Family: Taste & Smell

During the summer my preschool storytimes become family storytimes, including not just the 3-5 year olds, but also the 6 & 7 year olds. I do this by incorporating lots of STEAM elements and multiple activity stations so there is something for most, if not all. Here’s what I did this week during the first EXPLORE Family Storytime of the Summer.

This week we explored the senses of taste and smell. To get the ball rolling, we talked about all of the senses and what we use them for. To do that, I brought along a beautiful book which helped us talk about parts of our body and what we use for each sense.

Book: Cold, Crunchy, Colorful (Millbrook Press, 2014)
We “bookwalked” our way through Jan Brocket’s latest title in her Clever Concept series. The books in this series introduce concepts exemplified by real-life objects or activities well-known to many preschoolers. This title demonstrates how we use five senses to interpret the world around us and is a good starting point for talking about how friends might compensate for hearing impairment or blindness. The book uses clear, eye-catching photographs and simple text to encourage kids to observe the world around them.

Book: Dragons Love Tacos (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012)
Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri teamed up to offer kids a silly story about dragons and their love for tacos, but not tacos with spicy salsa. This book is a crowd pleaser, even for those who have read it before, not because it is a mesmerizing story, but most likely because of its ridiculous premise (dragons eat tacos? No way!), the presence of the beloved dragons, and the whimsical illustrations. We had fun exploring this book as a group, even discussing the senses of taste and smell in regards to tacos and dragons, and kids had lots to say.
Movement:  Making a Purple Stew
I sang the first verse of this old favorite using the color purple and then had kids call out colors for additional verses. By the third verse everyone was making stew.
Making a purple stew, whip, whip
Whip Whip Whip (pretend to stir a huge bowl, circular motion with arms)
Making a purple stoobie-doobie-oobie-doobie
Purple potatoes, and purple tomatoes and (pretend to throw things in from over your shoulder) 
And even a purple you! (point to a child)
Credit: Scout Songs (This link includes one version, but I sing a modified version I learned somewhere else)
Book: Bear Wants More (M.K. McElderry Books, 2003)
We have quite a few fans of Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman’s rhyming bear books! The lovable critters are fantastical, especially to Alaskan kids, but offer opportunities to talk about hunger, taste, hibernation, and of course what bears eat (and don’t eat in this book). While many of these animals would not be found together as friends in the wild, the large format graphics envelope the reader, drawing us into the sweet world of unlikely companions, even if just for a few minutes.
Movement:  Pop Corn by Mr Kim Webster (2004)
We pretended to make and be popcorn during this song. It repeats so the first time I demonstrated the actions and the second time, kids (and adults) joined in. Here are the actions: pretend to pour oiling the pan, move imaginary pan back and forth over stove, pretend to pour in popcorn, use fingers to outline grin and smile, squat on floor and shake hands at sides, move slowly up to standing as Kim sings the word “sizzle,” dance to pop by pushing hands into air, then out to sides, and turn in circles, jump, or free dance. I played this song on my iPhone with portable speakers.

After making imaginary popcorn, it was time to make real popcorn! I brought my friend’s air popper to show kids how it worked and to talk about what happens to turn kernels of corn into popcorn. Want to know more about popcorn science? Visit the popcorn website! (It’s all about the water.) Just plugging in the popper was interesting, but once the corn started to pop kids actually started to jump! I popped enough for each child to have a small cup at the tasting station (see below).

Smelling Station
I got the idea for this station off of Science Friday. (I try to listen to the show as much as possible for general interest sake and for good program ideas.) During the Scientists Test What the Nose Knows (3/21/14) episode, Andreas Keller tested Ira Flatow’s sense of smell by asking to him to smell three different samples and to then identify which two are the same. While Ira was given samples with multiple elements, I gave kids simpler smells. I left the experiment the same otherwise.

I put several drops of an extract on a cotton ball and placed it in a dixie cup. It was obvious which cup held which scent, but I marked the cup underneath just to be sure. Each child had three cups in front of them. Two of them were the same and one was different. The child smelled each of the three and then selected the two that smelled the same. We had multiple scents so a child could test their sense of smell multiple times if they wanted to.
dixie cups
cotton balls
extracts (vanilla, banana, almond, peppermint, orange)

Tasting Station #1: Popcorn
I took the large bowl of popcorn we popped over tot he tasting station where kids could season it with salt, nutritional yeast, or cinnamon/sugar. The original idea was to have the kids take the popcorn home and eat outside the library, but that didn’t really work out. I ended up doing a little vacuuming afterwards.
small plastic bags
nutritional yeast
cinnamon/sugar mix (1:1)

Tasting Station #2: Apples vs. Potatoes
I thought I would need a fourth station so I added this one, but it was not very popular and I would exclude it next time. The idea is to have kids use their sense of taste (minus sight and smell) to determine if the white food in front of them is apple or potato. To do this, kids take a bite sized piece of apple/potato and eat it while plugging their nose and closing their eyes. It is designed to show kids how much we rely on multiple senses to taste the food we eat.
1 apple, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 plates
something to put the chewed bits of potato into (kids will want to spot out the potato!)
Credit: Science Kids

Food Stamping Station
As always, I included an art station. I’ve stamped with food at home with my kids and as a volunteer in classrooms. It was time to paint with fruits and veggies at the library. It’s obviously not a new idea and lots of examples can be found online. For more ideas for a food storytime and food stamping visit Sturdy for Common Things.

Fruits and Veggies for Painting

At the stamping station, kids found cut fruits and veggies, paint, and paper. I showed them what I created, but they needed no encouragement and quickly got started testing out the different painting tools. Many kids also used their fingers to add more depth to their paintings.
paper plates (for paint)
washable paint in various colors (I used 3 per table)
cut veggies and fruits (I used a green pepper, an orange, a scallion, a mushroom, and an apple)

Here are some of the results:





Summer Reading 2014

Our summer reading program starts today. Hundreds of kids, teens, and adults will read, discover and explore together now through the first of August. Like many libraries across the country, we are using the Fizz, Boom, READ theme for our kids program and the Spark a Reaction theme for our teen program. As a huge fan of integrating STEAM into storytimes and other library programs, the science oriented summer program has been fun to plan!

Behind the scenes, our theme is slightly different. I see the library as part of our community’s information web.  Not only do we provide access to a plethora ofrobot_big resources in the library and through our website, but we connect patrons with experts and resources beyond the library. This summer we’ve expanded our community connections, integrating local artists and experts into our Maker Mondays sries, our special events, our reading log activity pages, and even our reading prizes. I want kids to know their community and discover the many mentors that might help spark new interests and help develop growing talents. Here’s what community connections we have planned for this summer.

Maker Mondays
For two hours each Monday in June and July I or a local expert will explore a new idea to help kids ages 8-18 to create with high and low tech tools. Programs include: Make Your Own Pizza (with a local mobile wood fired pizza oven), Sweater-T-shirt Chop Shop, Propulsion & Flying Machines, Electricity & Brush Bots, Multimedia Art, and 3-D Printing.

Our preschool EXPLORE storytimes during the summer include a larger ae group and could be consider family storytimes. Kids ages 3-7 hear stories, sing, dance, play and explore multiple stations run by a teen assistant and myself. We successfully redesigned our summer storytimes last summer as part of our plan to offer regular programs to all of our kids under eleven. We also continue to offer our toddler storytimes throughout the summer. Themes include: Taste & Smell, Water, Sound & Music, Simple Machines, Independence Day, Construction, Robots, and Camouflage & Colors. We’ll also welcome local naturalists for two storytimes during the program.

Special Events
Throughout the summer program we’ll be hosting a variety of events featuring both community members and visiting presenters. Programs include: Dogs and Crime Science with a local K-9 Unit, Beauty and the Beast Marionette Puppet Show, Stuffed Animal Sleepover, 4th Annual LEGO Contest, a Robot Sumo/Arduino Programming Workshop, a Sci-Fi Fan Fiction Writing Contest for teens, and a second 3-D Printing Demonstration (for adults).

Other Community Connections
At our local museum, a special exhibit will be on display all summer. It focuses on the living history and Indigenous System of Knowledge of the Dena’ina people, Native Alaskans. In support of the exhibit, we have included an activity page from the exhibit in our reading log with information about the exhibit and we will welcome a Dena’ina storyteller to the library for a family program.
One of our reading prizes includes a magnifying glass. When I ordered them I intended to award them by themselves, but then I came across the nature scavenger hunt in the SRP manual. I had an idea. I bagged up the magnifying glass and a copy of the scavenger hunt in a plastic bag. When I was talking to a friend who is a local environmental educator, she told me about a nature trading post they have at their visitor center. We came up with the idea to include information about the trading post with the scavenger hunt so kids could trade any cool objects they find during their hunt. They can also return their bags and completed hunt for a prize drawing at the end of the program. And the very smart friend? She’ll be presenting about Shackleton and the Endurance to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the dramatic expedition.
For the third year, our library will host Teen Night @ the Library, as part of the National Teen Library Lock-in event. Last year almost forty libraries participated in virtual author visits, games, and challenges. Each library plans their own event and then connects with others in different ways. This year I am working with librarians and IT folks to host a Minecraft event that will allow teens at libraries across the county to explore the same Minecraft world at the same time. Want to know more? Check out Chain Reaction!

What do you have planned for this summer?


Summer Reading Outreach Begins!

Tonight was the first of many outreach events I will be doing this Spring to spread the word about our 2014 summer reading program. I talked to lots of familiar young faces and got to meet some new families at the annual activities fair hosted by a local elementary school parent’s association. While the lead up to the annual activities fair is hectic, to say the least, the event itself is loads of fun!

If you’ve ever wanted to practice an elevator pitch, an event like this is just the place to test it out! Families are walking from table to table finding out about every kind of summer program our small community has to offer and many, if not all, have kids under the age of ten in tow. That means I have thirty seconds to a one minute to catch their attention. I always talk to a few families who have never heard about the summer reading program or never participated, so I make sure I am ready to get them hooked on the spot!Activities Fair Set Up

Fortunately for families, the parent’s organization and the school host a math and science night at the same time. Last year my table was in the same space as the math and science activities which was a great, great, great decision. I got to talk to parents while kids investigated and experimented. It was a win for the library too because families left the event associating fun, exploring, and the library.

This year I asked to be in the same space and promised to bring some activities for kids to do, as always. My table and the other activities flowed so nicely together that some kids even thought I was running the marble maze activity! I was honored. I brought some easy activities with me that worked well for young children, often the siblings of those most interested in the marble maze and other hosted stations. I brought my beloved Alphabet Tree, inspired by the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. I built it, with the help of family and friends, for an outreach event I was part of last Fall and now I bring it whenever I head out for family events. I’m even planning to bring it to the library for storytime soon. (It lives in my garage because of lack of space at the library.)Alphabet Tree

The tree and the magnetic letters together make a fun tool for strengthening letter knowledge and an opportunity to talk to kids about how magnets work. The black paint on the trunk of the palm-like tree is magnetic and the green is not, so we get to test where the magnetic letters stick and where they don’t. Parents are fascinated by the tree and I always explain how I made it, hopefully inspiring them to think of ways to do something similar at home. Before the activities fair even started, kids were ready to play!

To keep little fingers and minds busy, I also grabbed a roll of butcher paper as I walked out the door at the library. I covered the bench seats in front of my table (a cafeteria table provided by the school) with the paper and pulled out a box of crayons so kids could draw and write while I talked to their parents or caregivers about the summer program. There were some cool creations!Bench Drawing

I always pack a lot into my table spaces and usually bring more than I have room for. This is done on purpose so that I can be a little flexible during set up. And because I staff these events alone, my table can be set up in less than thirty minutes and I can carry everything I bring in a few bags or boxes.
Here’s what I had on hand with me:

  • eye-catching, but inexpensive table cloth
  • new books
  • scissors
  • duct tape
  • prize samples
  • registration forms (we also offer online registration)
  • 100 brochures (I handed out about 75)
  • puppets
  • sign-up prizes (this year I gave out Fizz Boom READ pencils)
  • summer program banner
  • Alpahbet Tree with magnetic wood letters and numbers
  • basket of large LEGO blocks
  • storytime brochures
  • tips for using new media with kids
  • my staff name tag

I’ll post more about my plans for this summer’s program in the coming weeks!