Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

I Went to a STEAMFest and This is What I Learned

Monday night our local school district – where I live, not where I work – hosted a district wide STEAMFest and I took my family, but I also went to scope things out – as one does. Overall, this was a well crafted event that I would love to host (on a slightly smaller scale) at my local library.

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The Setting

This event was set at the local high school so they had way more space then many public libraries would traditionally have, depending on the size of your library. They had hallways, cafeterias, band rooms and outside quads and they made really good use of this space. All in all they had more than 20 stations set up and sometimes what appeared to be one station was multiple stations in one station. For example, the band room was set up as a MakerSpace so there were several stations within this one room. Similarly in the gym, they had life size chess, cardboard city, and some exhibitors. So scale will definitely depending on the size of your library. But if you have the means, I highly recommend it.

Cardboard City at the beginning of the event

Cardboard City at the beginning of the event

Outside they had a petting zoo, water balloon slingshot, band performances and food trucks. The addition of the food trucks was a really great idea as people stayed longer and were engaged. They also had concession sales inside. My family was there for the entire 5 hours (though they ran out of supplies at some stations before we got to them).

The Stations

There were a large variety of events that appealed to multiple age groups. The organizers definitely made sure to address all of the community needs. Here is a brief listing of the many stations they had:

  • Water balloon slingshots
  • Petting zoo
  • Slime making
  • Learning about germs
  • Stained glass art
  • Fingerprint art
  • MakerSpace Fun including Ozobots, Kinetic Sand, Snap Circuits, and a couple of other building toys
  • Nanotechnology with the Ross Perot Museum
  • Face painting
  • Robot mazes
  • Lego building
  • Building bridges challenge
  • Giant Tetris
  • A giant green screen and overhead projector
  • Life size chess
  • Cardboard City
  • Escape the Bus
Giant Tetris

Giant Tetris

Organizing the Event

The district obviously spent some time in planning this event as it was well organized. They had great signage and clearly labelled maps telling you where each station was. Every volunteer had a coordinated t-shirt so they could clearly be identified. Volunteers had clearly outlined shifts to help cover throughout the event, which lasted from 4 to 9 PM. Various student groups rotated in and out as greeters.

The map of the event

The map of the event

Funding the Event

I had the opportunity to talk with the school superintendent and asked if they had a grant, which I was surprised to learn they did not. They had many local business sponsors, who had tables set up throughout the event. For example, the Slime Time table had signage that said they were sponsored by a local insurance agent and then across from that station the agent had a table set up with information about their business. I’m not sure of the overall cost of the event, though I do know that the Escape the Bus web page says the bus is $3,500 for one day. Many of the other materials they already had in the various schools. There would have been money spent on things like signage, the t-shirts and more, but with the local business sponsors they probably didn’t spend as much money as you would guess an event of this magnitude would cost.

Cardboard City later in the event

Cardboard City later in the event

Their Mission

As I mentioned, I did have an opportunity to talk with the superintendent and she emphasized that the reason they were hosting this event was to engage the community and raise awareness of and interest in science and the arts. We are a sport heavy community without a lot of local science and arts resources so our community really needed this event. I love the mission and feel that they really succeeded.

The Mr made a TV for Cardboard City

The Mr made a TV for Cardboard City

Final Thoughts

I took pictures throughout the day (until my phone died) and immediately went to my assistant director proclaiming that we could – and should – do a scaled down version of this event for our local community. I say scaled down because we are a much smaller facility with a much smaller budget. But with our Teen MakerSpace already in place, we have a lot of the tools we could use already in place. The staffing and space would actually be our biggest stumbling block.

Robot Mazes

Robot Mazes

Getting Ready for May the Fourth: Some Star Wars STEAM Ideas

Our weekly STEM program for 3 to 18 year old patrons took a turn for the galactic yesterday as we focused on Star Wars. None of the ideas I’m about to link to are my own, but I will tell you how well they worked for us and give you some tips for success.

81r2wmJ1JxL_SL1500_Our first activity was releasing Lego Star Wars figures from ‘carbonite.’ You can find the original post here. We used a combination of baking soda and water to freeze the minifigs into ice cubes. First hot tip – they don’t fit in standard ice cube trays. Luckily, I actually had some Star Wars themed jello molds (don’t ask) and they fit in those. We used vinegar to dissolve the ‘carbonite,’ but unlike the original post, I had the kids use pipettes to wash the baking soda away gradually. It really depends on your level of patience, but I think they had fun. Your mileage may vary.

Next we moved on to this activity – creating light saber cards. This was probably my favorite activity and the one I would consider the most teachable moment. If you scroll down in the post, you can find links to all the necessary materials, which were surprisingly affordable. There are also free printables to make the cards themselves. The blogger created one version for ‘May the Fourth’ and one for ‘May the Force,’ so you can use it year round.

We made balloon hovercrafts as detailed here. I’m sure you have some old CDs or DVDs and balloons around, and who doesn’t have a hot glue gun? Unfortunately, the other necessary piece (a pop up bottle lid) is much more difficult to find these days. Almost all of the items that used to have them, such as dish soap and sports water bottles, have switched to the new flip top model. I found them from some online vendors, but you either had to purchase thousands of them or pay exorbitant shipping fees. My best advice is to make friends with people who polish their hardwood floors – all of those containers still use the pop up lids, as does dish soap from the Mrs. Meyer’s company. It’s not ideal, but it is doable if you plan ahead (or have lots of friends with hardwood floors.)

We made these light saber sensory bottles, as well. The post recommends using VOS water bottles, which are quite expensive. We used the large Smart Water bottles because it is what I like to drink. I would recommend going with a smaller bottle, though.

Finally, we made some origami Millennium Falcons. There are many different versions of the instructions online, but the one I found easiest to follow is here.

Happy Star Wars day preparations to all!

Circulating Maker Kits, part two – Putting the Kits Together (with a book list)

Maker Collection-1As step three in our efforts to fully embrace the Maker movement, and in conjunction with our Maker Collection of circulating titles, we are putting together Circulating Maker Kits (CMKs) that will check out to the public and provide our community with some simple but fun hands on introductions to Making. The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County already has a really good prototype for this in the form of circulating toy kits bundled by theme for early childhood education, so we just adapted it for our Circulating Maker Kits.  We are collecting a variety of toys, tools and resources on a particular theme and putting them together in clear backpacks that will be checked out as one complete unit. Each CMK will have an inventory list and in addition to the resources we buy, we are also planning to print off on-line instructions where appropriate to add in the kits as well, or resource pages with lists of on-line sites that will be of further interest.

We did a lot of research about what to put in each kit, with a few particular needs in mind.

1. We needed the items to be low cost.

We anticipate having some loss and needed to make replacements, so low cost is key. Also, we live in a more financially challenged community and we don’t want to put too high of a financial burden on our patrons should they have to pay for lost or damaged materials.

2. We needed the items to fit in our circulating bags.

3. We needed the items to be easy(ish) for staff to keep track of when checking the bags in and out.

The CMKs are a little more of a burden for circulation staff in that we will ask them to inspect each kit before checking it out and upon return to make sure that all the pieces and parts are there and accounted for, so we wanted to make it as easy as possible for staff while still putting together some fun and educational circulating maker kits.

There are lots of cool things out there that we considered, include marble mazes, magnetic building blocks, stomp rocket kits and more. We researched on-line and in person. I went to toy stores, Barnes and Noble, and offbeat places like TJ Maxx (they always have interesting toys there that I’ve never seen anywhere else). We found out that a few other libraries had circulating maker kits, either to check out to patrons or to check out to branch libraries for programming, and we looked at what they put in their kits.

And after all that research, this is what we decided on for our trial run . . .

Circulating Maker Kits

CMK#1: Tinker & Build with Straws

Strawbees, Make it Yourself (with Straws) 9780749669102, Geodesic Domes

strawspicture

We have the Accucut dies so we can easily fill a circulating kit with parts and pieces with minimal costs, especially since you can recycle things like milk jugs to make the connectors.

CMK#2: Stopmotion

Animation Studio, Stopmotion Explosion, Brick Flicks, The Klutz Book of Animation

stopmotionpicture

The Animation Studio has a little stage that folds out and works perfectly for a kit. Users will have to provide their own technology, such as a smart phone, tablet or laptop, but this kit is a great place to explore and get started.

CMK#3: Robotics (Teens)

The Robot Book, Robot Building for Teens, Recycled Robots

cmk2Recycled Robot has a basic motor and ideas for creating robots from items commonly found around the house.

CMK #4: Paper Machines

The Paper Boomerang Book, Karakuri, Paper Toy Monsters, The Flying Machine Book

papermachines

Partly because I thought the Paper Toy Monsters book was adorable, we decided to go with paper machines because it’s pretty easy and cost effective to keep putting blank paper in a bag to offset the cost of some of the higher priced CMKs we put together. The Karakuri and Paper Toy Monsters books both have templates that can be punched out and used. We will put a notion on the books asking patrons to use them as templates for reference, but we anticipate that we will have to replace these books as the templates get used up.

CMK #5: Robots (Easy)

Robots for Children, Bot + Boy by Ame Dyckman, Build a Robot toy, Stacking Robots, Robots for Children

robotpicture

We wanted to make sure and include a few younger kits (there are a few more listed below). There is no shortage of robot books, both pictures books and amazing How To books, so this was actually one of the harder kits to put together because we had to make some hard decisions about what we would (could) include and what we had to just leave on our wishlist for another day. We did purchase many additional titles, however, for the circulating collection.

CMK#6: Build with Me

Quercetti Tecno Building Toy, Dreaming Up by Christy Hale, Tinkerlab, Make: Tinkering, How Cars Work: The Interactive Guide to Mehanisms that Make a Car Move

tinkering2

CMK #7: Electricity

Snapcircuits Jr, Squishy Circuits, Making a Circuit, What is a Circuit

snapcircuitsjrCMK #8: Rainbow Loom

Rainbow Loom & Monster Tail, Loom Band It, Totally Rubber Band Jewelry, Loom Magic Charms, Loom Magic Creatures

circulatingmakerkit

We bought a large, bulk order of bands and are pre-making packets that circulation staff can easily slip into the kit when it is returned. We will also include a note saying please use the band provided to make whatever they like and to feel free to buy additional bands if they want to make additional projects.

CMK #9: Legos for Teens

Chain Reaction, Totally Cool Creations, Cool Creations in 35 Pieces

legopicture

This is one of the kits that staff is not looking forward to checking out and in because it will contain a handful of Legos. There will be a replacement cost for Legos should they not come back. Though I recently read on the ALATT Facebook page that another library uses a shipping scale to weigh the Legos as opposed to counting items which is a great idea we are exploring.

CMK #10: Engineering (School Age)

Goldie Blox, Rosie Revere the Engineer, Engineering ABCs

duploreadandbuildThe 5 following CMKs are founded on the Duplo series of Read and Build kits that come with a book and the pieces to make a small Duplo creation that corresponds with the book. In addition to the Duplo kit, we are adding a couple of age appropriate books on the topic to go in the kit. I’ll be honest, I wanted to do these kits because I thought the Duplo kits were perfect for our purposes, but the Children’s Librarian Debbie Baker is working on ordering the additional materials for these kits so I don’t know fully yet what will be in each kit. Duplo, like Legos, is a great introduction to making because it involves concepts like building, following instructions, and basic geometry.

CMK #11: Cars (Easy)

Duplo Read & Build Let’s Go Vroom, My Car by Byron Barton, Car Goes Far by Michael Garland

CMK#12: Fairy Tales (Easy)

Duplo Read & Build A Fairy Tale, Maisy’s Castle by Lucy Cousins, The Usborne Book of Fairy Tales

CMK #13: Jungle (Easy)

Duplo Read & Build Peekaboo Jungle, Over in the Jungle by Marianne Berkes

CMK #14: Farm (Easy)

Duplo Read & Build Busy Farm

CMK #15: Caterpillar (Easy)

Duplo Read & Build Grow Caterpillar Grow, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, Caterpillar to Butterfly by Laura Marsh

Possible Future CMKs:

Rubber Band Fun: Rubberband Mania, 15 Genius Rubber Band Life Hacks to Simplify Your Life, Epic Rubberband Crafts, Rubber Band Powered Flying Machines, The Racecar Book, Amazing Rubberband Cars

Duct Tape Fun: Sticky Fingers, Stick It!, Duct Tape Discovery Workshop, Duct Tape 101, Tape It & Make It

Life Hacks: The How to Handbook, How to Build a Fire and Other Handy Things Your Grandfather Knew, How to Sew a Button and Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew, Life Hacks

Movie Making 101: Movie Maker, Learn to Speak Film, How to Make a Movie in 10 Easy Lessons, Tricky Video: The Complete Guide to Making Movie Magic (Klutz) – maybe include a green sheet and a book on green screen

Music: Garageband tutorial, Learn to Speak Music

As you can see, it’s a work in progress. But I like to think it is a good work in progress. The kits will be cataloged as one item and technical services is doing an awesome job of creating detailed records for us. We’re going to be printing off an inventory of each kit with the content to put in both a reference guide for us and to laminate and put in the front pocket of each kit. This should make it easier for everyone to tell what’s inside. Most of the items were ordered as part of our Maker Bookshelf order and you can easily find that here. Though we have gone through and added some additional items which are listed above in each kit description.

The Maker Collection is almost processed and ready to be put out for the public. The CMKs will probably take another week or so to get ready for circulation, we currently have about half of the items in and processed.

makercollection

And on a personal note, once I got the go ahead to proceed with this project I dove right into doing a ton of research. Debbie Baker, head of Children’s Services, and I have worked hard on putting all of this together and it has been the most professionally rewarding experience I have had in a long time. It’s been exciting and invigorating. I’m hoping our community feels the same once it is all unveiled.

MakerSpace Notes:

My Original Mobile Makerspace
My Updated Mobile Makerspace
MakerSpace Tech Tools Comparison Chart
The Unboxing and Learning Curve
Exploring Circulating Maker Kits
The Maker Bookshelf/Collection (with a book list)

Edited to add, after seeing this article on SLJ we have decided to add some nature themed kits.

Take 5: The Robot Test Kitchen’s Reading List

The five of us in the Robot Test Kitchen all came to this project from different comfort levels with technology. Some of us couldn’t get enough of it, some of us were skilled at it, some of us were dragging our heels, and some of us were curious but trepidatious. Some of us were a little bit of it all. Now that our project year has ended, we don’t have the amazing instructors in the ILEAD program to guide us every few months, we’re looking for ways to keep on learning. Here are a few books on our reading list this winter:

Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom By Sylvia Libow Martinez & Gary Stager
This guide is geared toward teachers, but that approach is really nice here, especially as an advocacy tool. It’s a great title for those librarians who ask themselves, “why robots? why STEM? why here?” because it looks at tinkering and making in the context of educational philosophy before getting into answering the “what” and “how” questions that will follow.

 

 

Making Makers: Kids, Tools, and the Future of Innovation by Dr. AnnMarie Thomas

Dr. Thomas is behind the super fun, super simple, super instructive Squishy Circuits concept. In her book, she interviews makers of all kinds to take a closer look at how childhood experiences can light a spark that can lead to creation and innovation. I love her playful approach to technology. It feels right and real to me.

 

 

 

Design, Make, Play: Growing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators by Margaret Honey

Another one to add to your list, especially if you feel you might face resistance to the concept of integrating STEM programs, whether from others in the library, or within yourself. Treating each activity: designing, making, and playing, as different pathways into learning is a really interesting concept, and certainly something that we at the Robot Test Kitchen have seen play out in our programs.

 

 

Zero to Maker: Learn (just enough) to make (just about) anything by David Lang

If you’re on board and ready to start making stuff, this is the book for you. Lang walks you through his process of embracing the maker movement and learning that it’s “really not about DIY or do it yourself, this whole thing is about DIT or do it together.” What a great concept, right? What a library friendly concept!

 

 

 

The Maker Cookbook: Recipes for Children’s and Tweens Library Programming by Cindy R. Wall and Lynn M. Pawloski 

Written by librarians for librarians, this is a great grab-and-go programming resource. And while the title says Children and Tweens, I’m pretty confident that the fun factor of a lot of the programs will bring them up to the teen level, or could be expanded upon in a way that would make them appealing to your teens.