Friday, March 17, 2023

St. Patrick's Day STEAM - Leprechaun Traps!


Leprechaun Traps, St. Patrick's Day activities for kids, St. Patrick's Day STEM STEAM

So this program has been a long time coming! I had originally planned it for my monthly K-5 STEM program in 2020, but then we were shut down just days before when officials realized the Covid virus was already here and spreading fast. I was so disappointed as I had really been looking forward to it, and knew it would be a while before I had another chance.

So finally, three years and two libraries later, I was back to doing in-person programming and had no conflicts (our state conference fell on St. Patrick's Day last year). The public schools happened to be out that day, so instead of an after school program, I made it an early afternoon family program.

Title: Family STEAM Challenge - Leprechaun Traps

Ages: All ages (I had kids aged 3 to 9)

Time: 1-1/2 hours (though we did start a few minutes late)

Budget: $25 for specially purchased items, some optional. Most materials were found items or from our general craft supply stock. Cost could be reduced by not purchasing optional items or fewer gold coins, smaller box of cereal, as we did have materials left over.

# of Participants: 7 traps were built, but I had enough materials for at least a dozen


  • variety of small boxes, all shapes and sizes (I saved up small shipping boxes, thin cardboard boxes from crackers, cereal and such at home, shoe boxes, a couple of round cartons from oat/corn meal)
  • large pieces of flat cardboard (cut from large boxes)
  • cardboard tubes from paper towels
  • roll of green bulletin board paper for covering (because we already had it)
  • green construction paper in two shades
  • assorted other colors of construction paper
  • pipe cleaners
  • colored craft sticks in three sizes (tongue depressor, popsicle, and mini)
  • long skewers 
  • string
  • crayons
  • markers
  • glitter glue
  • glitter shamrock foam stickers ($9)
  • "gold" coins (4 packs of 30 from DollarTree, $5)
  • mini hats, optional (pack of 6 from DollarTree, $1.25) 
  • mini pots, optional, but nice to have if you have the budget (2 packs of 5 from DollarTree, $2.50)
  • Lucky Charms cereal (both for bait and snacking afterward), $5
  • hot glue & glue guns (had a hot glue station set up & manned by a teen volunteer)
  • liquid glue
  • glue sticks
  • tape
  • scissors, both kid and adult
  • cardboard saw cutter (kid friendly, from a cardboard building set)

  1. I collected boxes over a period of 3-4 weeks, and cut up a few large boxes to have flat pieces to build on top of.
  2. I found about 10 examples of different kinds of Leprechaun traps and put together a quick slide show, just to give them some inspiration.
  3. Put scissors, tape, and glue on each table, then lined up all the building and decorating supplies on tables/counters in the back of the room.
  4. Plugged in hot glue guns so they would be ready to use.

  1. First, we briefly went over a little bit of Leprechaun lore and legend.
  2. Next, I read How to Catch a Leprechaun by Adam Wallace. I really like how it ends with saying maybe someday some clever child will build a trap good enough to catch the clever leprechaun, maybe one of them.
  3. I showed the pictures of several examples of different traps I found online, and pointed out the strategies and some specific characteristics.
  4. I pointed out where everything was, and encouraged them to look over things and think about it for a bit before they started, and to decide if they were doing one trap as a family, work in pairs, or if each child was doing their own. I also told them if they thought of something they needed/wanted that wasn't out, to let me know and if we had it, I'd be happy to get it out for them.
  5. Build!
  6. I set up two long tables that weren't being used, and asked them as they finished to put their trap on the tables so we could line them all up for photos, then they could wash hands and have some Lucky Charms to eat, and play in the sensory bin while waiting for others to finish (most finished within a few minutes of each other, and we were left waiting on one person, so it's good to have another activity to occupy them while waiting).
  7. Once they were all done, I had them stand behind their traps for group and individual photos, then they each took a turn telling the group about how their trap worked. I did make sure they, and their grownups, knew it was okay if they weren't comfortable speaking in front of everyone they didn't have to, but only the tiniest participant needed help from her mom.

How It Went:

In short, everything went well, no issues, and lived up to my expectations. It was a great day!

At first I was afraid no one was going to show up, because no one was there at 1:00, when the program was supposed to start, and I think I might have cried if that were the case. But after a couple minutes or so, two families came in, shortly followed by a third. I would have liked to have had at least 2 more families, but it was still a decent number of people for our small, and somewhat fickle and unpredictable, community.

Everyone seemed to have a great time, and I was very happy to see that no one got frustrated and none of the adults took over to try to make the "perfect" trap. I saw adults giving some assistance and asking leading questions to help kids figure out design and execution, but letting the kids take ownership, which is awesome. I love how all their traps turned out looking completely different, with varied strategies, and perfectly imperfect showing how much the kids did themselves. There were trap doors, slides, ladders, glue traps, and even a time travel portal! They used gold, Lucky Charms, or glitter for bait (or combinations thereof), and lots of imagination.

My favorite part was seeing the first group of finishers excitedly telling each other all about their traps, and that everyone was willing to be patient and stick around until the last person finished their trap so we could get a group photo, and that they were all willing to present to the group. I'm sure it helped that it was a small group, and two of the three families already knew each other. I never push a child to speak in front of everyone, but I do love giving them the opportunity to do so.

It ended up being about an hour and a half total, though we did get started a few minutes late. But I think this is definitely a program that needs more than an hour to give participants adequate time and not feel rushed, especially if you have younger kids that need more assistance, and adults with multiple children to help.

I could have managed this program by myself, but having a teen volunteer to help with set-up, staff the hot glue station, and help with clean-up was a huge help, and allowed me to enjoy the program and not be stressed or rushed. Especially since I had already done a special St. Patrick's Day storytime earlier, with very little time in between to clean up, grab a quick lunch, and set up for this program (plus quickly give a cursory interview to a prospective summer intern that was sprung on me without any notice at all 🙄).

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Saturday, January 28, 2023

S-T-E-M is a Four-Letter Word! -Part 3, Program Ideas


Image by brgfx on Freepik

In Part 1 of this series I cautioned against the over-emphasis of Technology, particularly coding, and advocated for the value and importance of basic Science, Math, and Engineering in STEM programming. In Part 2, I gave some general tips and things to consider, ways to incorporate STEM elements in other programming, a few resources for ideas, and a brief discussion of STEM vs. STEAM vs. STREAM. 

To further encourage thinking and programming more broadly across the STEM fields, I'm going to throw out some program ideas and suggestions for each category,

Monday, January 23, 2023

S-T-E-M is a Four-Letter Word! - Part 2, Tips & Resources


Library STEM programming
Image by brgfx on Freepik

In Part 1 of this series I cautioned against the recent prioritization of the "T" in STEM, and in particular the extreme focus on coding I've observed in the last few years, which seems to imply that everyone must learn coding to be successful or that coding knowledge guarantees success; neither of which is true. I advocate for a more well-rounded approach, exposing kids to all areas of STEM. I'd like to follow-up with some general considerations when doing STEM activities, ways to incorporate STEM elements into other programs, a brief discussion of STEM vs. STEAM, and a few resources.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

S-T-E-M is a Four-Letter Word! - Part 1

Image by brgfx on Freepik

Depending on how much of this blog you have read, you might know that librarianship is a second career for me and that my first was in scientific research. Science was my first love, so I got my undergraduate degree in biology, with minors in chemistry and education, followed by a masters degree in microbiology. I worked several years in research, then was a stay-at-home-mom before finally ending up in libraries, where I love being able to use my science and education background in STEM programming and incorporating factual information in storytime.

Now, let's pause for a minute - What is the first thing you think of when you hear the words "STEM programming"? I'm guessing you're probably thinking of computers, coding, robotics, and electronics. Did you think of gingerbread houses, bread baking, or shopping for groceries? Probably not. Let's back up for a minute and examine what "STEM" really means.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

End of the Year Reflection & Setting Goals for 2023


Thankfully 2022 did not bring big changes as 2020 and 2021 had, but it was still a very challenging year. I had just started a new position as the YS manager at a small-medium sized, somewhat rural library, where I basically had to start over and re-build everything from scratch. Nothing was in place, and my predecessor had left me absolutely no information. I quickly realized that the collection had been *severely* neglected, there had been little to no programming for elementary aged kids, the department was very sterile, cold, and unwelcoming; families were not using the library at all, and I certainly had my work cut out for me.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Favorite Reads - 2022


So even though I don't get to read as much as I'd like or feel like I should, I still thought it would be fun to put together a quick list of some of my favorite reads of this year. Just keep in mind that these are just my personal favorites from a relatively small selection, I'm not by any means suggesting these are necessarily the best of the best. Most of these came out in the last year or two, but there may be a couple of older titles in the mix.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Mini 'Gingerbread' House STEAM Program - 2022


Mini gingerbread houses, graham cracker houses

Back in 2019 I had the opportunity to do something I'd always wanted to do - a mini 'gingerbread' house program inspired by the graham cracker 'gingerbread' houses I used to make with my daughter. I eschewed what apparently has become common practice of pre-assembling the houses or using cartons/boxes to build them on in favor of an open-ended STEAM approach, allowing kids to fully express their creativity and empowering them to use their engineering and problem-solving skills. It turned out to be a huge success, and I was really looking forward to making it an annual program.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Dinovember 2022!



I finally had the chance to do Dinovember again! I had the opportunity first way back in 2018, and it was a huge success and a whole lot of fun (to see what I did then, go to my "Dinovember Reflection" post). Even though it was very successful, I wasn't able to repeat it until now due to not having a good social media partner, job changes, relocating, etc. This time, marketing youth services and materials is part of my job, and I am able to post to social media myself, so did not have to rely on convincing and coordinating with someone else to get the events publicized and get the stage photos posted, with the captions that I wanted.

For those who may be new to "Dinovember",