Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tune In Tuesday: Asheba's Monkeys

For the inaugural Tune In Tuesday, hosted by Sarah Bean Thompson at GreenBean TeenQueen, I want to share one of my favorite recorded songs to use in storytime.

I do baby storytime weekly at my library and I most frequently use recorded music for everyone to ring bells to. I look for songs with a strong beat and we ring our bells on the beat. "Research... suggests that math and music are related in the brain from very early in life" and rhythm activities are related to math principles such as spatial properties, sequencing, and patterning (click through for more from NAEYC.org!). 

This is one of my favorite songs to use with bells and it's usually stuck in my head all day afterwards. I have had parents ask for it after hearing it in storytime, too! This would be a fun song to use with older preschoolers as an action song (SO MUCH JUMPING!) or even with a felt five monkeys or monkey puppets.

The song is "No More Monkeys" by Asheba and you can find it on the Putomayo Kids album Animal Playground or on Asheba's album No More Monkeys.

Head on over to GreenBean TeenQueen today for this month's Tune In Tuesday, featuring posts about music in library programs!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Magic Words: Getting Into the Schools for Booktalks

Image Credit: cleverclaire1983
I've been trying to get into our local schools for booktalking since I started my job five years ago.

And this year, I've hit upon the magic words to make it happen.

I LOVE booktalking. It was something I got to do on a regular basis at my previous library in Illinois; we had several regular programs set up with some of the schools up there. When I moved to my current library, I was eager to set up booktalking programs, but the marketing I was trying just didn't seem to work. No one seemed to be interested. What was up with that?!

Two things I learned helped us get started:

1. Teachers are super busy. My State Library Youth Services Coordinator, the awesome Suzanne Walker, suggested advertising "booktalking in as little as 15 minutes". That's what helped us get into the first school. One fourth grade teacher said, "I can spare 15 minutes of my language arts time for booktalks."

2. The word "booktalk" is jargon. Not everyone knows what it means. I kept shouting at everybody about doing booktalks, and it turns out they had no idea what I was talking about. Once I started adding a brief explanation (booktalks are brief previews of books, like movie theater trailers, designed to get kids interested and excited to pick up the books), interest shot WAY UP.

Knowing these things helped me get us into our first school. Last year, we visited the fourth grade classes at one of our local schools once a month. We spent 15 minutes in each classroom and found that we could comfortably booktalk 5 books in that amount of time.

It turns out that getting into one school and figuring out the nuts and bolts of how this type of program could work was the best thing to do.

This year, I approached principals about talking at a faculty meeting to tell teachers about the services we offer for teachers. I was able to give them some concrete examples of how booktalking programs can work. I made sure to take down email addresses of anyone interested in having us set up booktalks. I know teachers have a ton of things on their plate, so I took responsibility for getting the ball rolling.

And things snowballed from there!

Last year, we saw one grade at one school each month. This year, I have fifteen grades at six different schools on our schedule (so far!).

Guess what? Teachers talk! If you bring them something they like, they will tell other teachers! Some of these new groups are folks I have approached at faculty meetings, but we had several who came to us because they had heard about what we were doing.

And we're ready to handle them. I've been laying the groundwork for this by establishing our Reading Wildly staff readers' advisory program. Each month, my staff members have been sharing booktalks with each other, so they already have an arsenal to choose from. To start with, I'm scheduling booktalks in pairs. As everyone gets more booktalking experience, we may be able to break up the teams and schedule individuals instead of pairs.

(Although... being able to send staff in pairs is really nice. Not only does it cut down on the amount of prep each person has to do, it gives kids and teachers two different styles of booktalkers. It's also easier to get a balance of different types of books when two people who potentially gravitate towards different genres present together.)

I also shared with my staff some booktalking best practices. Read the book you're going to booktalk. The best booktalks are books you truly enjoy and are excited to share with kids. Even if a book's not your personal favorite, if you can get excited thinking about the kind of kid who would like this book, it's a good choice. And bringing balanced selections - including nonfiction, graphic novels, and diverse titles - is a must. We're seeing so many different kids and we want to make sure that every kid is seeing something they like at some point.

I encourage my staff to leave a minute or two at the end of their visit to get feedback from the kids and find out what books THEY recommend so we can get an idea of their tastes and better tailor our booktalks.

As I'm scheduling groups, I'm trying to say YES as much as possible. It's most important to me to start fostering a better relationship with our schools and teachers. We'll figure out details as we go along. I recommend booktalks for grades 2 and up, but if teachers of younger grades want us to come and do something, we'll brainstorm some program ideas. It sounded overwhelming to booktalk to the entire 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades at one middle school, but we're making it work.

And what I've found is that as we divide up groups between staff members and as we all start planning, things are coming together. So far, scheduling has been the hardest part (and that's maybe because we just switched to a new software and I'm terrified something's going to fall through the cracks).

And thus begins our journey into the schools. May it be long and positive for all parties!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August Projects

To our patrons, it might appear that we take the month of August "off" since we take a break from programming in August. While it's true that most of my staff is taking some vacation time in August since we're too busy during June & July to take vacation, we have also been super busy this month!

Here are a few of the things on my "August Project" list that I've been working on:

  • Attending faculty meetings at local schools and preschools to sign teachers up for School Collection cards and promote programs we can bring into the classroom
  • Contacting teachers and organizations to schedule booktalking and readaloud programs for the school year
  • Learning and implementing a new scheduling software
  • Cleaning out our programming room, reorganizing, surplussing damaged and worn furniture, and generally sprucing things up 
  • Figuring out how to catalog and circulate our new circulating flannel stories collection that we'll be promoting to teachers this fall
  • Planning baby storytimes for September through December
  • Planning monthly Preschool Lab programs
  • Ordering and finding places for new toys that we'll be using during the playtime that we're adding to our Preschool Explorers programs
  • Going through the catalog to assess lost books and order replacements where we can

I always feel like my time to complete projects will completely dry up in September when programs start, but that's not really the case. I just like getting as many major projects done as I can before we're back in the swing of things!

(And HEY, at least we're not transitioning to a new ILS this August!)

What's on your "August Project" (or September Project or general project) list?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

On Going "Prizeless"

We all know our Summer Reading Clubs are PRICELESS, but did you know they can also be "Prizeless"? I'm over at the ALSC Blog this morning, talking about libraries who have elected to ditch the cheap, plastic prizes in favor of more experiential summer programs.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Librarian's Guide to 10,000 Steps

A couple of weeks ago, I got a FitBit!

A FitBit is one of many different kinds of pedometers, fitness devices worn on your person that track how many steps you take each day. The recommended number of steps for an active, healthy lifestyle is 10,000 steps. And FitBit allows you to create an account and add your friends to cheer each other on and encourage healthy competition.

I was really excited to get it, certain that I would soon be bragging to my family and friends how I get my 10,000 steps in every day without even trying!

Walking and reading: Belle's got it down.

Of course I took 10,000 steps a day, I thought. Between tidying up the department, walking patrons to the shelves, leaving on outreach visits, and trekking across the hall to pick up print jobs several times a day, I thought it would be no sweat.

What I found is that unless I go for an exercise walk, I typically take about 4,000-6,000 steps a day.

So, where can a librarian get her steps in? Aside from parking a little farther away and walking to the corner to cross the street, I have a few ideas:

A Librarian's Guide to 10,000 Steps
  • Put the book in the customer's hand. Surely you're already doing this, but if not, start. It's just good customer service. Don't let your patrons walk away with a call number written on a piece of paper! Walk them to the shelf and put the book in their hands. Along the way, you have time to chat and give them a little information about how the library's organized. ;) 
  • Visit your stacks. Something is always in need of straightening. Even if you have enough pages to keep everything in tip-top shape, you never know what you'll find when you go visiting in the stacks. Remember those five copies of a state award nominee you ordered three years ago? Maybe some of them can be weeded. And - oh look! - you spotted a favorite book you'd forgotten about! One that will be perfect for booktalking to that third grade class next month. 
  • Take a walk around your room. Have you checked to see if you need to replace any outlet covers? Are all the chairs looking nice? Do the puzzles have any missing pieces? Here's your excuse to take a minute and make sure your room's in good shape. 
  • Visit your storage. When's the last time you were back there, anyway? Go take a look and see what can maybe be thrown out or given away. Trips to the recycling bin will help you get in even more steps.
  • Visit other departments. Do you know what's going on with Adult Services? Have you asked someone in Circulation how things are going? What is your teen librarian up to? It's always great to connect with other departments; you never know what partnerships might develop. 
  • Take a stroll with an audiobook (on your break or after work). Audiobooks are wonderful for squeezing in some reading time and getting some exercise. Chances are you sometimes get patrons needing some audiobook listeners' advisory, so keeping up with audiobooks can help you with that, too. 
  • ETA (8/6/14) Volunteer to run upstairs, down the hall, etc. and grab a book for a patron or look for a book that might not haven gotten checked in. More exercise + awesome customer service = LIBRARIAN WIN! (This can especially help out parents of young kids or folks with mobility issues... getting your steps in is a bonus!)
  • ETA (8/6/14) Take over the holds pull list or duties pulling books for teacher collections or offer to pull books for someone's program display. I got a ton of steps in this week from wandering the stacks pulling books for third grade teachers to teach character traits and themes! 
I need all the help I can get, so give me your great ideas for getting your steps in at work! 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Preschool Lab: A Look Back Over the Summer

Lots of ocean books

Today, I want to take a look back over my summer of Preschool Labs and share how the program typically runs and what I've learned from offering it every week.

I started doing Preschool Lab this past fall as part of our Preschool Explorers program. During the school year, we rotate Preschool Explorers between Preschool Lab (science), Wee Dance (music & movement), and more traditional Preschool Storytime. We did this because we had so many great ideas for preschool programs and not enough time in our calendar to offer them all! This way, we have something each week for ages 3-5 and we each get a chance to offer our special programs.

This summer, our library did the Fizz Boom Read collaborative Summer Reading Program and I took on doing a Preschool Lab each week. Since this is a fairly new program for me (I had done six total, I think, before summer), this was definitely a challenge, but a fun challenge! As the summer went on, I definitely found my groove.

Comet toss!

Here are the themes I did this summer:

Week 1: My Body
Week 2: Ocean Animals
Week 3: Dinosaurs
Week 4: Five Senses
Week 5: Colors
Week 6: Sound
Week 7: Birds
Week 8: Space

For Preschool Lab, I typically start with a 20-25 minute storytime about whatever our theme is for the day. I try to include a nonfiction book or a book with real pictures. Then, after we sing our closing song, I briefly explain our stations and give families time to explore. I like to have at least three stations and I've had as many as five or six stations, depending on what I can pull together. Typically my families spend about 15-20 minutes exploring the stations, depending on what captures the kids' interest.

What worked for me as far as planning was to outline the programs in the spring, before we got into the crush of the summer months. I jotted down station ideas (very often inspired by Pinterest) and book titles for each week and I started the take-home packets ahead of time (a book list and ideas for activities families can do at home). I kept track of supplies I needed to purchase and any props/activities I would need to construct. Then as each week approached, I would pull the books I wanted to use and finalize my stations. I definitely used a combination of early planning and week-to-week planning throughout the summer.

Exploring "bird beaks"

Here are some things I learned through doing Preschool Lab this summer:

The Storytime Portion: Don't Overthink It!

My storytime portion of the program doesn't need to be any different than a typical storytime, except I maybe make it a bit shorter. I like to include a nonfiction book, but I don't feel like I have to share ALL nonfiction books. Kids love stories. Go with what engages the kids. Don't be afraid to read parts of books or to talk about photos or pictures without actually reading the text. You're modeling for parents that this is okay! And don't forget to include some interactive elements - action songs, fingerplays, etc.

Signs/Instructions for the Stations

I didn't need signs for the stations. Throughout the school year, I had been putting up signs with instructions for each table. A brief spoken intro to the stations suits us just fine and is less work than creating the signs (which no one was reading, anyway!). If a station needs more instruction, I will demonstrate to the group or make sure I head to that station after storytime so I can explain. During the stations portion of the program, I'm circling so I have opportunity to guide kids and families if they need it. Most are just fine with exploring on their own.

Taste felt board borrowed from Toddler Time

Keep the Stations Simple!

Some of the most popular stations have been the cheapest and easiest to create. I no longer feel like I have to invest a month of creating props and special things to make the stations fun. The kids have lots of fun just adding and removing felt pieces from the board. They spent 20 minutes pouring beans from one container to another. There's no need to overthink the stations, either. And don't reinvent the wheel: if you've done a science program previously, see what you can reuse for a station.

Beware Make & Take Stations

Kids don't need to take something home with them. Learning is in the process (not the product) anyway. After running out of supplies for a craft station early in the summer, I stayed away from stations with usable supplies and focused more on experiential stations. I did still did a few simple make-and-take crafts, but I made sure they were cheap and very easy to grab more supplies if needed.

Make Use of Your Volunteers

If your library is like my library, we're always looking for simple tasks for our dedicated volunteers. I have had volunteers prep craft supplies, cut out felt pieces for the sticky table, etc. Plan ahead and make use of that free help!

Stegosaurus Counting Game

Encourage Parents to Talk, But Understand They May Be Juggling

Our station time is a great time for parents to engage with their kids and talk about all the concepts we're learning. As much as I wish this program was all about one-on-one exploring with a preschooler and a parent, that's not always the reality. Many of my parents are juggling multiple kids, so I help out as much as I can by engaging the preschool kids in conversation as they go through the stations. I try to use new vocabulary words we heard and ask lots of questions. This is good for the kids, but it's also modeling for parents who may not be sure how to talk about science concepts with their kids. (Hint: there's no "right" way to do it - just talk, talk, talk! And ask open-ended questions to get kids talking, too!)

Take-Home Packets: More Work Than They're Worth

I'm not going to bother with take-home packets anymore. During the school year, I was putting together a take-home craft packet and including other ideas and activities to continue the learning at home. This summer, I removed the craft since our Summer Reading Club prize was a science activity pack. I still put together take-home packets with a book list, ideas for activities at home, and printables for practicing writing, etc. Less than half of my packets were taken each week and I feel like it was a waste of time and paper. No one missed the craft. I feel like no one will miss the packets. When we go back to Preschool Explorers this school year, we'll forgo the take-home packets.

We will, however, always have a book display! That's a great way to encourage families to continue the learning at home.

All in all, I feel like my Preschool Labs were really successful and fun. I had great feedback from parents who liked that we offered something a little different for preschoolers this summer. I think kids and parents alike appreciated the self-directed, interactive activities after sitting down for a storytime. This is something we're going to incorporate into every Preschool Explorer program this fall.

I also built my confidence in planning and offering preschool science programs. As the summer went on, each program was a bit easier to conceptualize and implement. Now I'm looking forward to offering Preschool Lab monthly during the school year and already considering a monthly Preschool Lab program for next summer!

Do you offer preschool science programs? What have you learned? What have been your favorite topics?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fizz, Boom, Read: Raising Butterflies

One of the self-directed science activities we had in our Children's Room this summer was raising butterflies. I was a little nervous about it since I'd never done it before, but it turns out it was WAY EASIER than I thought it might be and it was so much fun for the kids. It's definitely worth it!

(Sadly, I have no pictures of our butterflies. I think I was convinced at every stage that they would all die and I would feel terrible. Next year, I will take pictures!!)

On recommendation from Storytime Katie, I ordered the Giant Butterfly Garden from Insect Lore. They are certainly not the only company to offer mail-order caterpillars, but our experience with them was very positive and I would order from them again.

I ordered the Giant Butterfly Garden, which comes with 10 caterpillars, because I was afraid that all the caterpillars might not survive or emerge as butterflies. I do not have a great track record with plants.

It turns out they are easy to keep alive!

The caterpillars arrive in plastic cups, five to a cup, with all the food they'll need already in there. The food is brown gunk at the bottom of the cup that I'm assuming is some kind of plant mash. When they arrived and we took them out of their packaging, they were very still and we thought a few of them were dead, but after a few hours they had all started moving around. They were all very much alive!

We put the cups on a table along with the plastic butterfly life cycle models that came with the kit and a couple of magnifying glasses. We also put out a "field journal" and encouraged kids to draw a picture or write down what the butterflies are doing.

The kids LOVED being able to pick up the cups and look closely at the caterpillars. I was afraid that they were being handled too roughly, but they are hardy little guys! The kids could see them crawling around and eating their food (one 5-year-old exclaimed with delight "They are MUNCHING and MUNCHING!").

When they are ready to make their cocoons, they will travel to the top of the cup and hang there. When they started to do this, we put the cups inside an empty fish tank on our desk so that the kids could no longer handle the cups. The caterpillars shouldn't be handled at this time.

Once they're all in the cocoons, we carefully moved them to the butterfly habitat (following the instructions provided). We kept the butterfly habitat in the fish tank (it stuck out the top) to discourage touching. We wanted the habitat to be close enough that kids could see, but we also wanted to keep our butterflies safe!

A couple of things I was glad Katie told me:

  • When the caterpillars are making their cocoons, they will shake violently from side to side. This is okay!
  • After they're in the cocoons, they will shake violently if they are scared. This is to scare off predators. It's also okay! Some of our chrysalises shook for several hours, but they were okay in the end.  
  • When they emerge, a red liquid drips out. This is meconium and it's leftover liquid from the metamorphosis. It kind of looks like blood, but it's not blood, and it doesn't hurt the butterflies!

Our butterflies were in their cocoons about a week before they emerged. It was almost exactly 2 weeks from when we received the caterpillars to when they emerged as butterflies. We kept the butterflies in the habitat for four more days (they emerged on a Monday and we released them on a Friday). And guess what? They mated! About three days after they emerge, your butterflies will mate. They stand with their ends touching. The female will wait to lay eggs until she's found a suitable spot (i.e. a plant her babies can munch on), so you don't have to worry about having butterfly eggs everywhere. But it's just something to know since you may have little ones asking questions! If that makes you uncomfortable, it's best to release them a little earlier than we did.

While the butterflies were in the habitat, waiting to be released, I put tissues soaked in sugar water in the habitat for them to sip (as per the instructions).

Since I wasn't sure what the timeline would be, we had a rather impromptu release event. We read The Very Hungry Caterpillar and released the butterflies near some trees on our property. We advertised the event during the week when we knew it would be happening that Friday, and we took some photos to keep at the desk for anyone wondering where the butterflies had gone.

After we released the butterflies, I cleaned out their habitat. The red meconium came out when I scrubbed at it with a wet towel.

Now that we've gone through the process (and I didn't kill anything!), I think this is something we will do every year. It was really easy, pretty inexpensive (and now that we have the habitat, our only cost will be ordering additional caterpillars), and it was really interesting to the kids and parents. I have a better idea about the timeline, so we can plan a bigger release event (although keeping it small and simple was fine, too!).

Have you raised butterflies? What tips do you have?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Preschool Lab: Space

I actually inadvertently timed this Preschool Lab really well with Sunday being the 45th anniversary of the moon landing! This was our last Preschool Lab of the summer and we talked about space. Here's what we did:


Opening Song: Do You Know What Time It Is?

Book: I Want to Be an Astronaut by Byron Barton. This is a nice, simple introduction to many of the things astronauts do. Big, bright pictures makes this an excellent book for sharing with a group. We talked about the things astronauts were doing, why astronauts wear suits (to protect them in space), counted how many were in the crew, etc.

Book: Exploring Space with an Astronaut by Patricia J. Murphy. I didn't read this book word for word, but we looked at many of the photos and talked about what was going on. I liked using a book with photographs to reinforce some of the concepts we talked about in our first book of the day. We talked about the suits that astronauts wear, the kind of work they do, and what living on the spaceship is like (no gravity!).

Song: If You're Going to the Moon, Wear Your Boots from Mel's Desk. The kids were a little squirrelly at this point, so I had them stand up and we put actions to the words (thump chest for "suit", stomp feet for "boots", clap hands for "gloves", tap head for "helmet").

Book: Every Planet Has a Place by Becky Baines. I like this simple, nonfiction book because it presents the planets in a very simple way AND it has Pluto correctly classified as a dwarf planet. I was surprised at how many planets the kids were already familiar with! We talked about how the sun is a star and how the planets orbit around the sun.

Fingerplay: Five Shiny Spacecraft

One shiny spacecraft, flying to the moon,
Along comes another. Then there are two.
Two shiny spacecraft speed through the galaxy.
Another blasts off. Then there are three.
Three shiny spacecraft ready to explore.
Along comes another. Now there are four.
Four shiny spacecraft soar and dive.
Along comes another. Now there are five.
Five shiny spacecraft are coming home soon.
What an adventure they had on the moon!
by Diane Thom, found in Transportation Theme-a-Saurus (Totline Publications, 1999).

Felt Activity: Things You See in Space. We have a set of "space things" (rocket ship, astronaut, moons, stars, telescopes, etc.) and I passed one out to each child. When I called their picture, they could come up and put it on the board. Activities like this not only provide an opportunity for kids to get up and move around, they get kids familiar with coming up to the front of the room and approaching an adult who is not their parent (me! And someday a teacher!). This activity also provides practice with listening and following instructions.

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is?


Star/Constellation Pictures: I put out half-sheets of black construction paper, star stickers, and white crayons and the kids could make their own constellations. Some kids made the letters in their name, some stuck all the stars on the page and made them into comets or drew planets with the white crayons. This was an easy, cheap craft that did not require a lot of prep work.

Sticky Table, Design a Universe. I used the sticky table before for our Growing Things Preschool Lab. I put down some black bulletin board paper on the table first and voila! A space scene! Volunteers used our die-cut machine to cut out stars and hand-cut "planets" and the kids went to town placing them on the sticky table. When kids are done, the pieces can be removed and ready for the next kid. This is a good sensory activity, too.

Comet Toss. Miss TS had already created this comet toss game for a couple of programs earlier in the summer and I borrowed it. The kids had fun throwing the comets to see where they would stick in the solar system.

Space Floor Puzzle & Felt Board. We have a Melissa & Doug space floor puzzle in our Space Theme Box and I borrowed it for this program. This was a nice activity to have out since I had a bunch of older siblings today and this gave them something to work on (letting the littles help) while their younger sibs explored some of the other stations.

I also put out the felt pieces and let kids explore with those. They love sticking them on the felt board and taking them off again.

This was our last Preschool Lab of the summer. It's been really fun doing it every week and I finally feel like I'm at the point where I'm not extremely nervous before these science programs. For the fall, we'll go back to rotating our Preschool Explorers program between Preschool Lab, Wee Dance, and a more traditional storytime + playtime. I'll still be doing Preschool Lab, but typically once a month instead of every week! It was definitely a challenge for me to plan a Preschool Lab every week this summer, but it was a fun challenge and I'm feeling much more confident about this program, so I'm excited to see what we'll get into this fall.

Coming soon: a post debriefing Preschool Lab and how everything went this summer! It's always good to take some time to look back over how things went, think about how things can be improved, and make note of what worked well.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Reading Wildly: Reader's Choice

For our July meeting of Reading Wildly, we did Reader's Choice again. Summer is such a crazy time for us and my staff and I go home exhausted almost every day, so I want to make reading as fun and easy as possible... by giving my staff a choice! I did not assign an article for this month, but we'll get back into that in August. We were lucky to find a quiet afternoon that we could carve out an hour to talk about books. We're gearing up to reach out to our schools and hopefully set up some additional booktalking opportunities, so every Reading Wildly meeting is giving my staff another chance to practice their booktalks!

Here's what my staff and I read this month:

(Please note, many of these books are not pictured above because it is SUMMER and SO MUCH IS CHECKED OUT!)

Next month, we're talking about graphic novels (i.e. comics). This was a "genre" that was requested by my staff as we were planning for the Reading Wildly year. Even though graphic novels are always an option each month if they fit our genre, my staff does not tend to gravitate towards them. Designating a month to discussing graphic novels means they will have to try at least one, and they might find some they love! Plus, lots of our kids LOVE them, so it's definitely good for us to be familiar with popular and excellent comics. Since graphic novels are a little quicker to read than prose novels, I slotted this topic in for August while we're still recovering from Summer Reading. 

I assigned the article Using Graphic Novels with Childrens and Teens: A Guide for Teachers and Librarians from Scholastic's website. The article not only justifies using graphic novels with young people, but it suggests some titles, which I thought might help my staff get started. 

Whew! We're almost done with the summer rush - and into the fall rush! ;) 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Preschool Lab: Birds

This is the Preschool Lab I've been waiting all summer to do! I knew I wanted to do a bird program when I found the ukulele chords for Kookaburra, a song my mom used to sing to me all the time when I was a little girl. AND THEN I found out what Kookaburras actually sound like and I KNEW I had to share that with my kiddos. Here's what we did for this Preschool Lab:


Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Book: Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? by Rita Gray. This book includes lots of fun bird sounds and led really nicely into the kookaburra sounds I wanted to share with them.

Song: Kookaburra, sung with ukulele. I introduced the uke first since we have not yet used it a TON in storytime. I shouldn't be so shy to use it - it holds their attention SO WELL.

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Merry, merry king of the bush is he
Laugh, kookaburra, laugh, kookaburra
Gay your life must be!

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Eating all the gum drops he can see
Stop, kookaburra! Stop, kookaburra,
Save some gum for me!

Media: After I sang the song, I brought out my laptop and showed the kids this short video so they can hear what a kookaburra actually sounds like!

Before I started the clip, I let everyone know that I hoped they could see but if not, it was okay. I really wanted them to LISTEN to what the kookaburra sounds like.

Felt Story: The Most Wonderful Egg in the World by Helme Heine. Oh, they laughed and laughed at this funny story about hens trying to lay the most wonderful eggs!

Song: I Know a Chicken by Laurie Berkner with shaky eggs. Of course, a story about eggs lent itself beautifully to breaking out our shaky eggs and shaking them to this song. I played the song on CD and helped lead the kids in shaking their eggs like the song instructs.

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is?

(As you can see, I only read one book, though I had two more pulled. There are so many great bird books! Check out Storytime Katie's bird storytimes (Birds 1 and Birds 2) for more ideas!)


Cheerio Bird Feeders. I found this idea on Here Comes the Sun via Pinterest and I love it because it is simple and cheap! I cut long pipe cleaners in half and got them started by curling one end around a Cheerio. I put out plain Cheerios and let the kids go to town. This is a great fine motor activity and hopefully it will encourage some bird-watching when families return home. (Also, it's not messy... no peanut butter, no honey. We did have some crushed Cheerios on the floor, but that was no big deal to sweep up.)

Feed the Baby Birds. This activity comes from Powerful Mothering and it's another simple activity great for developing fine motor skills and reinforcing science concepts. I made "baby birds" out of large pom poms (hot-glued on wiggle eyes and yellow felt beaks), "worms" out of white pipe cleaners (curl them around your finger), and "mommy birds" out of clothespins. Kids could use the clothespins to feed worms to the baby birds and move them around the "nest". I had a few friends who camped out at this station and didn't want to leave it behind! 

Bird Beaks. This one is from To the Moon and Back, adapted with what I had on hand. Each tool (slotted spoon, tweezers, clothespin) represents a different kind of beak you might find in the bird world. Which type of beak works best for each food? The foods I used were small pom poms (replacing the mini marshmallows that Dusty used because I was afraid those would get eaten), dry black beans (leftover from last week's sound program), and more of our pipe cleaner "worms". I tried to talk to kids as much as I could at this station because while they loved dumping everything in the water and stirring, it's not a very self-explanatory station. This might be a better station with a smaller group or one-on-one. 

We had our biggest crowd yet for this Preschool Lab (I counted 30 kids in the room) and I'm so happy to share a program I felt great about with such a great crowd! We only have one more week of summer Preschool Lab, and I'm definitely going to write up how the program went overall once we're done.