Afterschool Maker Club

At libraries across the country, April is a time for looking forward. After all, summer reading programs are just a couple months away and librarians are scrambling to turn a winter’s worth of scheming and dreaming into reality for the fun-filled experiences that keep kids and teens reading and learning throughout the summer break from school. I’m doing the same, but frankly, I’m feeling a little behind.

Winters are quite the same anymore. Ok, so the past three months have barely been winter at all, weather-wise, but I’m talking about work. It seems like there used to be some sort of lull in Homer’s darkest days when programs were fewer, the library was slower, and my desk was cleaner. These days most times are also busy in my little libraryland and April is not only a time to look forward, but a time to assess and look back.

In addition to the three storytimes I lead each week and the occasional outreach programs, school visits and other one-offs, since October I have also been happily leading the Maker Club, an afterschool program for kids 10-13 that meets each Thursday. The program is funded by a grant from ALSC’s Curiosity Creates program (with support from Disney).

Out Taking Photos
Anywhere from 5-20 kids show up each week to hang out, learn a thing or two, and make stuff. (We occasionally pull stuff apart, too.) Many kids come most weeks, but some pop in when the featured skill or project warrants a look-see. The program generally runs for two hours and we set up the temporary makerspace in our meeting room. Sometimes I introduce a new idea or skill and sometimes a community mentor (scientist, maker, artist) brings materials or expertise to share. The atmosphere is casual, low-pressure, and supportive.

One of the best parts of the project is the teen intern (a media mentor in training) who comes every week to help as part of her high school service project. Well, she started out working on her service hours, but has long since met the required number and comes anyway because, well, she’s awesome. I look forward to seeing what she does after high school. Like the intern before her, she wants to pursue engineering and I love the fact that two budding engineers, both of whom are young women, found a place at the library. I wonder who they will inspire?

Another volunteer who comes almost every week is a retired teacher (one of my kids’ favorites) who hasn’t quite figured out how to retire. She is learning and mentoring and loving the informal environment. She is having such a great time that she decided to start a pilot tutoring program for 5th – 7th graders one day a week with an army of volunteer tutors made up of other high school students and retired teachers. It’s truly impressive and could probably be twice its size if we had the space.

Here is what we’ve been playing with at the Maker Club:

  • 3D Design
  • One Mug Microwave Meals
  • Coding & Video Game Design
  • Paper Circuits
  • Conductive Playdough (open play)
  • Light Up Felt Bags (multi-week project including sewing and soldering)
  • Outdoor Photography and Video
  • LEGO building (open play)
  • Stop Motion Animation
  • Straw Architecture
  • Possibility Box building (open play)
  • Sphero Ball Racing (and painting coming later this month)

#alsc2014: Tech Access on a Budget

The ALSC Institute was fabulous! My days were filled with interesting sessions, hilarious author talks, and spontaneous get togethers with new and old friends. I was awed by the children’s librarians around the country who continue to find creative solutions to their community’s problems, especially those related to early literacy. Librarians need to be at every local, state, and national discussion about early literacy and how we can make it accessible for all kids.

Here are the slides from the Tech Access on a Budget panel I was a part of. We shared lots of ideas about how to successfully integrate technology tools and programs into libraries big and small, urban and rural. Both sessions included great discussions about how children’s librarians across the country are using tech tools to foster early literacy, teach kids and teens programming skills, and promote collaboration and creative problem solving in the maker-friendly environments also known as the library. Look out digital divide, super librarians are here so your days are numbered!

Thanks to @MaryAnnScheuer for posting the slides and for wrangling us! Read her recap here.

Summer Reading Program 2013: part 1

Despite today’s snow and cold temperatures, summer is on its way. How do I know? My summer reading program planning is well underway! Local schools finish up in two months and we’ll be ready to share some summer fun!

New pieces we have in store for the program (so far):

Maker Mondays: Each Monday we’ll feature an opportunity for kids and teens, ages 9 and up, to create. Programs will include low tech and high tech options. On any given Monday you might see us creating art from beach debris, making video with LEGOs, fashioning duct tape into must have wares, etc.dig into reading

STEAM-y Storytimes: Our weekly storytimes will focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, ART, and Math (STEAM) in addition to the fun stories that exemplify this summer’s Dig Into Reading theme. For some of the programming, I’ll be partnering with some local environmental educators which we do regularly. It’ a great collaboration.  We’ll include stations that can be enjoyed by kids ages 6 and under because our audience tends to grow when siblings tag along in the summer.

Other programs we’ll also include in 2013 will be puppet shows, musician visits, and a heavy equipment show and tell.

Popular pieces we’ll be repeating this year:

StoryWalk®– We created a StoryWalk® on our library’s walking trail last year and we’ll add another once the snow is gone and the ground has thawed. We line a our trail with laminated pages from a selected picture book and families read the story as they walk. The idea was started by the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition. We include an outside reading element to our reading logs so this is beneaththesurfaceanother way to support our community’s love of reading and highlights a great picture book or two.

Nationwide Teen Library Lock-in– In a webinar last Spring I found out that a group of librarians around the US were going to connect teens online during an after hours library event for the 2nd year. What a great idea! I signed up to participate in the event and then planned our first “lock-in” to celebrate the end of the summer program. We sat in on a author visit via Skype, made FrankenToys for a Zombie themed contest, and connected with other teens in online games between libraries. We chose from multiple activities planned by the participating libraries (a la carte style) and then added other activities to our event at the local level. Libraries can do as much or as little as they want.

The planning for this year’s collaboration is now underway. Are you interested in having your library participate? Contact me or click  here to find out more.

Adult Program– We started a summer program for adults two years ago which features online record groundbreaking readskeeping (along with the teens) and a prize. We surveyed adults last year and found that the Alaskan Summers keep folks too busy for more programs and they are happy reading as part of the bigger program. We save the adult events for Wintertime.

Online reading logs for adults and teens– Two years ago we used Survey Monkey to create an archaic online reading log for participants ages 12 and up. This year we are looking at Engaged Patrons for a reading log and social space for library specific readers. Friends at the another library in the state used it last year and recommended it. What do you use for teen and adult reading logs?