Saturday, November 26, 2022

Boo Bash & Spooky Stories Halloween Programs

I'm finally getting around writing up my Halloween programs from last month! I have been super busy and super exhausted for the last two months, and feeling rather uninspired. But, here they are, finally.

The programming survey I conducted at the end of the summer indicated that people really wanted more holiday and seasonal special programs, so I planned a "Boo Bash" for the 5 & under crowd. My co-worker was also doing a Halloween program for the teens and tweens, so I decided to add a "Spooky Stories" program for the elementary kids, so there would be something for every age.

I scheduled the elementary program for the evening, and envisioned re-creating the feel of
telling scary stories around a campfire, followed by s'mores and a take-home craft kit. I created a fake campfire with cardboard tubes covered in woodgrain contact paper, twisted and scrunched to look more realistic, and a lot of hot glue to hold them in place. I filled the center with scrunched up pieces of red, yellow, and orange cellophane, and glued a few small bunches of tissue paper in those same colors for the flames. Finally, I took a dozen electric flickering tea lights and tucked them in the cellophane all around. It turned out really well.

Sadly, the program itself did not go that well. I only had a handful of kids show up, primarily for the snacks, which I had changed to a s'mores snack mix bar rather than traditional s'mores after deciding that it would be too difficult to manage making real s'mores without another staff member to assist. The stories I chose were evidently not spooky enough, the older kids were not engaged at all, and were talking and snickering amongst themselves, and one kid in particular was being extremely obnoxious and disruptive. I tried letting them take turns telling spooky stories, which they just used to make jokes at their friends' and siblings' expense. It turned out to be an exercise in frustration, and something I will never do again.

Fortunately, the "Boo Bash" was a big success! It was essentially a storytime with extra activities. I started out with a hello song, then read my favorite Halloween book, The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams and Megan Lloyd. This book is so much fun to read aloud, and it's the one book I never get tired of doing over and over. The repetition invites audience participation, and I love being able to scare them just a little with the "Boo" towards the end. It's also nice in that it doesn't specifically mention Halloween, and doesn't contain witches or magic, so has broader appeal. 

I followed that with "Five Little Pumpkins" and "Little Ghost", with everyone using a tissue for their little ghost.

Five Little Pumpkins

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.
The first one said, "Oh my, it's getting late!"
The second one said, "There are bats in the air."
The third one said, "But we don't care!"
The fourth on said, "Let's run and run and run!"
The fifth one said, "It's Halloween fun."

Then WOOSH went the wind, and OUT (clap) went the light.
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight!. (roll arms)

Little Ghost

Little ghost, little ghost, flying through the air.
Little ghost, little ghost, tickling my hair.

Little ghost, little ghost, flying way down low.
Little ghost, little ghost, tickling my toes!

Little ghost, little ghost, flying all around.
Little ghost, little ghost, please sit down.

I followed that by reading my second favorite Halloween book, Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman. I love this book for the repetition, the lesson in cooperation, and because it shows several traditional Halloween spooks and characters in a non-scary way.

Then it was time for trick-or-treating around the library! I led the kids in a loop, starting at the children's service desk, then through the back staff area, back out to the circulation desk, then back to the children's area, with 4 treat stops in total. The older kids got a kick out of being allowed in the "secret" staff areas. For treats we gave out a goody bag with a pencil, sticker pack, stamp, and fruit gummies; mini cereal bars, white chocolate mini candy bars, and another goody bag with bubbles, slap bracelet, and novelty squishy eraser. Note: I also provided large trick or treat bags for those who did not bring anything, which was much appreciated.

Once back in the children's area we went into the program room for crafts/activities. I had 4 stations set up: (1) craft foam pumpkins with stickers to make faces, (2) dot painting, (3) classic lollipop ghosts, and (4) a fall/Halloween sensory bin fill with colored shredded paper and acorns, mini pumpkins, small pine cones, plastic spiders, and plastic skulls mixed in. There were also large jack o'lantern cardboard cutouts for photo ops.

Thankfully this program was well-attended and went really well. Everyone seemed to have a great time, and the kids were all really cute in their costumes and Halloween outfits. The only downside was that one person grabbed extra sticker sheets to take home (I only realized in hindsight what they were doing), which meant 3 kids didn't have stickers to make faces on their pumpkins and had to use markers. Luckily, they were all on the younger side so didn't realize they were missing out on anything. 

And here I am dressed as Pete the Cat, with my staff Ms. Frizzle (from The Magic School Bus: Going Batty by Joanna Cole & Bruce Degen) and Mouse (from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff & Felicia Bond).

[I like the idea of costumes, until it comes time to try to put one together! I find commercial costumes to be cheaply made, poorly fitting, hot, and uncomfortable, so I try to put something together using regular clothing, and my co-workers did the same.

My costume was navy blue leggings & long-sleeved t-shirt from Wal-Mart, the cheapest red hi-top sneakers I could find (Amazon), yellow button-up shirt from Goodwill, ears cut from felt and stapled to headband I already had, buttons cut from felt and safety-pinned on, and tail from Amazon. I spent more than a Pete costume would have cost, but I guarantee I was more comfortable, and the individual pieces can be worn again for everyday, except the ears and tail of course.]

Sunday, September 25, 2022

When Programs Flop

It's something every programmer dreads, putting time and effort into what we think is a good program, and nobody shows up. But it's probably happened to all of us at least once, and it doesn't feel good. Though the word cloud above may be a bit harsh, it is definitely how I felt at the time when it happened to me. Like having no one show up to your birthday party, it's hard not to take it personally. And let's face it, as much as we say numbers aren't everything, we aren't naïve; we know numbers are how we are often judged.

I think we are all familiar with the anxiety around attendance that precedes every program. How many should I prepare for? What if too many people show up? What if no one shows up? I have had both happen, and though having more people show up that expected can be very stressful, I think having way less than expected is worse. 

I've only once had no one show up for a program, but it was for a storytime that only had 2 regular families, and a couple more occasional families. I had just added this second storytime a couple of months before, and it hadn't been well attended. I wasn't too upset about it, except that it was my last week at this library, and I hated not having a chance to say good-bye.

However, I recently had a program that I expected to get a large attendance for, say at least 20 kids, and only had 5. I had planned a program around the release of Mo Willems' new Pigeon book, The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster!, thinking a popular character of a series spanning almost 20 years would attract quite a few families. I scheduled it for a Saturday morning, thinking it would appeal to both preschoolers and younger elementary-aged kids. I had a number of activities planned that were loosely inspired by the Pigeon and other Mo Willems characters; some were borrowed, but some were my own. Since I had no idea what to expect as far as attendance, I asked both YS staffers to come in on Saturday to help.

[In case you're curious, here is a list of planned activities and the books/characters that inspired them:

  • Reading the new book, The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster
  • Marble Runs (purchased sets and DIY), The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster
  • Cookie Toss (using beanbag cookies I made by making 'slipcovers' for our regular beanbags with fabric & fabric glue), The Duckling Gets a Cookie?/The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster (roller coasters make some people toss their cookies, right? 🤣)
  • Cookie Counting (count choc. chips, match to number in cookie jar, from Totschooling), The Duckling Gets a Cookie?
  • Duckling, Duckling, Pigeon (like Duck, Duck, Goose)
  • Dress Wilbur (from Mo Willems' Pigeon Presents site, The Naked Mole Rat
  • Help Trixie & Knuffle Bunny get to our library (coloring character then cutting and pasting onto a B&W picture of our library), Knuffle Bunny (this was inspired by a similar activity described by Kelly Corr Amodeo in the 'Programming Librarian' Facebook group)
  • Wash the Dirty Pigeon (printed large picture of Pigeon and laminated, then used washable crayons and dry erase markers to make them dirty, kids could use cloths, paper towels, and baby wipes to clean him up, and then dirty him up again), The Pigeon Needs a Bath! [This one I actually came up with all on my own!]
  • Create Your Own Comic (panels with line drawings of Elephant & Piggie to color, and empty speech bubbles to write in, original source unknown), Elephant & Piggie series.
  • Raffle off a copy of the new book
  • Mo Willems character scavenger hunt
  • Coloring sheets

Pigeon activities, Pigeon library program, Mo Willems program,
Pigeon activities, Pigeon library program, Mo Willems program,

And yes, I totally over-planned with way too many activities, but I was trying to (1) cover a range of ages (3-8), and (2) have enough stations to spread everyone out if I got a big crowd (which is laughable in hindsight).]

So, I had everything set up, had printed out large characters on our plotter to put on the walls, made really cute signage for all the activities, and at start time I had ONE child (there had been another family with two young children, but they arrived at least 30 minutes early, and the kids had gotten too fussy by the time the program started and they left). Luckily a few more trickled in, but I still ended up with a total of only five kids. Now, those five were very excited to be there and had a great time, so I would not say it was a waste of time. 

However, if I had known I was going to have such a small crowd I would cut way down on how many activities I had, I would have given away a paperback copy rather than a hardback copy, and I would not have had my staff come in. I felt really bad about having them come in on a weekend when it turned out to be completely unnecessary. I also felt bad for how much paper and ink I had used for all the decorating, signage, and activities. And I felt pretty foolish for having so misjudged the attendance and over-doing the whole thing.

So, what do you do when this happens? First, try not to beat yourself up. The public can be very fickle, especially now, and it can be so hard to predict what they will show up for, and what good days and times are. I had even conducted a survey to try to figure out what people wanted and when, and though I didn't get as many responses as I would have liked, the ones I got indicated this program would have been more successful. Do try to learn from it, see if you can figure out what might have gone wrong. Was there a competing community event? Was it not promoted well? Was there bad weather that would make people stay home, or exceptionally nice weather that would make people want to do something outdoors? Was it just not the right activity for that age group? Maybe a different day or time? Sometimes you really never know, and someone else could so a similar program another time or at another location and get a huge turnout.

So where did I go wrong? Honestly, I'm not completely sure, and can only guess. I promoted the program heavily on our social media, with posters and flyers in the library, on our TV screen in the entry way, in storytimes, and to any patrons that happened to come in with kids of the right age. There was a festival going on that weekend, but since our building is literally right next to the area blocked off for the festival, we thought that would help rather than hurt, thinking families would park at the library, come in for the program, and then walk next door to the festival. But it didn't work out that way. Also, I knew sports are a big thing here on Saturdays, but I did not realize how early they start these days. I thought age 5 was a little early when my kids started, but now organized sports are apparently starting at age 3! This community also seems stuck in the mentality of thinking library programs are just for the summer.

And finally, I just have to learn to manage my expectations, and forget everything I knew from pre-pandemic days at my old library that was larger, much busier, and in a very population-dense are with a community that had a much stronger reading/library culture. Those days are gone, and I am starting from scratch, post-pandemic, in a different community. I need to let go of the past and figure out what the new normal is, and accept it's going to be a lot of trial and error and time to get there. I am going to keep programs very simple until I start getting better attendance, and I will probably not be doing a Saturday program again any time soon.

So, that's all a very long-winded way of saying: don't beat yourself up, it happens to everyone, celebrate the small victories, learn what you can from it, recycle/reuse what you can, and move on!

Anyone else care to share about a program that flopped?

Sunday, September 11, 2022

SRP 2022 Reflection - Summer Programs

In my last post I reflected on the reading challenge portion of our summer program, and in this one I'll focus on the programming. Overall, the programming part went well; programs were well-attended and we received a lot of positive comments.

The way I organized summer reading and programming was very different from what my predecessor had done, but more in line with what most libraries seem to do. She only had it for four weeks, relied very heavily on paid performers, did not have storytimes in the summer, and did not have age-specific programs. The best I can tell is that her programs were kind of a drop-in free-for-all with various crafts or activities set out, and she did this once or twice a week, in addition to paid performers once or twice a week. 

I felt like people needed something for the whole summer, and a little less intense. I also felt that is important to continue storytime in the summer, as well as have more age-specific programming. I'd been told by several people that the person before me didn't really program for the older kids, just the younger ones, and the teen person programs for middle school and high school ages, so elementary kids just got left out. So I wanted to be sure to have programs just for them in the summer. 

I planned on a weekly rotation, with everything in the morning in case we had to be outside due to Covid. I felt having things on the same day and time each week would make it easier for caregivers to remember. I kept Monday's free for planning and prep, then had toddler storytime on Tuesday, preschool storytime on Wednesday, Thursdays were paid performers or movie days (to give me extra prep time for the elementary programs), and Fridays were for elementary programs. My co-worker had teen programs in the afternoons or on Saturdays, but not necessarily every week.I also required registration, because I had limited supplies for some programs, and we didn't want people to be too crowded together due to Covid.

We did follow the CLSP theme of "Oceans of Possibilities" and most of our programs tied in with that theme. I also ended up having loose weekly sub-themes. It was a super easy theme to decorate and program around. We also started with a kick-off party, with a variety of games, crafts, and costumed characters, as well as a caricature artist.

In general, everything went well. The kick-off was hugely successful, we got a lot of positive feedback about our programs, and programs were well attended. The elementary age-group programs were particularly popular and well-attended, though we did have trouble with a few people who couldn't understand the concept of age-specific programming and came in just assuming it was for all ages, even though it was clearly labeled and marketed as being for ages 6-10 and there were other programs for toddlers, preschoolers, and families.

While I will probably do things very similar next year, there are some things I've learned that will impact next summer's programming:

  • No one cares about watching free movies at the library anymore, even with free snacks.
  • This community needs more all-ages family programming.
  • People had a very hard time with the concept of registering for each program (and that it was different from registering for the reading challenge). They thought if they registered once, they were registered for everything all summer.
  • Attendance dropped significantly for the preschool and toddler programs in July, and slightly for the elementary programs.
  • I cannot do all the kids' programming myself, and will have to delegate at least some to our full-time teen specialists (who does fewer programs in the summer) and our part-time associate (she had just started in May, so I didn't want to throw her into programming that soon).
  • I definitely need to have programs planned out better further in advance. I was scrambling to stay caught up summer as I was still planning as I went.
  • Plan the first week's programs to be easy, low-fuss, and using materials that are easy to stretch in case of unexpectedly high numbers. Allow for time at the beginning to explain how it all works, expectations, rules, etc. 
  • Do NOT plan on making slime or doing anything more involved or with safety concerns the first week or two, that's better for once you've gotten to know your group and things are going smoothly.
  • Be prepared for pushback if you enforce ages, and make sure your manager/director will back you up. I had a mom throw a hissy fit and make a big scene, then trash me on Facebook because I would not let her toddler participate in a program for elementary ages due to safety concerns with the particular activity. She had been told this in advance, and hoped to bully me into giving in by making a scene. She found out I don't give in to bullies or tantrums, whether by a 4 year old or a 40 year old, and my director and several other parents backed me up. I knew if I gave in, there would be no end to it.
I think the biggest change for next year is trying to fit in more all-ages family programs, and moving away from registration. I definitely want a few more teen programs as well. I'm not sure about having all the kids stuff in the mornings. I liked it, and at least one patron commented that they like it, and while we got no negative comments, I can't help but wonder if some families missed out because there was nothing in the afternoon, evenings, or weekends.

How did your summer programming go? What worked and what didn't? What will you do differently next year?

Monday, August 15, 2022

SRP 2022 Reflection - The Reading Challenge


When I started this job in December of 2021, I knew that the summer was going to be hard and stressful, with getting a late start planning it, rebuilding from the ground up, having no idea what people wanted or what kind of numbers to expect, and it was my first time being responsible for actually planning and executing an entire summer reading program. I've lived through many, but always in larger systems where SRP was planned centrally by someone else, and only having to be responsible for planning my own handful of programs. But I was excited at the prospect of for once being able to do things the way I thought they should be done, or so I thought.

As it turned out, though I had been initially told I had free reign (as long as I stayed within the budget), I was hired by an interim director, and once they hired a new director that changed. I was at least still able to plan the programming part how I wanted, but for the second year in a row, I was forced to scrap what I had already planned for the reading part and do something that I didn't think was a good idea, a good fit for the community, nor served my goal of making it fun and encouraging even reluctant readers. My team and I had planned a fun, low-pressure Bingo-card style reading and activity log that would be easy to do, be non-competitive, and hopefully encourage reading for pleasure, trying new things, and attending library programs. We were really excited about it, and I liked how all the staff could be involved and contribute ideas for the squares.

However, the new director discovered something I was unaware of, that the previous administration had already paid for a multi-year subscription to Beanstack, an online reading tracker, and directed me to use it instead. While I understood the thinking that we should give it one good try since it was already paid for, it is everything I wanted to avoid in summer reading: heavily incentivized, highly competitive, and removes the kids from the equation as the parent has to do all the tracking. I also knew it would not be a good fit for this small-town, rural community where wifi access and cell service are very limited, people in general are not very tech savvy, and even those that are comfortable with technology don't necessarily *want* more tech in their lives. I had hoped to at least be able to supplement with paper logs, but was strictly forbidden to do so 🤷. I guess the thinking was we could force the community to do everything online, but I knew from prior experience that does not work. 

I found Beanstack to be incredibly painstaking and time-consuming to set up. This needs to be done by someone with a dedicated position for this kind of thing, not your children's librarian who is also doing all the collection development, all children's programming, supervising the teen programmer, and training a new part-timer, all while trying to get ready for summer! I am fairly good with technology, but spent many, many hours working on Beanstack to get the challenges set up and tweaking it, and I still wasn't really happy with it in the end. I tried to eliminate the features that made it feel competitive, and tracked by minutes as that seemed to be the most fair way to accommodate both fast and slow readers, advanced readers, beginning readers, those who read more shorter books, those who reader fewer longer books, those who read a little every day, and those who may read for several hours just one or two days a week.

My goal for summer reading is simply to get kids reading and enjoying it! The picture above represents what I think summer reading should be about. It is my opinion that the heavily incentivized summer reading programs that have become the norm are counter-productive. I feel they only work for the kids who love reading, are strong readers, and would read anyway; and the competitive feel, high pressure, and big goals are going to be a turn-off for kids who are not strong readers, or reluctant readers for whatever reason. There is also research that suggests that incentivized reading does not promote lifelong reading as reading stops once the incentive is no longer there, and that in general incentivizing something that was originally done by choice for enjoyment reduces that behavior rather than increasing it. Also, I've seen that big, expensive, flashy prizes just results in more cheating, not more reading.

It was very difficult to set up a summer reading program that fit my philosophy using Beanstack, but I did the best I could. Also, since incentives have come to be expected, I felt it would be counterproductive to eliminate them completely. Since my primary goal was to get as many books into as many hands of kids as possible, everyone who registered for the reading challenge got a free book that they got to choose from our selection, and if they reached the goal of 1000 minutes (somewhat arbitrarily chosen), they got a second book. Then at various milestones they earned entries into the grand prize drawings. There were 5 drawings for each age group, and the prizes were mostly various $25 gift cards (that we got for free with points on our company credit card account), but there were also some physical prizes with an approximate value of $25. I wanted the prizes to be just enough so that they felt like they had really gotten something, but not so much that it would motivate a lot of cheating, or that kids would be devastated if they didn't win. 

In all of our marketing materials and in talking with kids and parents I emphasized free-choice and leisure reading, that it was not a competition nor like school: there was no reading list, it didn't have to be library books, any and all reading counted (print, e-books, audiobooks, graphic novels, fiction, non-fiction, reading independently, reading to someone else, being read to...), and it was not about who read the most. It was simply about the joy of reading. For the prize books I tried to provide a wide selection of good books (purchased mostly through Scholastic's "Literacy Partners" program, but also a few from Dollar Tree), and we set up the teen lounge (which never gets used once school is out) like a little bookstore. This was a huge departure from how my predecessor used to do things, which apparently was to give the same book to all kids of that age along with "homework", and then when they finished the book and assigned activities, they got another book; a very school-like approach.

So, how did it go? Well, not surprisingly our participation numbers were very low. I didn't really know what was a realistic goal for this small town, but had hoped to get somewhere around 350 to maybe 500 (though I thought 500 was probably a very lofty goal). We ended up with about 300 kids signed up for the reading challenges, which I thought wasn't bad for the first year, but then when I looked closer, only half of those ever actually logged any reading. And you might think it was a mistake giving out free books just for signing up, but (1) I don't think it's ever a mistake to put a book in the hands of a child, and (2) about 2/3 of those that never logged any reading also never claimed that first free book. Of those that logged reading, only about a third met the goal of 1000 minutes. Another thing we found was that probably half the people who earned entry tickets for the grand prize drawings never chose the drawings to enter. Of those that did, we found that the Amazon gift cards were by far the most popular choice (over fast food, movies, GameStop, and book sets), with the Lego Aquarium set being a very popular choice as well.

It seems pretty clear from the data, feedback from staff, and feedback from patrons that using Beanstack, was not a good fit for this community. It was way too labor-intensive to set up, did not fit our philosophy or mission for summer reading, and was too complex for many of our frontline staff. Patrons reported that it was confusing for them, the phone app turned out to be even more difficult and complicated to use than the desktop website and patrons reported it kept changing and looked/worked differently almost every time they opened it. Patrons also reported it was too much work with everything having to be done by the parent and too easy to forget about, that they like paper logs the kids could do themselves. I and the rest of the youth services staff missed having all the great interactions with kids as they picked up and turned in their completed reading logs. Yes, there were some patrons who loved it, and yes, you can extract all kinds of data and reports using Beanstack, but as a small community library, we really don't need the same kinds of breakdowns and analyses that a larger system might.

Also, it seems that while a few far exceeded the goal of 1000 minutes, it was probably too lofty of a goal for most readers, and may have been too intimidating for some. This was another reason I wanted to give books away at the beginning, but I think it was still too intimidating and prevented some from participating. While we did have one person who very obviously was cheating (made up a child that doesn't exist and logged completely unrealistic times) and one or two others we suspected, overall I think cheating was very minimal, and it was more common that people were forgetting to log and under-reporting reading time. We did get good feedback about the prize books and having such a good selection, though one person did express a preference for the way my predecessor did it. 

I will say that even though participation was lower than hoped, I believe we still engaged more people and a broader cross-section of the community than before, as my predecessor is said to have catered to one specific group rather the whole community, and didn't include all age groups. However, there are no stats to back this up as she didn't track reading program participation separately, just program attendance.

Next year I hope that I will be given more freedom to design summer reading in the way I think will work best for this community, that will serve both my mission to promote reading as well as satisfy admin and the state library's desire for numbers. I feel certain that if my department is allowed to do things our way, we will get better participation. I will still want to give away as many books as possible, and keep prizes small enough so that cheating is minimal. I still like our original Bingo card idea, and I've also heard of a couple of other libraries having success with having each reader set their own reading goals, rather than having the same goal for everyone, and I really like that idea as well. So I'm thinking of some sort of combination Bingo card that challenges them to explore different types of books as well as encourages program attendance and library visits, with some sort of flexible "reading log" on the back that they can use related to the individual goal they've set.

I would LOVE to hear about your experiences with different methods and approaches to summer reading! What have you tried that failed? What have you found successful? 

Sunday, July 31, 2022

SRP Week 8 - Aquatic Reptiles


Since I had booked the local herpetarium for this last week of summer programming, I decided to use aquatic reptiles as the theme for this week's programs, including both oceanic reptiles and the freshwater reptiles that live in our land-locked area.

Toddler Time (ages 1-3)

We started with a hello song, and "The Creatures In the Sea Go..." for a warm up, then I talked a little about aquatic reptiles, and read a non-fiction book, From Egg to Sea Turtle by Lisa Owings. After that we did two scarf songs, "We Wave Our Scarves Together" and "Popcorn". I talked a little about the kinds of aquatic turtles we have in our area that live in ponds, creeks, and rivers in order to segue to our second book, Turtle Splash! by Cathryn Falwell. This is a nice book because it incorporates counting down, as well as showing several different forest animals. We ended with bubbles.

For the after storytime activity, I still had the waterbeads from the week before (I had rinsed and stored in the fridge) and this time instead of sharks I added plastic sea turtles. I also put out some turtle coloring sheets and dot-painting sheets in case someone really wanted to do a craft, and a couple did those as well.

Turtle storytime

Early Explorers
 (ages 3-6)

Again we started with our usual hello song, and then did "Slippery Fish" for a warm-up. Then I talked about aquatic reptiles for a little bit, and showed the life cycle of a sea turtle using From Egg to Sea Turtle by Lisa Owings again. After a lead-in song I preceded reading The Box Turtle by Vanessa Roeder with a brief discussion of how some turtles live in the sea, but some live in freshwater and some live on land, like the one in this story (I had a really hard time finding good turtle stories for storytime, and none of them were about sea turtles). I followed that with the classic "Snapping Turtle" rhyme, then discussed some of the other aquatic reptiles like alligators, crocodiles, and snakes, then read the non-fiction book Sea Snakes by Lindsay Shaffer. After that we sang "I Wish I Was a Silly, Slippery Snake", then moved to the activities.

I gave them a choice of playing in the sensory bin with the waterbeads and turtles, or making a turtle craft. I printed out flippers and head on green cardstock, then they could make the shell with either a paper plate or bowl, depending on how high they wanted the shell to be. To make the scutes of the shell, I provided circles cut out of green patterned papers leftover from the mermaid tail craft earlier in the summer. Surprisingly, this time they all wanted to do the craft first, then played in the water beads.

Turtle storytime

Elementary Explorers
 (ages 6-11)

I started with our usual book discussion, and for the first time all summer, no one wanted to share. I didn't have as many to booktalk, either, because so many of the reptile books were already checked out, and I didn't have any new books this week, either. So I booktalked the classic Nim's Island  by Wendy Orr and the one decent non-fiction book we had left, Sea Turtles by Laura Marsh.. 

Then I had a brief slide show so they could see the different kinds of aquatic reptiles. Since our theme all summer has been "Oceans of Possibilities" I started with reptiles that live in the ocean, and showed them pictures of the different types of sea turtles, sea snakes, marine iguanas, and salt-water crocodiles. Then I moved on to the types of aquatic reptiles that we might see here, which are several types of pond turtles, including alligator snapping turtles, and water snakes (we have two, only one of which is venomous).

Turtle craft, snake craft

Then we had two crafts, one was making a baby turtle by weaving yarn around three mini-craft sticks that were glued together in the centers, kind of like a snowflake. I provided multiple colors of yarn, and they could use one or more colors, and markers to color the feet, tail, and head and add facial details. The second was making a beaded snake by one of two methods. The easier way was to just string bead on a piece of pipe cleaner, and fold the ends back around on itself to secure the beads and make the head. The other method strung the beads on string, cording, or wire (I used cording), and was a little more complex (It's actually easy once you get going, but initially looks intimidating. I did try to demonstrate and explain how to do it, but also showed the video that I learned it from which makes it more clear.

Turtle craft, snake craft

It went pretty well, though I did overhear one of the caregivers (who is always kinda grumpy anyway) grumbling because I did provide written step-by-step instructions. I often do, but sometimes just have not had time, and I've also noticed that here people generally don't read them or take them home and it just seems like a lot of wasted time and paper. I felt like both crafts were pretty easy, and that the video for the beaded snake was more helpful than written instructions would have ever been. No one else seemed to have any issues, and caught on pretty quickly. I told them they could make more than one if they wanted, as long as the materials I had put out lasted, so some make both kinds of snakes and some made 2 or 3 turtles. A couple got creative, one making just the head of the snake and wearing it as a necklace, the other turning their snake into a bracelet.

Family Program

For our last family program I booked the local reptile zoo, knowing animals is always a sure draw. Since their price was lower than most and they gave a big discount for a second show at the same location, I went ahead and booked them for two shows, one at 11am and one at 1pm. I figured that way we could accommodate more people, and if the crowds were smaller then everyone would be able to be up close.

The first show was pretty full, the second show only filled to just over half-capacity, but overall I felt we had a very good turnout for the last week. The presenter brought an albino corn snake, a boa constrictor, a tortoise, an alligator snapping turtle, a savannah monitor, and an alligator. People were really pleased with the show, and we got several positive comments on our Facebook post afterwards. Another nice thing was the presenter let staff come in between shows to see the animals up close, and even touch them if we wanted.

And with that, our summer programming is over!! Just in time, too; I was running out of steam, and I don't know that I could have gone one more week! I left a little early on Friday, and took a mental health day on Monday to recover, and we are taking a break from programming for the next three weeks. During that time the rest of the staff and I will go over everything and discuss what worked, what didn't, how we want to do things next year, clean and organize our offices, program room, and storage; start a big weeding and shifting project, then start planning for Fall.

I will write up a SRP reflection after I've had time to rest and reflect.