into Library Collections, Services, and Programs for Families and Children Ages 0-5. I am humbly writing the chapter with the talented Carisa Kluver of Digital Storytime. The book chapters are being published individually each month at Little eLit, so stop over and read what my smart librarian friends have to say.

Thanks to many for their conversations about what makes new media high quality, but in particular, the belated Eliza Dresang, as well as Cen Campbell and Carisa Kluver. Thanks also to those who review apps and new media. We are reading those insights with great interest. Keep reviewing and keep sharing!

Evaluating Apps and New Media for Young Children: A Rubric (link now goes to Media Mentorship page and updated rubric, 2016)

Looking for other review sources? Try these:

Children’s Technology Review
Digital-Storytime
Horn Book
Madison Public Library’s App Finder
School Library Journal
Smart Apps for Kids

Hour of Code: Coding for Girls

Intro to Coding for GirlsOn Saturday, I hosted a program which was part of the International Hour of Code Week (aka Computer Science Week) at my library. If you didn’t host a coding program during the celebratory week, or haven’t ever, I highly suggest you do it this week, next week or any time. The tools built for the event are available year round. Here’s why you should join the movement to get kids coding: The program combined kid appeal and learning of valuable computer skills, as well as motivated kids to create, not just consume, digital media in an informal learning environment. In less than two hours, kids were creating their own digital stories, images or tools. On top of all that, it was just plain fun.

I’ve hosted several tech related programs at our library and I regularly integrate digital media into others, even storytime. So, a coding program was a natural next step. The smart people involved with the Hour of Code make the process of introducing the concept of coding to kids pretty simple so I had the tools I needed. But how would I customize my program to meet the needs of 8-12 year old kids in my community?

I started by looking at who attended the tech programs at our library, at local schools and around town. What was already out there? What did kids want? What kids were already getting access to essential computer science (not just digital literacy) skills? What was missing? Where were the gaps? After doing some research, I started also asking where are the girls?

While the Digital Divide in terms of access is decreasing in many parts of the US, thanks in part to digital media in schools and libraries, the digital divide in terms of participation (also known as the participation or opportunity gap) is wide. (Daugherty, 2014) The participation gap involves knowing how to use the digital tool effectively to participate in, and define, our digital world.

Nationwide, girls are significantly underrepresented in Computer Science education and IT jobs. Locally, the situation is similar. Few girlsparticipate in tech-specific programs at the library and in local schools in any great numbers (outside of events sponsored by the Girl Scouts), yet knowing how to code opens up many more opportunities to create, learn, build and participate. They do however come to other programs at the library in large numbers. I had a gut feeling about why there was such a difference in girls’  attendance at the different types of programs, but I decided to do some research. After all, I wanted girls to come to the program, and more importantly, get a taste of coding and what they could do with it. After all, diversity fosters innovation.

The Research
I found excellent research results in the report, Girls in IT: The Facts, created by the National Center for Women and Information Technology and funded in part by the National Science Foundation. I also found the Made With Code site, part of the Google Initiative to create opportunities that inspire girls to code and explore Computer Science. The report Google published, Women Who Choose Computer Science- What Really Matters, discusses what influences girls who choose to learn about coding and pursue Computer Science.

Designing a Program for Girls
At the library we try to offer programs for everyone. We host storytimes for preschoolers, sponsor events for teens, coordinate an adult book club, lead a LEGO club for kids 7-12, share stories and crafts with remote neighbors in our outreach storytimes and deliver books to homebound patrons. We both design programs for our regular patrons and those who are infrequent or first time visitors. I like to think of this as providing equal access to information while also providing equitable service. Each patron needs something a bit different. I saw the girls coding program as one of many ways we connect community members with information.

There were some fundamental decisions I made to attract girls to this program.

  • Made the program for girls only so no girl was the “only girl” (along with an adult they wanted to bring to encourage joint media engagement and get adults coding too)
  • Lead the program myself, a female mentor
  • Featured nontraditional coding tutorials that include girl characters and female mentors
  • Paired girls together so the learning process was collaborative
  • Created a lab type of environment so each team could work at their own pace and have several opportunities to explore a tool deeply or move to another one, depending on their interest and expertise
  • Fostered the social aspect of the program- the opening activity we did together got girls talking and gave everyone a chance to to get to know each other in a fun way

Yes, most of these individual program elements could easily apply to any program, and will when I repeat the Intro to Coding program for boys and girls in February. But, in combination, it created a program environment that research shows makes girls feel more comfortable and supported so I decided to try it.

The Program: Made w/Code: Intro to Coding for Girls

Equipment
While I led the program myself, I definitely needed help from the intrepid IT department and a couple of coworkers. I also needed quite a list of equipment for the event and things like secure wifi in the room we were using for faster access.

  • Laptop and large monitor for viewing initial mentor videos
  • Supplies for making peanut butter and jelly sandwich (see below)
  • 10 iPads with Hour of Code apps preloaded (App List: Intro to Coding for Girls Program Tools)
  • 5 laptops
  • Router for boosted wifi to run tutorials
  • Splitters and headphones (1 splitter and 2 headsets for each computer)
  • Take home sheets with coding resources
  • Paper and pencils for writing notes
  • Snacks

Program Plan (2 hours)

  • Introductions (5 min)
  • What is Coding/Programming (5 min)
  • Why a Program for Girls (5 min)
  • P, B & J- Coding Unplugged* (10 min)
  • Nontraditional Mentors/ Coding and the Arts: Made w/Code video about Miral Kotb & ILuminate (see video above) (5 min)
  • Tutorials from the Hour of Code: Frozen or Angry Birds (in teams) (45-60 min)
  • Break (5-10 min)
  • Coding Apps (5 min intro)
  • Free Time (15 min)
  • Share-What the Girls Had to Say (5 min)
  • Clean Up

*To better explain the concept of programming and demonstrate what code is, I pretended to be a highly evolved robot that they would program to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, based on this classic lesson plan. I laid out the supplies in front of me (jar of peanut butter, jar of jelly, bag of sliced bread, knife, plate) and then had the girls tell me what to do- the very specific instructions that make up a program. There were times when I obviously didn’t understand and they had to debug the program. It was hilarious and effective!

What the Girls Had to Say
9 girls and 4 adults attended the program- the perfect number. I didn’t have girls pre-register and it turned out to be the right fit anyway. The next program will require registration and I’ll target the same number because I’ll be leading the program solo again. Here are some of the comments girls had for me:

  • When is the next program?
  • The dance video with all of the lights was cool!
  • I don’t get to play on an iPad. I loved the apps and getting to play the app I wanted.
  • I liked the variety of apps and tutorials, so we all found something we liked.
  • The Peanut Butter & Jelly game was fun!

My Thoughts
The program went very well in general. The group was the right size and the girls meshed well. They were comfortable together. It was wonderful to see parents and grandparents learning and exploring alongside their girls. I loved the cooperative spirit and the real interest the girls had, several of whom I had never seen at a library program before.

My biggest issues? They were technology-related, of course right? Some of the issues can be fixed for next time, some are issues with Alaska’s broadband. Having unplugged tricks up my sleeve was very helpful.

Community Response
This article about the program appeared in a local paper.

I co-presented this webinar, Hour of Code: All Year Long, for Alaskan librarians interested in finding out about the Hour of Code and the Intro to Coding for Girls program at our library.

While we received a lot of interest in and positive comments about the program, one parent contacted me to complain that her son could not attend and challenged my decision to hold a girls only program. In all regards, the program created lots of conversation in the community.

 

Daugherty, Lindsay, Dossani, Rafiq, Johnson, Erin-Elizabeth, and Oguz, Mustafa. “Using Early Childhood Education to Bridge the Digital Divide.” Rand Corporation.  2014. accessed at: http://www.rand.org/pubs/perspectives/PE119.html

Apps: Current Favorites

I often get asked about my favorite apps, so here is a quick list of my current favorites! Where noted, I have used the app in storytime, otherwise the app is one I have recommended to families and caregivers for use with small groups or one on one. I use an iPad so these are all iOS apps, although they may be available for Android and Windows devices.
Note: Almost all of my storytimes are held in places with no monitor or other way to mirror apps from my iPad (at the library or in outreach programs). New media workshops or digital storytimes are held in our library’s meeting room where there is a monitor mounted on the wall, but it is not big enough for our regular storytime groups. When I use apps in storytime, I am almost always using them on a tablet size screen…for now! Hopefully the technology fairy will bring our library a monitor and some iPads one of these days. If you know her, send her my way!

I’ll post another list soon which will include apps I’ll tell families about during the Fizz, Boom, READ and Spark a Reaction summer reading programs at our library this summer.

Story (Book) Apps
Moo, Baa, La La La! – Sandra Boynton (Loud Crow)  STORYTIME
A Frog Thing (Oceanhouse Media) STORYTIME
Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy (Penguin New Zealand Pty Ltd) with ASL STORYTIME
Four Little Corners (DADA Company)
Grow a Reader (Calgary Public Library)
Alphabet of Insects (Ocean House Media)
The Wonkey Donkey (Kiwa Media)
So Many Stars (Andy Warhol)
Amico Ragnolo (Five5ifty)

Toy (Play) Apps
Feltboard- Mother Goose on the Loose (Software Smoothie) STORYTIME
Endless Alphabet (Originator) OUTREACH STORYTIME
Toca Hair Salon Me (Toca Boca) STORYTIME
Toca Robot Lab (Toca Boca) STORYTIME
My PlayHome Stores (Shimon Young)
Sock Puppets (Smith Micro Software)
LEGO Movie Maker (The LEGO Group)
BeBop Blox (Originator)

Other Apps
Keynote STORYTIME
Evernote
SoundCloud STORYTIME
iOS Music STORYTIME
iOS Camera STORYTIME (Documentation)