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. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Preschool Lab: Sound

Last week at Preschool Lab, we explored the science of sound and we had lots of noisy fun. I purposefully skipped sound activities when we did the five senses since I knew that this one would be coming up. Here's what we did:


Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Book: Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!: A Sonic Adventure by Wynton Marsalis, illustrated by Paul Rogers. This book is filled to the brim with fun sounds. I found the kids repeating them or saying them along with me. It's a great introduction to many of the sounds kids hear every day as well as some of the sounds you can hear in music, particularly jazz music. This is a fun one to read aloud, but make sure you practice first; some of the sound combinations can be a little tricky to sight-read.

There are tons of books that feature different kinds of sounds. I chose this one because I like the breadth of different sounds it includes.

Rhyme: Two Little Blackbirds

(Get out your pointer fingers - they'll be our blackbirds today!)
Two little blackbirds, sitting on a hill.
One named Jack and one named Jill.
Fly away Jack, fly away Jill. (put fingers behind your back, one at a time)
Come back Jack, come back Jill. (bring your fingers back to front, one at a time)

Then we repeated the rhyme, using Quiet and Loud to reinforce one of our sound concepts.

Two little blackbirds, sitting on a cloud.
[whisper] One named Quiet, [loudly] and one named Loud!
[whisper] Fly away, Quiet.
[loudly] Fly away, Loud!
[whisper] Come back, Quiet.
[loudly] Come back, Loud!

Book: Sounds All Around by Wendy Pfeffer, illustrated by Holly Keller. I did NOT read this entire book! I shared two spreads that talk about how sounds are made from vibrations and the sound waves travel through the air and vibrate the small bones in our ears. I asked the kids to put their fingers on their throats and hum to feel the vibrations. Then they put their fingers on their throats while they stayed quiet and then I asked them to hum again so they could feel the difference.

I also demonstrated the vibrations with a drum. I put some dry beans on one of our tambourines and hit it with a drum stick. The kids could hear the sound, but they could also see the beans jumping all over the place due to the vibrations!

Song with bells: I passed out the bells and we rang them high, low, in the middle. I asked them to ring them FAST and commented on how loud a sound we made. Then I asked them to ring them slow and commented on how that sound was much quieter. We repeated this and then I put on some music and asked the kids to ring their bells to the beat.

Instruments: Once I collected the bells, I demonstrated some of the other instruments I had collected. We had a triangle, sandpaper blocks, a tone block, and a rain stick. Each object made different sounds and I demonstrated some of the sounds they could make.

Closing Song: Do You Know What Time It Is?


Before we had free time to explore stations, I briefly explained the activities at each of them and I let parents know that since we were exploring sound it might get loud in the room. I know some kids are sensitive to noise and I understood if kids needed to take a break from our noisy room.

Instruments: I put out the instruments that I had demonstrated (along with tambourine) and allowed the kids to try them out. The triangle was particularly interesting because the kids could feel the vibrations through the string when they hit the instrument.

Sound Hangers: You can see one of our sound hangers in the photo with the instruments. I found this activity at Buggy and Buddy via Pinterest. I demonstrated how to hold the strings and cup your hands over your ears and let the hanger bang gently against the table. The sound travels up through the string and is amplified by your cupped hands. Since I knew it would probably get pretty loud in the room, I encouraged folks to take it just outside our room if it was too loud to hear.

Can Do! Science Kit. We purchased several of these science kits from Lakeshore Learning and this one has lots of fun activities for exploring sound. The small cardboard disks show different activities for the kids to do. 

Container Sounds. This was by far our most popular activity and (bonus!) it was the cheapest and the easiest to put together. I found the idea on The Pleasantest Thing via Pinterest. I purchased a bag of dry black beans and put out all kinds of different containers for kids to pour them into. What different sounds do the beans make as you pour them into different containers? I tried to find containers made from different materials - plastic cups, an aluminum bowl, a styrofoam egg carton, a ceramic mug - and different shapes - a plastic champagne flute, a plastic bowl, a plastic bag, etc. 

The kids had a blast pouring beans all over the place. I let parents know when I explained the stations that we'd have beans everywhere and it would be a big mess, but not to worry, I would clean it up after. Some kids spent 20 minutes at this table, no joke. I had parents telling me they were going to buy some beans on the way home. ;) (And it wasn't really to hard to clean up the beans afterwards!)

As usual, I let families explore the stations at their own pace while I circled and engaged kids in conversations about the activities they were doing. I had a book display and take-home papers with book lists and additional activities to do at home. 

It WAS very noisy, but it was also a lot of fun and learning. I had a bunch of older siblings at this session and they were engaged with the activities, too. Exploring sounds is lots of fun! 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Preschool Lab: Colors

I wasn't here for last week's Preschool Lab, but luckily I have the awesome Miss TS who subbed for me and it looks like they had a great time! I had planned everything and had it all ready to go. The kids explored colors last week! Here's what they did:


Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello

Book: I Ain't Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont

Prop: Mixing Colors - I am sorry I don't have a source for this! If it's yours, let me know and I will credit you!

Book: Duckie's Rainbow by Frances Barry. I love to use our color scarves with this one and have kids wave their scarf when we get to their color. At the end, we all wave together and create a rainbow!

(There are millions of books about colors! Pick your favorites!)


I got tons of great ideas from Library Makers' Color Wonderworks program! Do click through and check out their post!

Scarves and Color Paddles. We put out color scarves and color paddles for experiments in color mixing and seeing the world in a different light.

Color Sorting Toys. This set was purchased through Lakeshore Learning for our Toddler Time program and it fit perfectly with this week's theme! Even if you don't purchase a kit, you could easily collect objects of different colors and create your own color sorting boxes.

Play Dough Mixing. We had lots of play dough left over from the play dough program we did earlier in the summer, so this was one of our stations. Kids could experiment with mixing different colors of play dough to see what colors they could make. Bonus: squeezing and kneading play dough together helps strengthen little hands, which contributes to fine motor control.

Color Pom Pom Drop. I got this idea from Princesses, Pies, & Preschool Pizzazz via Pinterest. I covered paper towel tubes in colored construction paper. Instead of affixing the tubes to poster board, I put a little velcro on the backs and stuck them to our felt board. It was super easy makes for easier storage. We put out colored pom poms and plastic tongs for kids to sort and put their pom poms through the appropriate tubes. Using the tongs helps strengthen hands and develop fine motor control. And everyone loves pom poms! I should have made labels with the color names, but I will definitely do that before we use them again.

Since we had so many stations and since I was pawning this program off on one of my unsuspecting librarians, we did not attempt the colored water station that Library Makers did. I think it would have been super popular! I'm sure we'll do colors again in the future and I'll be brave enough to try it.

Lots of colorful fun (and learning)!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Science Explorer Table at the ALSC Blog

Friends, I'm over at the ALSC Blog talking about our Science Explorer Table that we've had out this summer. Click on through and give me some self-directed science activity ideas so we can keep this good thing going!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Summer Reading Club Check-In #2

Yes, I'm back from ALA and back in the swing of things. The nice (and bad?) thing about ALA Annual being in the middle of the summer is that I miss a week of the Summer Reading Club. Luckily, I have a super staff to hold down the fort.

We have three weeks to go for our Summer Reading Club and I'm starting to wonder if it's too early to put up a back-to-school display. (It is too early. Our kids go back July 31. But next week I will put it up!) July is always slower for us than June. Many of our families take vacations in July and program attendance dwindles. We start winding down our programming and gearing up for outreach to the schools.

Here's what our staff reading "log" looks like at this point in the summer:

I'm going to need to move this one and start another one, I think!

To be honest, I have not had any patrons asking about books from our log this summer, so I'm not sure how well it worked as a reader's advisory tool. BUT it was definitely a fun way to keep up my staff's motivation to read and to share with each other what we are reading. We'll definitely be doing this or something similar again next summer.

Again, we've had no qualms about the changes to our prizes this summer. We have had some patrons asking about the grand prize raffles they've gotten used to seeing, but no one has expressed any disappointment that we don't have them this year.

Our butterflies have grown up and we released them at a small program mid-June. We took some pictures of their release and have those at our desk for anyone who asks. And our Science Explorers Table continues to be popular. Right now we have a dinosaur activity going on:

I am seriously considering doing away with our relatively staff-intensive make-and-take craft table and having weekly science questions or monthly science activities out instead. It's something to ponder. I need to figure out how we would keep statistics on it. 

All in all, it's been a fabulous summer so far, but I'm looking forward to wrapping up these last couple of weeks and digging into school outreach. I am hopeful that this will be our most successful school year yet in terms of getting into classrooms and connecting with teachers and students.

How's your summer going?