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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Blogger - School-Age Programs and Service Committee, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 18 of 18
1. Knitting Club for Tweens – a step-by-step how-to guide

Hand knitting has been around for arguably thousands of years, though in modern times its popularity has waxed and waned.  Waldorf schools around the world have long recognized that teaching young children handicrafts helps develop their fine motor and analytical skills. The great thing is, libraries can promote knitting, too! Currently, knitting is very popular and many libraries have started their own knitting circles. Here are several reasons to start a knitting circle for tweens at your library and a step-by-step list on how to get started:

Step 1

Start a knitting club for adults. My adult knitting group meets in the evenings right near the children’s area, so we’ve garnered a lot of interest from the kids by simply existing. They want to know all about knitting, how we started, what clothes we’ve made, etc. Most kids ultimately ask if I can teach them how to knit. We have a diverse group of men and women in our adult group, and in turn I’ve had both boys and girls show interest in learning. Having a multifaceted group is a great way to highlight that knitting is not just for women.

Step 2

Find someone who wants to teach kids how to knit. If you are a knitter, it could be you. If not, contact your local knitting guild or meet up group to see if one of their members has an interest in teaching kids how to knit.

Step 3

Gather your materials! You’ll need yarn, needles, scissors, tapestry needles, and knitting books from your collection to get the kids started once they’ve masted the basics of knit and purl. Ask your adult patrons if they can donate materials or reach out to your library friends group for the funds needed to purchase some knitting paraphernalia.

Step 4

Pick a date. I find that knitting clubs for adults tend to be the most successful if they occur at the same time and place weekly, so pick a date and time when your tweens will usually be able to attend. We have our summer knitting club on craft day, the same time every week!

Step 5

Publicize! Spread the word about your knitting club at school visits and outreach, and on library social media and websites. It also helps to reach out to your local knitting guild so they can publicize for you!

Kate Eckert is an artist, knitter, and mother of one. She is also a member of the School Age Programs & Services Committee and is a Children’s Librarian at the Free Library of Philadelphia. She tweets @8bitstate and may also be contacted at eckertk AT freelibrary.org.

The post Knitting Club for Tweens – a step-by-step how-to guide appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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2. Passive Programs for School Age Kids

Passive programs are a great way to engage kids, whether they’re hanging out after school, coming in on a school-free day, or are just looking for something to do! They often require minimal effort to prepare and get off the ground, but are then good for hours of fun and engagement. If you’re looking to add school age passive programs to your library’s offerings, want to freshen things up, or just try something new, take a look at some of these great options!

Book cover puzzle

Book cover puzzle

Make copies of a book cover, laminate, cut into puzzle pieces, and set them out (above)!

Put “postcards” out on a table and encourage kids to write a postcard to their favorite author or book character, like in The Show Me Librarian’s blog post. Bonus fun if you can find a place to display them in the library!

Take a look at this collection of passive program ideas from Jbrary.

We all know Pinterest is a great resource for ideas. There are lots of passive programming boards out there, so find your favorites or start with this one from Central Mississippi Regional Library System.

See what you can do with cardboard squares and plastic cups over at Library Learners.

Magnetic poetry wall

Magnetic poetry at La Crosse Public Library

Have some fun with magnetic poetry (left)! If you have a magnet wall like the one pictured here it’s extra easy, but you don’t need something as elaborate as this! Try painting some cardboard with magnetic paint and lean it against a wall or set it on a table, and you’re good to go.




If you have a magnetic surface, there are lots of cool options to consider. Those book puzzle pieces pictured above? There’s magnetic tape on the back of each piece, so they double as magnet puzzles (below).

Book cover puzzles on a magnetic wall board

Magnetic book puzzles at La Crosse Public Library

Mad Libs provides some fun, free downloads, and you can find lots of other Mad Libs-style downloadables elsewhere online. Print them out, set them on a table with pencils or pens, and let kids get extra silly! Or, find a paper Mad Libs booklet and set that out instead!

Build your own Tinker Toys and let kids create like at Never Shushed.

When it comes to passive programming, this is just the tip of the iceberg. What awesome passive programs are you doing with your school age kids?


Kelsey Johnson-Kaiser is a youth services librarian at the La Crosse Public Library in La Crosse, WI and a member of the ALSC School-Age Programs and Services Committee. 

The post Passive Programs for School Age Kids appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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3. Taking Advantage of National Resources – The Smithsonian

As children’s librarians we give a lot of attention to reading and various literacy skills, and on many occasions we use fun activities to explore a variety of subjects with children. Through this blog and upcoming ones from me, I want to introduce and/or remind about us about the national based resources that can provide information and program ideas. Although I am spoiled with a wealth of program resources by working in Washington, DC at DC Public Library (DCPL), my colleagues and I should not be the only librarians taking advantage of these opportunities.

The Smithsonian site is overloaded with program resources from most of its 19 museums and galleries. Unfortunately this site doesn’t have a consistent method for accessing them. But by clicking on “educators”, “Kids” and/or “student” pages you should be able to find activities to checkout. Below are a few examples of the ideas and resources available (lifted from the site on Saturday, April 02, 2016).

American Art Museum
The American Art Museum (through its Renwick Gallery) has a project for creating a 3-D collage about your state through the program: Superhighway Scholars.

Although there is no direct link from the “Educators” page to some of the museums such the American Indian Museum and the Museum for African American History and Culture (which opens this September) you can go to their site to look for resources.

The above examples are not only good for you, but are great resources to recommend to teachers and other educators to check-out. You don’t have to do the lessons on the site exactly as presented but hopefully they will spark some new ways for fun programs with children. And, of course, promote your collection by showcasing related resources before and after the program.


Carmen Boston is a children’s librarian and the Children’s Programs and Partnerships Coordinator for DC Public Library and a member of the ALSC School-Age Programs and Services Committee. You can contact her at [email protected].

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4. Digital Reading Platforms & School-Age Children

As the librarian who coordinates OverDrive for my school district (thirteen librarians and approximately 10,000 students), I spend a lot of time with OverDrive and have been able to give the service a considerable amount of thought.  I think digital reading services are a really good fit for school age kids for a variety of reasons and here’s why…

OverDrive and other digital reading services are respectful of student privacy.  Kids may feel self-conscious about what they are reading for a variety of reasons.  Some kids read well below grade level, and they don’t want their peers to see what they are reading for fear of being made fun of.  Some kids have reading likes that are different than what they think their peers read (I had a fifth grade male student who liked reading books that he feared his peers might see as teen romance novels written for girls).  For these youths, these services provide a safe environment for them to explore their interests and reading needs.  It allows them to borrow materials that they might not check out if they had to bring it up to the circulation desk in front of other kids, their parents, or even an unknown adult.

OverDrive offers over 2,500 picture books in a “Read-Along” format.  These narrated books allow children to follow the words of the actual book while it is read aloud to them.  This feature helps build literacy in emerging readers and children who struggle with improving their reading skills.  While I know many of us (myself included) recognize the importance of the social interaction between a child and an adult who reads to him or her, the “Read-Along” format can be a valuable supplement and reinforcement of what kids are learning in school, in their libraries, and from their families.

Ebook collections generally operate (OverDrive certainly) with twenty-four hour remote availability.  That means your kids can access ebooks whether they are five hundred miles away visiting nana, or next door.  They can access your collection in July if your school library is closed for the summer.  They can borrow ebooks even if they can’t get a ride to the library because the buses are not operating when they can go.  If your kids have access to wifi and a computer or device to read on, they have access to ebooks.  The benefits of this go without saying!

One thing that I was surprised to learn is that at least one major children’s publisher offers a significantly larger selection of ebooks to public libraries than it does to school libraries through OverDrive.  I had no idea that this was the case until one of our students brought his device to one of my colleagues and asked about downloading a book from our public library’s OverDrive collection that was unavailable to us in the school library marketplace.  I assume that this is a business decision based on other products this company offers.  While it is disappointing from the school library perspective, it opens up the opportunity for dialog between public and school librarians.  This might, in turn, lead to greater collaboration on matters of collection development and instruction related to digital resources…as well as other topics.

Finally, we have to recognize the role technology plays in the lives of kids.  Numerous studies show that the great majority of children have access to smart phones, tablets and computers, even among low-income families.  While there are certainly good reasons to believe that not everything about the rise of technology has made life better for kids, it is impossible to deny that technology has become one of the ways that kids relate to and shape their world.  Digital reading services give us the opportunity to direct that eagerness and energy in a way that is helpful and productive to the development of young people and the skills they need to function.

Our students are incredibly enthusiastic about reading ebooks on their personal electronic devices.  They love looking for ebooks, checking them out, and downloading their selected titles.  My colleagues and I are delighted by this reception.  On a deeper level, the decision to develop a digital reading collection has helped our school libraries to be seen as more relevant and visible in our school community.  How great is that?!?


Dave Saia is a librarian at Heim Middle School in Williamsville, New York, and is a member of the ALSC School Age Programs and Services Committee.

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5. Fall programming for kindergarteners to tweens!

Building a Mystery (not the Sarah McLachlan song)

Have you ever attended one of those murder mystery programs for adults? Now you can make one for your tweens and teens at the library.

To run a good murder mystery program at your library you need to put your creative librarian hat on and let your imagination run wild. It is easy to spend money on a pre made mystery kit, but if you have the time, make your own. Create the mystery setting in your library, have a librarian go missing and set the crime scene. Caution tape and a duct tape outline of the body make for great props. Perhaps the librarian was found under a crack in the floor, or downstairs under a stack of books. Make sure evidence is planted and there is an estimate time of death. Identify what staff member will be the victim and the culprit and then the fun starts. Come up with a motive for each staff member involved. Write a short paragraph for each staff member including where they were the night of the crime and an alibi. Here is an example:

I left work around 2:30pm that day, I had a doctor’s appointment right in town and then I went home to make dinner and go to my kid’s school pageant. I would never do anything like that to Mary; she was one of my favorite people to work with. I really hope you figure out who did this”

 Write alibi’s for as many staff members as you can get to participate. Use these alibis to identify their time and location when the crime happened. These alibis will be recorded on video (use a video camera or your cell phone). Have each staff member read their alibi on camera, have some staff members look right into the camera, others not looking at all, tapping their feet and so on. When you show kids these videos have them look for different behavior that might make them look guilty or innocent.

Matching up with the times noted in each staff members alibi, make a fake schedule for all staff members, this will be used as a piece of evidence. Next write an email that has some back and forth between the victim and a potential suspect. Create fingerprints, using photos from online or dip your fingertips in pencil led and rub it on a piece of paper. Create writing samples of a note that was found with the victim. This is always the last clue, as the older kids will easily identify the matching handwriting.

It is always best to start with examining the crime scene, if you have the money in your budget go to the dollar store and purchase the mini composition notebooks that come in a pack of three. Kids will write their thoughts in here and feel like a real detective. After examining the crime scene, hand out the schedules to each kid, once the kids have those, show the videos and explain what an alibi is and what interrogation tactics are. Pass out the remaining clues one at a time and discuss. It always helps to have a large piece of paper with notes for each suspect hung up on the wall. Take a screenshot of the alibi movies and use that as the mugshot for each suspect. After kids have pieced all the evidence together and agree on a culprit, go ahead and make the arrest!

This program not only raises critical thinking skills, but also increases vocabulary and introduces children to careers.

Have fun!

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 3.39.08 PMMeredith Levine is Head of Youth Services at the Chattanooga Public Library in Tennessee. She is a member of the School Age Programs and Services Committee of ALSC. If you have any questions, email her at [email protected] and follow on Twitter @schmoopie517


Grossed-out and fractured Halloween

Several years ago, I attended an excellent children’s librarian skill share on using how to add props to story time. One of my colleagues introduced me to Bone Soup by Cambria Evans, a Halloween fractured fairy tale based on the “clever man” fable, Stone Soup.bone soup My colleague poignantly noted that most kids love to be grossed out and recommended Bone Soup as the perfect grossed-out fairy tale.

Finnigin, a wandering ghoul, is shunned by the local townspeople due to his infamous appetite.  Through his wits and a little kindness from a tiny werewolf, he manages to trick the others into contributing their ingredients to soup made from a “magic” bone, as well as gooey eyeballs, leathery bat wings and all. Bone Soup is guaranteed to delight a wide range of children but if you want to gild the lily a tad, the story is even more outrageous and fun when accompanied by a theatrical production of making the bone soup along with the story. I went to my local witches’ supply store, also known as the dollar store, to purchase the ingredients: mouse droppings
(brown rice), spider eggs (cotton balls painted with black dots), fake centipedes, plastic eyeballs, glow-in-the-dark bat wings, fingernails (fake nails), a large cauldron, and of course, a magic (plastic) bone.

I usually make the soup as I tell the story, stirring the mixture along with Finnigin and his reluctant friends; though, if I have a very patient group willing to share duties, I let the children concoct the magic soup themselves. Of course, I pretend to slurp the soup at the very end and the kids always demand to see the final product. Many of the young patrons at my old library branch did not celebrate Halloween officially, but they always demanded Bone Soup when All Hallows Eve rolled around.

witchat“Interactive” Bone Soup is a great and an easy, if not foul, way to add props to your Halloween storytelling! Pairing this version of the story with another version of Stone Soup (I recommend Jon Muth’s retelling) should invoke an interesting comparative folklore discussion!
Kate Eckert is a member of the School Age Programs & Services Committee and is a Children’s Librarian at the Free Library of Philadelphia. She tweets @8bitstate and may also be contacted at [email protected]

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6. Program-a-looza!

Last month’s ALA Annual conference saw the arrival of a mostly school-age sibling to Guerrilla Storytime and YA Smackdown.  On Sunday and Monday morning, Amy Forrester and Kahla Gubanich of the Denver Public Library and Multnomah County Library’s Danielle Jones gathered youth services librarians in the Networking Uncommons for a speedy discussion of easy, inexpensive programming for children from birth to age 12.

Program-a-looza circleAt Monday’s session, each participant offered an outline of a successful program, including crucial details such as accompanying snacks and the best ways to reuse old supplies.  (This is how I learned some Minecraft enthusiasts enjoy perler beads.  Thanks for the tip, Aaron!)  The Denver Public Library contingent plans lots of passive programs–including animal science activities and a spy training event–which may require a bit more set-up but can appeal to kids of all ages, last for hours, and be reused.  Danielle shared her preschool success with an Elephant and Piggie party featuring readers’ (or listeners’) theater complete with pig ears and elephant trunks.  Elementary-aged kids at my library have flocked to our annual Field Day: relay races, water balloon tosses and other outdoor games topped off with a watermelon snack.  Others mentioned older kids loving weeks-long shelfie competitions and Minecraft parties with origami, LEGOs, and the aforementioned perlers.

Look at all our great ideas for Emerging Reader Programs!

Look at all our great ideas for Emerging Reader Programs!

After a round of pre-proven ideas, we started a speed cycle of sticky-note brainstorming, scrawling suggestions and details to build on initial concepts.   In two-minute bursts, we raced through emergent reader programs, superhero suggestions, preschool computer classes, imaginative play programs, and more.  Check out convener Amy Forrester’s comprehensive list of the (legible) sticky notes for each theme on her blog.  And don’t worry if you missed last month’s program-a-looza; just come join the programming party at Midwinter 2016.

Robbin Ellis Friedman is a Children’s Librarian at the Chappaqua Library in Chappaqua, NY, and a member of the ALSC School Age Programs and Services Committee. Feel free to write her at [email protected]

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7. On Display: Create a Space for Your Youngest Library Patrons

In my library’s children’s area, we have a small glass display case at our desk with two shelves that looks like this:


Each month, we let kids in up to 5th grade sign up to come into the library and share their favorite collection with the community (like the Mixels in the photo above). They get to set everything up in the display case themselves, which for most of them, is a big deal. (They get to come behind the desk where the librarians work!) Then a staff member interviews the kids about their collections which is used to create a flyer of the responses. These flyers are then displayed in an acrylic holder next to the display case.

Here are the questions we ask:

1. Child’s name and age

2. When did you start this collection?

3. How did you become interested in collecting this item?

4. Why do you like collecting this item?

5. What is your favorite piece in the collection?

6. Anything else to add about your collection?

7. Any other hobbies/interests?

8. School/Grade

Here are a couple of examples of the flyers I’ve created (Note: Identifying information has been removed):



It’s always neat to see all of the things that our small patrons collect. We’ve had all kinds of different collections, from Barbies to baseball bobble-heads to rocks (although we most frequently get collections of cars or anything LEGO).

We take sign-ups twice a year on December 1st and January 1st. Siblings can sign up together and share the case if they are willing to do that.

It’s great because not only do the kids who sign up for the display love it, but the other kids who come in to the library get excited to see what’s new in the case each month. Plus, it takes very little preparation and implementation from the staff. My main duties as coordinator of the display case are:

  • Calling families to set up appointments to either pick up or set up their collection
  • Interviewing the participants
  • Creating a flyer of the responses

You can use any kind of display area in your library to do something similar, whether it’s a big case like ours or even as simple as the top of a shelving unit.

Do any of you do something like this at your library? Feel free to share in the comments!

Kim Castle-Alberts is the Chair of the School-Age Programs and Services Committee. She is also a Youth Services/Emerging Technologies Librarian at the Hudson Library & Historical Society in Ohio. You can find her on her blog, on Twitter, or at [email protected] 

All photos are courtesy of the Hudson Library & Historical Society.

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8. Taking Things Apart* (*No reassembly required.)

We enjoy making things in the Children’s Room.  Catapults for rubber band balls and elaborate paper airplanes. Colorful chemical reactions. Louise Nevelson-inspired shadow boxes. Hand-sewn pillows stuffed with lavender.  Even sushi and super delicious doughnuts topped with cinnamon sugar.  But as delightful as we’ve found stirring, stitching, and sculpting–and designing projectiles of all shapes and sizes–we’ve recently discovered how much fun we can have unmaking.

For a recent pTaking Things Apart 1rogram we called “Taking Things Apart* (*No reassembly required.),” we collected old computer system units that we begged from a university IT department, where offices constantly update and swap out their CPUs.  With a few screwdrivers and pliers from around the library and a few others brought in from home, we set up the computers on card tables and gathered fourth to sixth graders in small groups around each unit.  And then we asked them to find out what’s inside.

This wasn’t an electronic scavenger hunt–we provided no specific objectives or procedure to follow.  We talked about safety, though, and reiterated our goal to disassemble the computers, not to break them.  (There’s a reason we didn’t give them hammers, after all.)  Because the power sources can occasionally hold a dangerous charge even after unplugging the computers, we showed the kids how those components are labeled and instructed them not to touch the batteries.  As they got further into the guts of the machines, we came around and removed the power sources ourselves.  And we’re proud to report zero electrocutions.

Once they pried open the computer casings, the kids required no additional prompting to explore the electronics.  They delicately unscrewed hard drives, unhooked data cables, and plucked segments froTaking Things Apart 2m the motherboard.  Many of the larger pieces have their own serial numbers, and when students wondered about the purpose of a part, we offered them a (functioning) computer to enter the number and read about the component’s use.  And they cooperated!  Passing around the tiniest screwdrivers and holding sections steady for each other, they rooted around in the guts and held out their micro-trophies for everyone else to admire.  “Can I keep this part?” one asked, over and over.   “What about this?  I want to take this piece home with me.”  (No one took anything.  Everything went to hazardous waste at the dump the following week.)

Near the end of the program, one girl who had spent half an hour dismantling a DVD drive plopped into her seat.  As I scooted over to check in with her, she set her tools down and yelled: “This is so much fun!”  So, we had no projects to take home.  And we spent the hour deconstructing and not creating.  But we definitely made a good time.

Robbin Ellis Friedman is a Children’s Librarian at the Chappaqua Library in Chappaqua, NY, and a member of the ALSC School Age Programs and Services Committee. Feel free to write her at [email protected]

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9. LEGO Mindstorms for Tweens (Or How I Had to Give Myself a Crash Course in Robotics)

Mindstorms Robot 2.5At my library, LEGOs are perpetually popular. We host a LEGO Contest at least once a year with a continual level of success. Also at my library, we are currently focusing on new technology initiatives to enhance our programming. Thus, my idea to combine the two and try a LEGO Mindstorms program was born.

As I had never used LEGO Mindstorms before, I did a ton of research well in advance. I put a call out on several listservs for help and ideas, and received a plethora of valuable insight. Then, I asked my IT department to order a Mindstorms EV3 kit to try out to see if it would be doable for us. I worked closely with one of our IT technicians to tentatively make a plan: he would familiarize himself with the robots, be there to troubleshoot, and help with more advanced questions; and I would learn the very basics and come up with the program outline.

We ended up DSC00589purchasing 6 LEGO Mindstorms EV3 core kits to use and downloaded the free software from the Mindstorms website. (Note: You can purchase a site license from the LEGO Education site to get the Teacher’s Edition of the software. It’s much more expensive, but it’s supposed to come with lesson plans and such already done for you.) One day, about a month before the program, I went up to the IT office to work on the outline when I received the news: the IT technician I had been working with was leaving the next week for another job! This meant I was on my own and needed to be good enough to not only use the robots, but also teach the tweens how to use them.

I borrowed one of the robots and set to work giving myself a crash course in LEGO Mindstorms. I found The LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Discovery Book by Laurens Valk to be extremely helpful. I decided to break the program up into three 1-hour sessions and a final 2 hour session that would meet weekly after school. I opened up the program to tweens in grades 4 to 7 and geared it towards those with no programming or robotics experience. You can find a detailed outline of each of the sessions here, but this is basically how I broke down my program:DSC00595

Day 1: I wanted to give the tweens a good foundation for programming/coding language which would help them with the LEGO Mindstorms software, so for the entire first day we worked with the Hour of Code website. The nice thing about it was that the programming blocks on code.org looked almost identical to the programming blocks from the Mindstorms software. We went though the first hour of code together, but since I anticipated that some tweens would work faster than others, I told them where to stop (which was before the next video) and gave them extra mazes to complete if they finished early.

Day 2: I introduced the tweens to the LEGO Mindstorms software, the parts of the robot, and the steering blocks. Then I gave them some challenges to try based on what we learned, which you can find in my outline. (Note: To save time for this program, we pre-built the robots for them. We chose the Track3r bot with the claw arm as pictured at the top of this post.)

Day 3: We went over the rest of the action blocks (display, brick status, and sound) and the flow blocks. Then I gave them some more challenges based on what they learned that day, which you can find in my outline. We didn’t bother learning any of the other more complicated blocks since this was a beginner class, but I encouraged them to play around with these blocks if they felt comfortable.DSC00599

Day 4: I began with a very brief overview and asked if they had any questions. Then I gave them some time to just play around and experiment with programming their robots. With about an hour left, I gave them one final challenge using the mission pad mat that comes with the Mindstorms kit.

Here are some videos of the neat things they programmed the robots to do:

What I Learned:

  • The tweens had the most fun when they had free reign to experiment and play.
  • The final challenge that I gave them seemed to be too difficult and they got frustrated and just didn’t try. Next time I would either make up an easier version of that challenge or just forget it altogether.
  • Because we only had 6 kits, we put the tweens in groups of 2 and 3. This seemed to be a good number per kit.
  • I didn’t end up needing the full 2 hours for the last session day, so the next time I might just host four 1-hour sessions.


  • I realize that these robot kits are expensive and not every library has the funds to purchase multiple kits. One of the suggestions from the listserv was to work with your school’s robotics team to see if they would lend you kits and/or work with you to run the classes.
  • I was the only adult in the room with 16 tweens most of the time. For one of the sessions, I had the help of an older teen who had been on his school’s robotics team. It made all the difference when it came time for the tweens to complete their challenges. If you can have a second person in the room, especially if it’s someone who has advanced robotics experience, you’ll be much less overwhelmed.
  • For any challenge you give the tweens, have an answer key ready in case they get truly stumped so you can give them hints. I made up answers to my challenges, which you can find here and here. They helped me immensely, though please note that they aren’t the only possible answers and I am still not a robotics expert by any means.
  • I also tried this as a standalone 2 hour program. I geared it towards kids in grades 4 to 7 who had a basic understanding of programming or Mindstorms. I ended up getting a mix of beginners and non-beginners. The outline of this session was 30 minutes of software and robot overview followed by 90 minutes of challenges. Because I wasn’t sure about the experience level of this group, I gave them options for each challenge: an easy option and a more challenging one (make your robot move in a square or make your robot move in a triangle). This worked out really well!
  • If you don’t want to use the mission pad that comes with the kits, you can also download and create your own challenge maps here.

Other Helpful Links:

Beyond Legos: Coding for Kids (ALSC Blog)
Build Better Robots with LEGO Mindstorms Education EV3 (The Digital Shift)
Tinker Group
Getting Giggles
Robotics for the Rest of Us (YALSA Blog)

Have you hosted a LEGO Mindstorms program at your library? If so, any other tips/tricks?

Kim Castle-Alberts is a member of the School-Age Programs and Services Committee. She is also a Youth Services/Emerging Technologies Librarian at the Hudson Library & Historical Society in Ohio. You can find her on her blog, on Twitter, or at [email protected] 

All photos are courtesy of the Hudson Librar & Historical Society.

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10. Camps: The New Trend in Summer Reading

geek girl logo

This summer at the Fayetteville Free Library in Fayetteville, NY we piloted our first ever week long summer camp during Summer Reading. The Fayetteville Free Library Geek Girl Camp is a camp for girls in grades 3 through 5 introducing them to hands on STEM skills and to female role models. Months of work went into planning this camp fulfilling a need in our greater community.  According to the Girl Scout Research Institute,  “Research shows that girls start losing interest in math and science during middle school. Girls are typically more interested in careers where they can help others (e.g., teaching, child care, working with animals) and make the world a better place. Recent surveys have shown that girls and young women are much less interested than boys and young men in math and science.”[1]

We had 44 girls attend the FFL Geek Girl Camp from all over the greater Syracuse, NY area. We had over 10 girls on the waiting list and charged $25.00 for the camp to supplement the cost of food, t-shirts and supplies. We also offered four scholarship opportunities for those who might not be able to afford the cost of the camp. In addition to the 44 girls who came to the camp we had 9 speakers from across the country join us in person or via Skype. Speakers included students from Virginia Commonwealth University, Cornell University, Syracuse University and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Other speakers included women who worked for Facebook, the Air Force, a pharmaceutical research facility, and from national organizations, Girls in Tech and Girl Develop IT. Each day we heard from one or more speakers who talked about what they do at their jobs or in school and how important it is to have women working in these fields! They all made sure to relate to the girls in attendance and campers had great questions afterwards.


Throughout the week we had a great array of activities. We rented a cement mixer and made an oobleck pool for kids to run across after learning about density and viscosity, shot off model rockets, chucked books, apples and water balloons with a trebuchet after learning about projectiles, force, gravity and more.  Girls learned about fractals, made mini catapults, 3D printed, used littlebits kits, Snap Circuits and computer programmed with Scratch and much more.

The camp was a huge success that the parents of those who attended were above and beyond appreciative and wanted to already sign up for next year. We learned from this particular camp that we created something valuable for our community and that we need to transition into this camp model for future Summer Reading programs. We were asked, “When are you having a camp for boys”? We will not only have camp for boys and girls but of different ages as well. Planning FFL Geek Girl Camp did take a lot of time; however the outcome of the camp was far beyond what we expected and worth the time spent planning for the impact it had on our community. Camps offer children an opportunity to learn more and make stronger relationships over a short period of time.  Like camp as a kid it was a place to learn new things and meet new friends and create memories that last a lifetime.

CaptureThe first day of FFL Geek Girl, the campers were a little shy but after just the second day the girls couldn’t stop talking and working together. We run bimonthly programs where kids come in every other week to work on projects but having children in the library everyday for a week gives you an opportunity to teach kids a skill and not have to worry about rushing or not being able to complete the task, plus you have an opportunity to do projects or lessons that take longer and are more complex. Camps also give us a great opportunity to get to know our patrons. Girls come in and out of the library now looking for their camp counselors to say hi! Cost is also a huge factor in running a camp at a library versus a different venue. We had materials donated to the camp and used many of the resources we already owned including our own staff to run and plan the program. Most science camps can range in price anywhere from $75-$600. We decided that $25 was not only affordable but fit into our budget for the camp as well to make it run successfully.

CaptureWe think that camps are the future of Summer Reading. It gives us and the community an opportunity to focus on important topics like STEAM and produce content that is beneficial and influential. At the end of the week our campers said they wanted to be inventors, work at Google, become web developers and physicists. If it wasn’t for the atmosphere we created at the library and the week long camp we would have never saw these results and impact on our community.

Please check out our website for more information about the FFL Geek Girl Camp, our Flickr page and hashtag #geekgirl14 on Twitter and Instagram.

[1]Modi, K. (2012). “Generation STEM: What girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math” Girl Scout Research Institute. http://www.girlscouts.org/research/pdf/generation_stem_full_report.pdf


Meredith Levine is the Director of Family Engagement at the Fayetteville Free Library. Meredith is a member of the ALSC School Age Programs and Services Committee. Find out more at www.fflib.org or email Meredith at [email protected]

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11. Summer Partnership with Somali Students

Tukwila WA is one of the country’s most diverse cities. In part, it’s a hub for many Somali immigrants who attend mosque, visit the local ethnic shops and restaurants, and find support at the Somali Community Services Coalition (SCSC).  SCSC has a vital presence in Tukwila, offering an array of social services for their clients, Somali language instruction for non-Somali-speaking adults, and both afterschool and summer programs for children.  These refugee children are placed in the appropriate grade level by age when they arrive in the U.S.A. If a 5th grader doesn’t know English, nor is literate, it’s a struggle to keep up, especially with parents at home who can’t help them with their lessons, so I formed a partnership with the Youth Program Manager of SCSC to help reduce the summer slide. We made arrangements for two dozen elementary students to visit our library once a week during their summer school period. Our main goal was to improve the students’ reading skills, but we also hoped the Somali children would become familiar with library staff and feel comfortable using the library. I lined up our teen Book Buddy volunteer to help out with one-on-one reading sessions. Additionally, I was tasked with providing library materials to match different themes each week.

Working with this group required a fair amount of flexibility and creativity.  Challenges began on the first day – we wouldn’t be doing activities based on a theme, we’d simply be reading. I had to quickly come up with some activities and reading games that would work for children ranging in ages 4-10.  Those leftover science storytime materials from the previous night sure came in handy! In preparation for the following weeks, I thought of different ways of using our Bananagrams, and I took ideas from Reading Games for Young Children by Jackie Silberg. Her book offers a ton of ideas that can be adapted for early English language learners. I tried to make our reading activities fun for all the children.

The sessions were chaotic and meetings sometimes fell through. Managing this boisterous group was demanding, usually requiring constant interactions with several young people at once. But contributing toward the success of these students felt rewarding, and it was truly fun! They were so enthusiastic about learning!  I’ve been asked to resume working with the students in the afterschool program this fall and I’m looking forward to our continued partnership.

-Gaye Hinchliff, member of School-Age Programs and Services Committee, is a Children’s Librarian at Foster Library, a branch of the King County Library System

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12. Passive DIY Programming for Tweens

I’m always on the lookout for hands-on passive programming that will keep my tween audience engaged during the summer. Simple paper crafts, scavenger hunts, and guessing jars are great for the younger folk, but this age group is savvier and has a penchant for a more “sophisticated” activities.

To satisfy their need to design and create, our library has developed DIY projects that are low cost and easy to put together. Our program is set up to be self-serving, meaning we leave out the supplies and directions for the project and let the tweens help themselves. The supplies themselves are close to the staff desk, so if a tween does need a little help getting started, they can easily find someone to assist them. Each project is available for roughly a month and we try to stick to a budget of $50 for supplies.

Here are two of my favorite DIY projects we are offering this summer:

Hula-Hoop Weaving Hula Hoop Weaving

Weaving can be such a calming yet fulfilling activity for anyone. The repetitive action of moving the weft back and forth can be very relaxing. The supplies for this project are easy to gather. All one needs is hula hoops and old donated t-shirts that will be cut into strips.

Normally the tweens are able to take home the projects they have created, but with this project we decided to do something a little different. The finished weavings are staying in the hula-hoops for summer and being hung in the children’s department as part of our SRP’s decorations. After the summer these weavings will be turned into rugs and used by our youngest customers as storytime mats.

Miniature Terrariums Terrarium

Summer is a great time to introduce gardening to tweens, but with their overbooked schedules, we recognize they most likely do not have the time to actually tend a garden. Our solution, offer them an opportunity to make miniature terrariums.

These cute tiny gardens are fun to create and accessorize. To cut costs, try to work with a local gardening center to negotiate prices on succulents and air plants. Ask staff to bring in small sealable glass jars to also help defray the cost. Consider providing small plastic figures for the tweens to include in their gardens, so they can create environments for these figures to live in.

Offering these types of self-directed DIY activities has been very popular with the tweens at my library. As I noted at the beginning of this post, I am always looking for new ideas for these projects, to keep the tweens coming back. If you have a project that work in this type of format, please share in the comments. Ideas are wonderful things!


Amber Creger is a member of the School Age Programs & Services Committee. She works as the Youth Services Manager at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library in Arlington Heights, IL.

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13. Library as Art Gallery

It’s a sad but well-known fact that when school budgets are tight, art is one of the subjects that’s first to go. Fortunately, there’s nonprofit organizations like Art in Action, who bring high-quality, curriculum-based art education into schools that need it most. Students in the program learn about great works by masters and then produce their own artwork inspired by their studies. How can libraries get involved in this wonderful program? By turning the library into an art gallery!


In our town, Half Moon Bay, the library is one of the communitysites that display works by Art in Action participants. Each month, parent volunteers come to the library armed with bundles of nicely mounted and labeled artwork. They eye the walls in our children’s area then climb tall ladders and expertly mount the work.

The effect is immediate and visceral: the young artists’ creativity is boundless, surprising, and sometimes literally jumps off the canvas (in some cases, art is a full-on multimedia experience). In the Half Moon Bay Library, the majority of art is displayed above our picture books, which contributes to the building’s lovely, vibrant atmosphere. While I’m all for READ posters,  decorating our space with works by  young artists in our very own community is immensely satisfying. Needless to say, visitors both familiar with the young artists or simple art lovers marvel at the ever changing displays.

The library has connected Art in Action with our homeschooling community by offering a daytime class suited to their schedule, age range, and focus of study. The program is offered nationwide and may be a suitable resource for homeschooling groups interested in art education curriculums.

At the end of each school year, we partner with Art in Action to celebrate the end of a creative year. A public reception is hosted at the library, where artists are presented with certificates and are free to enjoy light refreshments and mingle with guests–fellow students, friends, and family. The audience is made up of both library users and infrequent users, making it a perfect time to highlight art books and do sign ups for the summer reading program, which always features arts and crafts activities. Families are delighted with the knowledge that they can continue their art exploration during summer months, while looking forward to the next round of Art in Action in the fall. It’s a win-win partnership, and an easy way to inject a bit more STEAM into your library programming.

Karen Choy is a member of the School Age Programs & Services Committee. She works as the Youth Services Librarian at the Half Moon Bay Library in California. She blogs for kidsteens, and adults at the San Mateo County Library Web site.

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14. Starting the School Year Off Right

At this point of the year, all of us are in the midst of planning how to make our summer programs come alive to help avoid the summer slide and along comes someone who wants to talk about getting ready for the next school year. Yikes!

No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you (and please don’t shoot this messenger!). I’d like to suggest that fall is where we should be looking already. In just a few short months there will be toddlers taking on preschool, preschoolers making their way to kindergarten, grade-schoolers flying up to their next level or even on to middle school or junior high. It would be easy for them to get lost in the September shuffle. What can we do to help?

At my branch, we’ve come up with a few super simple and effective ways to stay connected and let our families and school partners know we care. Here’s our checklist for September Success:

  • Call your schools now to find out when teacher orientations are. Get on their agenda, even if it’s only for 10-15 minutes to introduce yourself.
  • Develop a print packet or PowerPoint to share information with your family and school partners. Include booklists, database demonstrations, tours, program schedules, tutoring sources, library card sign-ups, and booktalks. Get this information to family-focused community based organizations, as well.
  • Find out what other community partners have to offer. Check in with the Y, Boys and Girls Club, faith-based groups, the Parks Department. Compile a list to have handy when parents and caregivers ask what’s happening in town.
  • Create a friendly afterschool space for studying and hanging out (and get all staff on board as library ambassadors by sharing with them the importance of our place in the literacy “food chain.”)
  • Create a spreadsheet with your school contacts. Make sure it has the following information: name of school, school librarian (if any) and principal, contact phone numbers and emails, mailing addresses, grade spans, class sizes (great when you need to have things sent home with students), languages spoken and any other notable details.
  • Send a welcome letter to the directors & principals at the start of the school year, including special services that you can provide. Be sure to let them know any special library rules or policy updates that they can share with their staff. Invite them to come for a library tour.
  • Create (or update) a space on your library’s website with information and pictures of your youth services staff. Add personal touches such as favorite books or hobbies. Also, what they like to be called (Miss Lulu, Mr. T, Ms. Smith, or just plain Jane).
  • Find out when each school’s Parent/Teacher organization meets and get on their agenda and mailing list.
  • Get a copy of the school schedule and red-circle early release dates and breaks on your staff planning calendar. Schedule extra staffing and special activities (free family films, gaming tables, LEGO club, make-n-takes, story times) to support students who aren’t otherwise occupied.

As you can see, with a bit of forethought and organization, the coming school year need not be that stressful thing that rears its ugly head at you late in August. You’ll simply slide from summer to September!


Beth (Rosania) Stalford, a member of the School Age Programs & Services Committee, is the Library Services Supervisor—Children & Teens at King County Library System in Bellevue, WA.

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15. Middle Grade Maker Book Club

Timing is everything – right?

It isn’t often that the exact book you need is published exactly when you need it! Many of us are engaged in providing all types of maker spaces and maker programs from low-tech legos to minecraft, coding, and 3-D printers. Even storytime crafts are maker activities for the very young.

These new books by Bob Pflugfelder make a terrific school age book club/maker program in one for grades 3-6 and appropriate for school or public libraries. They are unlikely to win awards for literary merit, but they could win an award for kid appeal on many levels.

Siblings Nick and Tesla use their wits and their uncle’s workshop to invent cool gadgets using readily available stuff to overcome problems and obstacles and to ultimately solve a mystery. My reluctant readers are fighting my avid readers for these books!

Nick and Tesla’s high-voltage danger lab : a mystery with electromagnets, burglar alarms, and other gadgets you can build yourself

Nick and Tesla’s robot army rampage : a mystery with hoverbots, bristlebots, and other robots you can build yourself

Build an adventure.

Sarah Abercrombie
School Age Programs and Services
[email protected]

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16. Common Core at Curriculum Night

It was curriculum night at a local Tukwila elementary school – with a focus on Common Core State Standards! I was excited to go!
As a public librarian, I’m always trying to figure out how I can be supportive and involved with students and school staff. ALSC has a resource page (http://www.ala.org/alsc/ccss-resources), and previous ALSC Blog posts have been helpful, but a chance to personally interact with local elementary staff was not to be missed! I could focus on talking to the principal and teachers about CCSS and find out what’s going on in my school district. Education leaders in WA expect the 2014-2015 CCSS assessments to result in lower scores state-wide. As “the most diverse school district in the nation” with 80% of students qualifying for free/reduced meals, there already exist many challenges in preparing students in Tukwila for graduation. Maybe I could gain some insight into providing help.

Right off the bat, the principal mentioned great interest in our newly formed Book Buddies program where teen volunteers spend time reading with younger kids. I discovered students are expected to read each night – since reading, along with math, will be areas of concentration for this school. I was delighted to hear we’re on the principal’s radar and we’re offering a program that matters to him.

After a general presentation, the grade levels broke up into individual presentations and I attended the 4th grade session.  Students in this grade will have access to Chromebook laptops and will use the following websites at school and at home to help with reading: Lexia, Raz-Kids, and Spelling City. Most homework will be math, including these websites: TenMarks and XtrMath. Because not all students will be taking laptops home with them, our public library branch can offer support by being familiar with these sites and providing homework help during nonschool hours.

The slide presented by the 4th grade teachers about Reading and CCSS was simple and encouraging:
• To read both narrative and expository texts
• To understand and remember what they read
• To relate their own knowledge or experiences to texts
• To use comprehension strategies to improve their comprehension
• To communicate with others about what is read

Does this sound familiar? On a basic level these are the same strategies we promote in Story Time when we talk about literacy and reading with a child. We know children’s librarians are preparing families long before the children go to school. Now I’m thinking of new conversations with parents whose children are already reading on their own – how they can continue to build reading skills and thus pave the way to making the new standards that much easier to understand and achieve.

-Gaye Hinchliff, member of School-Age Programs and Services Committee, works for KCLS in Tukwila, WA and can be reached at [email protected]

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17. School (Language Arts) and sucking the fun out of reading.

I’m a school librarian. I teach my students research tools and skills, how to be better searchers, and more critical consumers of information. I support instruction, I give lots of book-talks, I make sure teachers know about important books.  It is pretty much my job description, but it isn’t why I love this job.

Being a school librarian satisfies the slightly subversive or rebellious part of my nature. Every day I fight the battle.  Every day teachers are dutifully sucking the fun out of reading, and everyday I fight to put the fun back in. I encourage children to abandon books that don’t grab them.  I send them away with three to try. I, unlike their teachers, read tons of books for children.  I know not only what’s hot, but also what is really good.

Why the battle? Because we lose them as readers. Often it happens in Middle School, but definitely in High School, and I’m pretty sure I know why.

I attended the mandatory English/LA teacher training this year at my school.  It was eye-opening, almost fascinating; it was torture.  Oh! The flashbacks to everything that mystified me about English/LA instruction in school. No more novels; the focus of reading will be on short stories. Hear the short story, read the story, write down any questions, discuss, read it again find evidence in the text, discuss again. Shoot me now! Even though several decades have passed since I was a kid in the classroom, I was still the concrete block in the room.  I read it, I understood it, and I had no questions.

Ok, I may be the only professional MLA certified librarian in the world who never took an undergraduate college course in English, or literature.  I was an engineer for the first 10 years of my professional life, which is a different blog post entirely. Let’s just say that I’m really well-read, and plenty analytical, but I have never seen the point of analyzing “literature”. Come to think about it, I’m not sure I even know what makes something “literature” instead of just a novel, book, or story.

Why must children and teens analyze books (literature?) to death for eight years in school, which is really only useful and relevant if you happen to choose a literature major? Actually, they don’t.  Everything they are required to read has already been analyzed and written about to death. NOBODY reads the required books. Schmoop and about 1,000 other websites are fine for that. No critical thinking here!

Let them read new books, choose books that speak to them. They will be willing to read them deeply, thoughtfully and critically, which in my opinion should be the real goal. Maybe we won’t lose them anymore.

Sarah Abercrombie
Chair School-Age Programs and Services Committee
Head Librarian
Greenwich Country Day School
[email protected]

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18. It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane…It’s a Superhero Training Academy!

Superheroes are everywhere, from the blockbuster movies we see to the ever-popular Halloween costumes for both children and adults. There are even dedicated days to these comic book crusaders, such as Free Comic Book Day and San Diego Comic Con. Superheroes can inspire us to be greater; to be the do-gooders in the world.

With this in mind, I wanted to try a Superhero Training Academy for grades K to 5 this past summer. After asking for advice on the listservs and perusing some library blogs I decided to do self-directed stations. This would allow kids to spend as much or as little time as they wanted at each station. I was also inspired by the Unprogramming Conversation Starter that I attended at ALA Annual in Chicago.

My hero!

I dressed up as Batgirl, which seemed the most obvious being that she too is a librarian.

As the kids arrived, they received a checklist of superhero tasks that they needed to complete. I explained that they could spend as much time as they wanted at each station, but only when they completed all of them could they come up to me to receive their graduation certificate and become an official member of the Justice League. I purchased a really cool PDF template from Etsy to use for the certificate, but you could also just make one of your own on Publisher.

These are the superhero tasks that I chose:

1. Make Your Own Mask/Superhero Identity: I found a mask template on Google and printed it off onto cardstock. Every superhero needs a secret identity, so I printed “My identity is secret. Please call me…” onto white address labels. I also set out some yarn and markers to let them color their masks and write their names. Voila! Super easy.

The Cape Station

And because no superhero is complete without a cape, I found this handy tutorial online. I purchased red plastic table covers from my local party store and white elastic. I then found a shield template on Google. I enlarged the template 400% and printed them off onto 11″ x 17″ paper, which made them the perfect size for a cape.



Mighty Muscles

2. Mighty Muscles: Each child was tasked with lifting a boulder and a barbell 5 times each. I made a barbell with a wooden dowel, 2 foam balls, and foam spray paint that I bought at my local craft store. For the “boulder” I simply used a black bean bag.

3. Tunnel Crawl: I set out our play tunnel and told the superheroes-in-training that they needed to prove their agility by crawling through the tunnel and back.

Spiderman’s Web

Strike Out the Villain

4. Spiderman’s Web: We had a spider web decoration for Halloween, so I just covered that with masking tape facing out. The kids had to stand behind the line and make 3 large pom-poms stick to the web. You could also just put the masking tape in an open doorway so that it looks like a spider web.


Rescue Mission


5. Strike Out the Villain: I covered empty soda cans with pictures of (in)famous villains and set out plastic play balls. The children had to test their aim by knocking every villain down.




Kryptonite Disposal

6. Rescue Mission: My very handy husband built me a balance beam for this activity. I made a “lava pit” out of red paper. The object of this task was to walk across the lava pit without falling, pick up the baby doll at the end, and then carry it back.




7. Kryptonite Disposal: I found some green plastic balls in our toy area to use as Kryptonite. Using plastic spoons, kids had to carry 3 of the balls to the disposal area (a.k.a. a clean garbage can).

8. Brain Power: I put some jelly beans in a jar and the children had to guess how many there were by using their superhuman brain powers. The child who had the closest guess won the entire jar.

9. Super Refueling Station: Because even the best superheroes need to refuel after a long day of training, I set out Avengers fruit snacks, Spiderman graham crackers, and green Hawaiian Punch for a snack.

10. Photo-Op Corner: I found a roll of cityscape backdrop to hang up where the superheroes could take photos. I had a cutout of Iron Man to pose with as well.

All in all, the party was a huge success! The kids had a lot of fun showing off their super skills.

Have you ever planned a Superhero Party at your library? What activities did you do?

For more programming ideas, please visit the full Kickstart List available online.

All program photos courtesy of the Hudson Library.

Kimberly Castle-Alberts is a Children’s/YA Librarian at the Hudson Library & Historical Society in Hudson, OH and is writing this post for the School-Age Programs and Services Committee. You can follow her adventures as a youth services librarian at http://literarylibrariankim.blogspot.com. She can be reached at [email protected]

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