Friday, July 21, 2017

Sharks (And Other Fish) Storytime

Shark Week starts Sunday, so it was time once again for a Shark-themed storytime. This is my third year doing one, and the kids all love it. We started with our welcome song, then I introduced the topic by bringing up how it was summer, and that in the summer a lot of people like to go to the ocean. I asked them what was one kind of fish we hoped we didn't see while we're swimming in the ocean, and it didn't take them long to say "Shark!", and I brought out my shark puppet.

Shark Storytime, shark puppet

I let them all feel the puppet and observe how soft it was. Then I explained that sharks don't really feel soft like that, nor are they smooth and slippery like other fish, but rather their skin is very rough and scratchy, like sandpaper. I wish I had thought to bring sandpaper for them to feel, since most didn't really know what it was. 

Shark StorytimeAfter our story song, we read one of my favorite books, The Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark! by Ken Geist and Julia Gorton. 

I love this book for several reasons: (1) it's a creative re-telling of a favorite folktalke, (2) there is lots of repetition so the kids can join in, (3) The fish having rhyming names, and (4) it teaches a lesson about how biting on hard things, or things that are not food, is bad for your teeth! It is such a fun story to read aloud, and the kids always love it.

We followed that with a really simple, but cute song that is guaranteed to get stuck in your head, "Baby Shark". There are many different versions and verses, and some get dowright gruesome, which much older kids have a lot of fun with. But for the young ones, I stick with

Baby shark (fingers make biting motion) 
Mama shark (hands make biting motion) 
Daddy shark (use whole arms to make biting motion)
Going swimming (pretend to swim)
See a shark! (look around)
Swim away! (swim faster)
Swim faster! (swim really fast)
Safe at last (wipe brow, relieved)

ocean storytime
Our next story was actually not a shark story, but I wanted to do The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen and Dan Hanna since most kids really like it, and the more they hear it, the more they seem to like it, and the author had been kind enough to send me a batch of autographed bookmarks to give to my storytime kids. The kids like the repetition, and if they are already familiar with it, they will join right in, saying "I'm a pout-pout fish, with a pout-pout face..." and "Blub...Bluuub....Bluuuuuuub." 

Too bad her latest, The Pout-Pout Fish and the Bully-Bully Shark, wasn't available yet.

Shark StorytimeThe kids were eager for another story, so I went right to another really great shark story that is also a retelling of a folktale, The Little Fish Who Cried Shark by Tricia Phillips. This is a great story made even more awesome by being a pop-up book! Little Scrat loves to play tricks on people, especially scary ones, and his favorite trick of all is to yell "Shark!" and watch everyone panic and scramble to hide. One day Scrat hears a shark warning, and ignores it, thinking someone is just playing a trick on him to get him back, but discovers sharks are no laughing matter. I am so glad I discovered this book; it's really great! I had to buy it used, but it was still in good shape.

We talked for a minute about what sharks eat, and that they don't usually eat humans and don't really like the way we taste, but sometimes they make a mistake. They normally eat other fish, turtles, and seals, and they aren't being mean; everything has to eat something else to survive. This led into a song about the food chain, "Slippery Fish" (also sometimes called "The Octopus Song"):

"Slippery Fish"

Slippery fish, slippery fish; swimming in the water.
Slippery fish, slippery fish; gulp, Gulp, GULP!
"Oh, no! He's been eaten by an octopus!"

Octopus, octopus; swimming in the water.
Octopus, octopus; gulp, Gulp, GULP!
"Oh, no! He's been eaten by a tuna fish!"

Tuna fish, tuna fish; swimming in the water.
Tuna fish, tuna fish; gulp, Gulp, GULP!
"Oh, no! He's been eaten by a great white shark!"

Great white shark, great white shark, swimming in the water.
Great white shark, great white shark; gulp, Gulp, GULP!
"Oh, no! He's been eaten by an orca whale!"

Orca whale, orca whale, swimming in the water.
Orca whale, orca whale; gulp, Gulp, GULP!
"BUURRP! Whoops, excuse me!"

Then we sang our closing song and passed out stickers and bookmarks!

How It Went

As always, the subject of sharks was a big hit. They really loved both shark stories, but didn't quite get into The Pout-Pout Fish as much. They didn't seem like they had ever heard it before, and this is one of those stories they like better after hearing it more than once, plus I guess it wasn't very fair mixing it is with the more exciting shark stories! But I did notice that I got no "Ewww"s about the kissing from this class; instead they seemed to think is was sweet and that the two fish were "in loooooooove" with each other. They enjoyed both songs, especially acting out the sharks and trying to swim away as fast as possible!

For more shark stories, try my lists from 2015 and 2016 for picture books, both fiction and non-fiction.

And remember, it's a bad week to be a seal! 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Ice Cream In A Bag - STEAM Program

ice cream in a bag, homemade ice cream, kitchen chemistry

What better day to share this easy, cheap and yummy program idea than National Ice Cream Day?? This is a fun "Kitchen Chemistry" experiment that just has a few easy to obtain ingredients and supplies, is easy enough for the little ones, but will appeal to older kids as well. What's better than a chemistry experiment you can eat?? And yes, it really works!

Ingredients & Supplies

Ice cream in a bag

  • half & half
  • sugar
  • vanilla extract
  • salt, preferably kosher
  • ice
  • pint zip-lock bags (heavier freezer bags recommended)
  • gallon zip-lock freezer bags
  • sprinkles, mini choc. chips, or other mix-ins (optional)
  • fruit juice (optional alternative to dairy)
  • towels or gloves/mittens
  • thermometer (to check starting and ending temperatures)


1. Add 1/2 Cup half & half, 1 Tablespoon sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract to small zip-lock bag and seal. Shake to dissolve sugar.

making ice cream in a bag

2. Fill gallon zip-lock bag about 1/2 full with ice (check and record the starting temperature of the ice) and add 6 Tablespoons salt and shake to evenly distribute.

Ice cream in a bag, STEM STEAM program

3. Place smaller, sealed bag containing cream mixture inside the larger bag containing the ice and salt mixture, add a little more ice and seal. Shake entire bag and contents for 5-10 minutes (5 is usually enough for soft ice cream). This gets very cold, so it is recommended to either wear warm gloves, or wrap the bag in a towel (a towel will also help insulate and keep it cold).

Ice Cream in a bag

4. After 5-10 minutes, ice cream should be ready! Carefully remove inner bag containing ice cream. Check and record the final temperature of the ice/salt/water mixture. You may be surprised by how much it dropped!

Ice Cream in a bag, STEM STEAM programs for kids

5. Ice cream will be creamier if you quickly but gently squish it around a little bit in the bag. Not too much though, or it will melt!  You can add desired mix-ins, such as chocolate chips, cookies pieces, etc. at this point as well. Ice cream may be eaten directly out of the bag, or spooned into a dish, and garnished as desired. It will begin to melt immediately, so dig in!

Making ice cream in a bag, STEM STEAM program, kitchen chemistry

6. An alternative to ice cream is to make sorbet from fruit juice. Juice can be used straight out of the bottle, but I like to dilute it slightly with a little water and add a teaspoon of sugar, as it seems to taste less sweet when frozen. This is a great option if dairy allergies or lactose intolerance are an issue. I have not tried non-dairy milks, such as soy or almond, but I would imagine they would be more icy and not creamy. 

Making sorbet in a bag, STEM STEAM program, kitchen chemistry
Sorbet made with cran-raspberry juice.

So, how does this work? The chemistry of this is a little tricky to explain, but it has to do with phase-changing and the lowering of the freezing point of water by the dissolved salt.

The ice begins to melt, providing just enough liquid water to start dissolving the salt. The dissolved solute depresses the freezing point of the solution, allowing the temperature to continue to drop rather than remain a constant 0 degrees Celsius. The temperature drops because the remaining ice absorbs some of the energy (in the form of heat) from the salt water as it continues to melt (an endothermic reaction) . You can explain the chemistry either in the beginning, during the shaking time, or after. 

This experiment does not take very long, so you could do ice cream first, and have time to try making sorbet (those who already made sorbet due to dairy issues could try a different flavor), or combine it with other simple "kitchen chemistry" experiments. A couple of good ones to pair with this would be the old picking up an ice cube with a string trick, and making butter from heavy cream in a jar (or small plastic container).

For a library program, display books for check-out with other simple at-home science experiments, fiction or non-fiction books featuring or mentioning ice cream or the dairy industry, and cook books (especially any explaining the science of cooking).

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Books with Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Themes for Younger Kids

25 books about diversity, self-acceptance, and being transgender or gender non-conforming for younger readers, transgender children's books

One day when I was working the desk, a patron asked for help using the catalog. The book she was looking up happened to be one with a transgender protagonist, and I mentioned I had read it recently. Then she explained she had a young transgender daughter and was having a very hard time finding any books with transgender characters or themes that were not for teens or older tweens.

I found a few titles in our catalog, which unfortunately were not in at our location. She asked about getting more added to the collection, and I showed her how to put in a request, but since she didn't know any specific titles, I offered to do some digging and e-mail her a list of titles so she would have something to start with. I included the titles our system owns, as well as those suggested by other youth services professionals, some I found on other lists, and some titles I just happened to come across in the process. She was primarily interested in picture books, but also wanted to know about any chapter books for kids up to about age 12.

*One caveat: I could not get my hands on most of these and had to go by samples, summaries, and reviews, so please don't take these as recommendations, merely as a list of books to consider.

Picture Books (ages 4-8ish)

It's Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr (2004). 

While this book doesn't specifically address being transgender, it does provide a positive message about being different in general. Some of the examples are physical characteristics, some are random, but it also includes having different kinds of families.

Written for the youngest readers, it features short, simple text, and bright, colorful illustrations with heavy black outlines that look as though a child had drawn them.

Be Who You Are by Todd Parr (2016). 

This is a companion to the book above, continuing the positive message about diversity and individuality, encouraging kids to be proud of what makes them unique, and to express themselves however they need to. It does not specifically address transgender, but it does show a boy wearing a feather boa.

Illustrated in Parr's signature primitive style with bold colors, this book is an excellent way to teach acceptance and individuality to young children.

Worm Loves Worm by J. J. Austrian & Mike Curato (2016). 

Two worms fall in love and decide to get married. Their friends excitedly ask them about their wedding plans: Who is going to wear the wedding dress? Who will wear the tux? The worms can't figure out which one of them should wear what, and in the end they decide that it doesn't matter

(Fun fact: Worms are simultaneous hermaphrodites, in other words they are all both male and female. When they mate, both sets of sex organs are used by both worms, and they both become mothers and fathers!)

Red: A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall (2015). 

A crayon is labeled Red, but no matter how hard tries, he just can't color anything red; everything keeps coming out blue! His teacher just thinks he needs more practice, and his friends and classmates try to show him how. But he still draws blue strawberries. He is very frustrated and sad, until he finally realizes that he isn't a defective red crayon, he is in fact a brilliant, but mis-labeled, blue!

An obvious parallel to being transgender can by drawn from the story, but it can also be used to relate to not being defined by your appearance or others' expectations in general.

BunnyBear by Andrea Loney & Carmen Saldana (2017).

Bunnybear was born a bear, but feels more like a rabbit. He prefers bouncing through the bushes to tramping in the forest. In his heart, he is light, bouncy, and fluffy. But, neither the bears nor the bunnies understand him at first, and when they make fun of him it makes him feel sad and anxious. Eventually he learns to be true to himself, and helps others as well.

Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story About Gender and Friendship by Jess Walton & Dougal MacPherson, (2017).

Errol's teddy Thomas is his best friend, and they do everything together. One day Thomas is sad, and nothing Errol tries seems to cheer him up. At first Thomas is afraid Errol won't want to be his friend if he tells him what's wrong, but finally confides that in her heart she has always known she was really a girl teddy, and wishes to be called Tilly, not Thomas. Errol says he doesn't care, and that "What matters is that you are my friend."

I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings & Shelaugh McNicholas (2014). 

This is based on the real-life experiences of Jazz Jennings, a young transgender girl who is now well known as a spokesperson for transgender children. With this book she tries to explain in simple terms what transgender is, and what it was like for her as a young child. She does use the "born in the wrong body" explanation and gender stereotyping to explain how she knew she was really a girl, which some people object to, but is probably the easiest way to explain it to a young child.

When Kayla Was Kyle by Amy Fabrikant & Jennifer Levine (2013).

This is the story of Kyle, who looks like a boy, but knows he doesn't fit in with them and doesn't understand why they tease him. Kyle struggles to find the words to express how he feels to his parents, and his parents initially struggle to understand, but eventually help him transition to Kayla.

This is another self-published book with no professional reviews and very few reader reviews, though most were fairly positive. The author is not trans nor the parent of a trans child, but is a literacy specialist and advocate for equality and diversity. I have not seen the book first hand, but from the trailer on the author's website and reader reviews, my gut feeling is that it is well-intentioned, but may be overly simplistic and not that appealing to children.

About Chris by Nina Benedetto (2015)

Chris knows he is a boy, even though his body looks female. This is a self-published book with no professional reviews, and the author is an educator, not a psychologist and does not mention any personal experience with the subject. Some reader reviews mention parts of the story as being confusing or problematic, but I am including it as I did not come across any other picture books about transgender female to male children, and some reader reviewers that identified themselves as parents of transgender children did report it was helpful. The author also has a companion book called My Favorite Color Is Pink.

Be Who You Are by Jennifer Carr & Bea Rumback(2010). 

One day at school the teacher asks them to draw a self-portrait, and Nick draws himself as a girl, because that how he has always seen himself. Nick's family joins a support group and are supportive when Nick asks to be recognized as a girl, use feminine pronouns, and change her name to Hope.

This is a self-published book, based on the author's own experiences with her children. There are no professional reviews, but reader reviews, including those by parents of transgender children, are overall positive.

My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis & Suzanne DiSimone (2010). 

This story is based on the author's experiences with her son, who is not presented as transgender, but a boy who happens to enjoy dressing up as a princess and stereotypical "girl" things. The story also addresses teasing and bullying, but shows a very supportive family, including the brother and dad. 

One criticism of the illustrations is the blank, featureless faces, that some readers found creepy or disturbing.

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino & Isabelle Malenfant (2014). 

Morris is a boy with a vivid imagination who loves to play in the dress-up center at school, where his favorite thing to wear is a bright tangerine dress. The other kids tease him and tell him he shouldn't wear a dress because he is a boy, and should be doing "boy" things, and won't let him play in their spaceship. 

But then Morris uses his incredible imagination to construct his own spaceship, which draws the other children and they begin to accept him as he is.

10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert & Rex Ray (2008). 

Every night Bailey dreams of beautiful dresses, but when she tries to tell her family about her dreams, her parents tell her she's a boy, and boys don't wear dresses, and her brother says "Gross!". Finally she meets an older girl who shares her interests and they create beautiful dresses together.

This book could be very confusing to children who don't already have some understanding of transgender, as it is not really explained in the story. Bailey looks like a boy, and everyone else says Bailey is a boy, but the narrator consistently refers to Bailey with feminine pronouns, but no explanation. Some parents object to presenting an older, non-family member as Bailey's "savior."

Sparkle Boy by Leslea Newman & Maria Mola (2017). 

Casey loves puzzles, blocks, trucks, AND shiny, sparkly things. While his parents support his experimenting with sparkle, his older sister Jessie doesn't like it when he wears her old sparkly skirt or wants his nails painted. But, when he is teased by other boys at the library, Jessie sticks up for her brother.

This is by the author of Heather Has Two Mommies. One thing worth noting is that the illustrations show a family of color. I am disappointed the author chose the library as the setting for Casey being bullied; kids should be encouraged to see libraries as a safe place!

Jacob's New Dress by Sarah & Ian Hoffman & Chris Case (2014).

Jacob loves playing dress-up and pretending to be anything he wants. He wants to wear a dress to school, even though some kids say he can't because he's a boy. His mother agrees to help him make a dress, and when he is teased about it at school, he tells the bullies that he made that dress and will wear it proudly. His father and teacher are supportive; the teacher gives the example that only a relatively short time ago, girls were not allowed to wear pants, and that everyone should wear what they are comfortable in.

Roland Humphrey Is Wearing a WHAT? by Eileen Kiernan-Johnson & Katrina Revenaugh (2013). 

Roland likes sparkly things, rainbow colors, butterflies and barrettes. But the girls in his class tell him these things are only for girls. Roland questions why there is a double standard for girls and boys; why are the rules for boys so much more rigid? He sticks up for himself and decides to express himself the way that feels right for him.

Annie's Plaid Shirt  by Stacy Davids & Rachel Balsaitis (2015). 

Annie loves her plaid shirt, and wears it every day. But, when her uncle is about to get married, her mother tells her she must wear a dress to the wedding, even though she hates wearing dresses. In the end, Annie comes up with an alternative her mother accepts, by wearing her plaid shirt with one of her brother's old suits.

I have to confess, I'd be fine with the suit, but I still wouldn't let her wear the old plaid shirt to a wedding if it were my child!

All I Want to Be Is Me by Phyllis Rothblatt (2011). 

This book explores the various ways children can experience and express gender, presenting a positive image of gender diversity. 

This is a self-published book, and some reviewers felt the physical quality of the book was lacking, and some felt it was too repetitive, though that was a plus for young children. The author is a licensed marriage and family therapist.

Chapter Books (ages 9-13)

George by Alex Gino (2015). 

George knows she's a girl, but everyone else thinks she's a boy, and she thinks she will have to keep this secret forever. She looks at magazines for teen girls and imagines having the freedom to express herself the way she feels as "Melissa". Then one day the teacher announces they will be putting on a production of "Charlotte's Web", and George's strong desired to play Charlotte gives her to motivation to show her true self.

This is considered to be a grandbreaking book, the first with a transgender character, written by a gender-queer author. However, some reviewers have found the writing to be weak and dull, and the characters to be less than authentic, and the plot is suspiciously similar to Gracefully Grayson, published the year before.

Gracefully Grayson  by Ami Polonsky (2014). 

Twelve-year old Grayson has a secret; she is a girl, stuck in the body of a boy. She generally keeps to herself for fear of someone figuring out her secret, until an unlikely friendship gives her the courage to try out for the part of Persephone in her school play and deal with the bullies and disapproval from adults.

This book came before the very similar George, and is perhaps better written. However, the author is not transgender and relies on the more simplistic "born into the wrong body" explanation of transgender, rather than the more nuanced explanation of being a girl but being perceived as a boy by everyone else in George.

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart (2016). 

Lily is an 8th grade transgender girl who has not yet come out, but knows she must if she is to start hormone blockers to prevent male puberty. Dunkin is a boy who recently moved to the area and has bipolar disorder, plus is hiding a family secret. The two meet and form an unlikely friendship.

This book has received many positive reviews, though some feel the author tried to cover too many issues in one book. A few also feel that the author should not have written about a transgender character as she is not transgender herself and feel her portrayal showed a lack of understanding.

The Pants Project by Cat Clarke. (2017).

Eleven-year old Liv looks like a girl, but inside knows he's a boy. To make matters worse, his new school has a ridiculous dress code requiring all girls to wear skirts! Liv is not quite ready to come out to everyone as a boy, so instead launches a campaign against the outdated, sexist dress code. Also includes same-sex parents.

From the sample I was able to read and several reviews, I think this book is not as heavy as some of the others, and has a fair amount of humor. It is told in first person, avoiding the issue of pronouns. 

The Other Boy by M. G. Hennessey. 

This book is a bit different than many others in that the main character is already living as his true gender. Shane is a typical boy: he plays baseball, writes a sci-fi comic, and has a crush on a girl named Madeline. But, he also has a secret. Shane appeared to be female at birth, and his father is still treating his transition like a phase, not his true identity. Then, someone finds out and outs him to the whole school, and Shane has to deal with prejudice and hate, but is surprised by who is left standing by him in the end.

I like that the author's endnotes explain that this is only one fictional character's experience, and that not every person experiences being transgender in the same way; each person's journey is unique to them.

Non-Fiction Books

Who Are You? by Brook Pessin-Whedbee & Naomi Bardoff (2016). 

This book is not exactly a book for kids, but more of a tool to guide parents in a discussion of gender with young children. It makes a distinction between sex, gender identity, and self expression. There is a part to be read to the child, followed by a page-by-page guide with more information on key points for the parents. This book should defintely be read cover to cover by the parent in advance to be sure they are prepared for what questions may come up. For ages 4-8.

Sex Is a Funny Word  by Cory Silverberg & Fiona Smyth (2015). 

In comic book form, this book uses a diverse cast of children and families to help educate children about their bodies, gender, and sexuality. It gives opportunities for parents to discuss their values and beliefs, as well as safety and setting boundries. The book places emphasis on thinking for yourself and forming one's own opinions, as well as showing respect for yourself and others. It does not specifically talk about sexual intercourse, but provides a foundation to build on. I personally find the illustrations to be a bit garish, but kids may find that appealing. For ages 7-10.

I would like to re-iterate that these are NOT recommendations, merely suggestions. As M. G. Hennessey stated in the author notes at the end of The Other Boy, there are many different ways people experience being transgender, and the preferred terminology is rapidly evolving. Some object to the "wrong body" explanation as being overly simplistic and not an accurate portrayal of how they feel, while others say that is exactly how they feel. 

Each situation is different; therefore, there may be objections voiced about any of these books, and not every book is right for every family. I would *strongly* encourage parents to read any book carefully before reading/giving it to a child and consider if it is the right book for them. For example, many of these books address teasing and bullying, but some children have not experienced that, and a book that describes it may cause them to become fearful and anxious that they will be bullied. For others, it may help empower them to handle it if it does happen. A parent is usually the best judge for what book is best for their child.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Robot Preschool Storytime

My manager had shown me a really cute robot book by David Carter a couple of months ago that I have been waiting for the right time to use, and since I already had robots on my mind because of the DoodleBot program I would be doing with a group of school-aged kids the same day, I decided I might as well do a Robot storytime as well.

Robot Storytime, Adventures In StorytimeWe started with our welcome song, then I introduced the topic and the kids seemed really excited about it. We then sang our story song and started on our first book, Boy + Bot by Amy Dyckman and Dan Yaccarino. This is a really cute story about a boy and a robot who meet by chance and start playing together. 

But the robot's power switch accidentally gets turned off, and the boy thinks he is sick and takes him home and tries to take care of him. Later, the robot's switch gets turned back on, and when he sees the sleeping boy he thinks there is something wrong with him! The illustrations have a nostalgic 50's sci-fi feel as well.

After that we did a rhyme about "Five Little Robots" with a magnet board and five robots cut from craft foam using an Ellison die cutter:

Robots, storytime, Adventures In Storytime

Five little robots in the toy shop.
Small and shiny with antennae on top.
Along came a boy (girl) with a dollar one day,
And bought a  (color)  robot and took it away!

Four little robots........ (repeat, counting down to none)

They really enjoyed this and asked to do it again.

Robot Storytime, Adventures in Storytime, Robot booksThen it was time for the new book, David Carter's If You're A Robot And You Know It, which is obviously based on the traditional children's song, "If You're Happy and You Know It". 

This book has really fun pull-tabs that make the robots act out the various actions, including traditional ones such as clapping hands or stomping feet, as well as robot actions like "shoot laser beams out of your eyes". This book is very cute and a lot of fun, and the kids insisted on doing it twice as well.

(I've also used his If You're Happy And You Know It with animal characters, which the kids also loved.)

Robot books for kids, robot storytime, adventure in storytimeThen to finish off with our last story, Beep! Beep! Go To Sleep! by Todd Tarpley and John Rocco. This is a super cute and funny story that parents can definitely relate to! A boy is trying to put his three little robots to bed for the night, and just when you think they're asleep (and the rhyming text leads the kids to say "asleep"), you turn the page to hear "Beep! Beep!" and discover they are NOT asleep.

Instead they have all kinds of excuses like "my sensors ache", "my fan belt's loose", "I need more oil"... This happens over and over, with the boy becoming increasingly frustrated with them. Finally he agrees to a bedtime story, and in the end it is the boy that is asleep. Because, after all, robots are machines; they don't need sleep!

We ended with our story song, and passed out stickers.

How It Went
The kids were excited about the topic when I told them, and really seemed to have a lot of fun with it. They liked both stories, and really loved getting to pretend to be robots with If You're A Robot And You Know It. Several of them denied ever making excuses to get out of bed like the robots in Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep!, but a few did admit to asking for water or a night light. This was an outreach storytime, so no parents, but I think this book would really be great for a family storytime. I think all of us parents can relate to the many excuses to put off bedtime!

Friday, July 7, 2017

DoodleBots 2.0 - STEAM Program

DoodleBots, ArtBots, robotics for kids, STEM STEAM programs

Last summer I came across a great program idea, using the vibrating motor from a cheap DollarTree electric toothbrush (shown below) and a pool noodle to make a simple "robot" that doodles. The first time I did this program, it worked well and was a big hit. There was a little trouble-shooting involved, but nothing major.

However, when I repeated it earlier this summer, it did not go so well. We had major problems with the motor assembly not being able to maintain connections, thus the current would be interrupted and the motor wouldn't vwork. It was very frustrating for all of us, to say the least.

So this time, I modified the protocol. Instead of removing the motor, battery holder, and switch from the toothbrush and taping them up together as shown below:

I left them intact inside the toothbrush and just cut the toothbrush head off, leaving just the handle containing the motor, batter holder, battery, and switch, keeping everything nice and cozy so the circuit would stay intact. I used a bandsaw, but you could use heavy duty snippers or a handsaw, possible a router, as well. 

First, I did show them a disembodied motor and how it worked, and let them all see it up close and touch it if they wanted. Then, each child chose one 4.5" piece of pool noodle (we had several colors), one motor assembly (the toothbrushes came in various colors as well), and 3 markers. First, they inserted the motor into the center of the pool noodle. Then, they used 2-3 rubber bands to attach the markers to their bots, taking care to place evenly so the bot would not tip over. If desired, you could tape or hot glue the markers in place, but I think it's kind of neat to see how their movement changes as the markers shift, or they may want to change out colors.

After that, it was time to personalize their robot with miscellaneous craft supplies. We have found that hot glue works the best, so we had several low-melt glue guns and had adults man them. Glue dots work okay for some things, like eyes or jewels, and pipe cleaners and feathers can be inserted right into the foam. You can see some of the creations the group made today below:

DoodleBots, ArtBots, robotics for kids, simple robots, STEM, STEAM programs

Once finished, take the caps off, make sure markers are level, turn the motor on, and let it go! I strongly recommend washable markers, and large pieces of paper, as the bots do tend to have a mind of their own. We covered the tables with paper from a big roll of art paper, and then gave each kid an 11x17 sheet.

Here is a video of my prototype in action:

At the beginning of the program I did a demonstration to show how electricity flows through a circuit, and how important is that all connection be maintained using these cool gadgets from Lakeshore called: 'Light and Sound Touch Circuits" It is kind of like a short light sabre with handles at each end. One person can complete the circuit by holding both handles, or two people can complete the circuit by each hold a handle, then touching their free hands together. I called up a volunteer to demonstrate, then we tested to see if it would work if we made a circuit with ALL of the kids holding hands. 

The kids really liked these gadgets and were very impressed it worked with all of us. After they finished with their bots, we let them have free time to play with the Touch Circuits. They experimented with all kinds of crazy circuits, and liked them so much they didn't want to give them up! (They actually produced multicolored lights, but it just photographed as white light, and you can switch off the sounds).


This program was much more successful than the last time, no frustrations, and the kids and adults all seemed to really enjoy it.