Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Rainbow Science - STEAM Program

Rainbow Science, Diffraction

When I first picked this theme, I really didn't know exactly where I was going with it, but it ended up focusing on the light spectrum and diffraction with various activities to produce "rainbows".

I put together a brief PowerPoint to start with, showing how rainbows form, the order of the colors, the fact that they have no end, how double rainbows form (and that the colors are inverted in the outer one), some other optical effects similar to rainbows (glory, halo, moonbow, cloudbow, fogbow, rainbows at waterfalls), and photos of some of the activities we were going to do. 

After the introduction and PowerPoint, they divided up and rotated among 4 stations for about 15 minutes before we went outside to repeat some of the activities and try an additional one. I made sure all the activities would work indoors with flashlights (though not as well, and some flashlights work better than others) in case the sun did not cooperate, and they could compare artificial light and natural sunlight if it did.

Ages: 5-10 actual, 8-12 recommended

Number: 15 actual, dependent on supplies and staffing

Budget: Approximately $37 reusable, $15 consumable


  • triangular prisms (I found the acrylic set worked as well as the glass)
    6" optical glass - $12 from Amazon, set of 4", 2", & 1" acrylic - $9 from Amazon
  • set of 12 crystal light pulls (optional) - $16 from Amazon
  • CDs and/or DVDs (I used discards)
    refraction glasses
  • drinking glass(es), clear with smooth sides
  • small bowl of water
  • small mirror
  • variety of flashlights
  • masking tape
  • spray bottles
  • refraction glasses - 20 for $15 from Amazon 
  • black paper

For all indoor activities, the lights were dimmed and tables covered with black paper to improve visibility.

Station 1 - Triangular Prisms

I set out all four triangular prisms and several different flashlights, and told them to also try
their parents' phone flashlights. One of the flashlights at each station was masked with tape so only a focused beam of light would be emitted.

I encouraged them to experiment with the different prisms and flashlights, and warned that they would have to be patient and rotate the prism and try different angles to get the thin, faint rainbow to appear. Below are the prisms, a rainbow made with a flashlight, and one with a beam of sunlight (click on any image to enlarge).

Rainbow Science, diffraction, light spectrum

Station 2 - Crystal Light Pulls

All 12 crystals were put out on a table with several flashlights. These were a little trickier to use, and did not work very well with flashlights, but when the light and angles are just right, will produce multiple tiny rainbows in different patterns. Sadly, someone apparently pocketed one of my crystals, so there are only 11 pictured below (click on image to enlarge).

Rainbow science, diffraction, visible light spectrum

Station 3 - CD & DVDs

Several discarded CDs and DVDs were set out on the table along with several flashlights.

Participants could either see the color spectrum looking directly at the disk, or project a rainbow by shining the light on it at an angle.

Rainbow Science, diffraction, visible spectrum

Station 4 - Water

1. Two glasses were filled about 3/4 of the way with water, and one was masked on one side to compare, and several flashlights were available. When the light is just right, a tiny rainbow is produced on the table, and if the glass is moved to the edge of the table, it can be projected on the floor for a larger one.

2. A small mirror was placed in a bowl at an angle. When light is shined through the water and reflected off the mirror, a rainbow will be projected on a vertical surface (click on image to enlarge).

Rainbow Science, diffraction, visible spectrum

Station 5 - Outdoors

1. After trying the activities inside for a few minutes with varied success, we went outside with the prisms and crystals to use with natural sunlight (I also took one of the glasses of water, but it got spilled before we could try it).

Rainbow Science, diffraction, visible spectrum

2. Then I gave them spray bottles to see if we could create rainbows with the mist in the sunlight, but we never got it to work, partly because it was getting overcast and the sunlight wasn't strong enough.

Big Finish!

After we'd done all the activities, I surprised them with the coolest thing, refraction glasses! When you are wearing these and look at a light, or towards (BUT NEVER DIRECTLY AT) the sun, you will see "rainbows" all over the place, and depending on the source of the light, the effects can really vary. I had strung up some white tree lights, in addition to all the various types of lighting in the library. Below are photos taken of the lights in the library with the glasses (click on image to enlarge).

Rainbow Science, diffraction, visible spectrum

These things are so fun, and well worth the 75 cents each, in my opinion. I played with them for at least an hour looking at different types of indoor and outdoor lighting after I bought them. Below are some outdoor photos in bright sunlight over the library and reflecting off cars, filtering through the trees at sunset, the moon, and neighbor's outdoor lights. Notice in the last photo you can see that some lights produce the full spectrum of colors, and other only emit specific wavelengths, leaving gaps appearing as black bands in the spectrum (click on any image to enlarge).

Rainbow science, diffraction, visible spectrum

*Note - In full disclosure, some of these photos were taken during the program, but some were taken while testing the activities before, or recreating them after, as I didn't get a chance to take many during.

How It Worked 

While all of the activities will work indoors with flashlights, they work much better with strong sunlight. I had thoroughly tested everything and made sure it all would work with flashlights and figured out the best ways. I had fun playing with them (and so did my cat, as you can see in the video below).

However, the kids were not as successful because they were too impatient, and not following directions or looking closely enough. They would try once, then give up and race to the next thing; they just were not willing to take time and experiment and problem-solve. They also kept crowding each other and shining their flashlights right where someone else was trying to make a rainbow, totally washing it out. Most had success with the CDs & DVDs, which are by far the easiest, and some had success with the prisms and other activities with help from me, but others were just....well, it was a bit like herding cats at times.

I was a bit frustrated that the adults were not helping more. Sometimes I get a really good group of adults that are involved, and other times they just want to sit in the back and play on their phones. I'm going to have to do better about making the expectations clear from the very beginning, and let them know they are expected to be participants, and assist and supervise their child, and manage their behavior.

There was one funny comment. At the beginning I gave them a little "pop quiz" as a way of introducing the topics we were going to talk about, and one question was "What is at the end of the rainbow?" [which is in reality a trick question, because as we were about to learn, there is no end of the rainbow], and I expected then to either say 'nothing' or 'a pot of gold'. One little boy was very specific, however, saying not just a pot of gold, but that the gold was worth about $30 😃🌈

What I'd Do Differently

I think I'm also just still expecting too much for the ages I'm getting, and have to pick easier, more foolproof activities. Stations just don't seem to work for this group, so if I were to do this again, I'd have more supplies and do it classroom-style, which I prefer anyway. I would give each participant, or each family, an acrylic prism (they're cheap enough to be able to by a few sets), one of the crystals, a CD or DVD, a glass of water, and a flashlight and lead them through each activity.

But I would definitely get the refraction glasses, and I highly recommend them for any light- or color-themed activity, or anytime you want a really fun giveaway for less than $1 each. Just be sure to warn them NOT to ever look directly at the sun!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Baby Jam Storytime

baby storytime, storytime for babies, babytime, mommy & me

One of our children's librarians at another branch has been on extended leave, and various staff have been taking turns filling in for her programs. I was asked if I was interested in filling in for her "Baby Jam" this week, and I jumped at the chance! "Baby Jam" is our system's babytime for more active babies from birth-18 months. Though all ages are welcome, it's mostly crawlers and walkers with an occasional younger baby or older sibling.

Of course, I was also a bit terrified as I have only done storytime for mostly preschool-ish ages. While I might have a few toddlers and babies, I've never done an all-out baby & caregiver storytime. But, I've observed one, talked to my boss who does ours (I don't work that shift, so I don't get to see it), got a couple of handouts from past babytimes the person I was subbing for had done, and looked at some of the information on Jbrary (of course).

I decided to follow the regular presenter's basic structure, since that is what the crowd was used to and I don't really have my own style for that age group yet, though if it was something I was going to be doing regularly, I probably would've changed some things (more about that later). Her basic structure was welcome, 2 welcome/lead-in type songs with motions, ball play, 2 bounces/tickles, read book, 2 more songs, rhymes, or fingerplays, bubbles, good-bye song, and this is what I did:

I started with announcing storytime was beginning, and passing out the handouts with all of the songs, rhymes, etc., that we would be doing while singing the short "Hello" song I use on my outreach visits:

Hello, My Friends

Hello, my friends; hello!
Hello, my friends; hello!
Hello, my friends; hello, my friends!
Hello, my friends, hello!

Then I introduced myself and explained that Miss Christy had been out, but would be back soon, and I might do things just a little differently because we all have our own styles and favorites songs and such. Then I introduced my "baby", the stuffed animal I had brought to model how to do the motions and interactions with their babies.

baby storytime

The regular presenter does a welcome song that calls every baby by name, but I did not think my voice was up to 25 verses, so I used a song from Jbrary instead:

Hello, Everybody

Hello, everybody! Can you touch your nose?
Touch your nose, touch your nose?
Hello, everybody, can you touch your nose?
Touch - your - nose!

(touch toes, pat head, rub tummy, etc.)

Babies love to show off their receptive language by pointing to body parts, and these songs and rhymes are not only fun, they reinforce vocabulary and body awareness. I explained as I modeled with my "baby" how parents could either model by touching their own nose, etc., touch their baby's nose, or help their baby touch their nose, depending on the age and what they were comfortable with.

I followed that with a lead-in song that the regular presenter uses that also has movements for the babies to do or parents to do with them:

Come Along and Sing With Me
(to the tune of "London Bridges")

Come along and sing with me, 
Sing with me, sing with me.
Come along and sing with me,
It's time for storytime!

(clap, wave, wiggle, bounce, play, etc.)

Then we got the big bin of balls out, with balls of various sizes, colors, and textures, for them to play with for a few minutes (with music), then I sang the "Clean Up" song while we all picked them up and put them away. 

Since they were now all hyped up, I followed this with a more active song that I also got from Jbrary that is supposed to get everyone up dancing, either picking up their child and holding them, or for the more mobile and independent one, holding their hands and dancing with them.

(To the tune of “Shortnin’ Bread”)

Mama’s little baby loves dancing, dancing;
Mama’s little baby loves turning ‘round.
Mama’s little baby loves dancing, dancing;
Mama’s little baby loves to boogie down.

Lean to the left, lean to the right;
Hug that baby nice and tight.
Lean to the left, lean to the right;
Hug that baby nice and tight.

Mama’s little baby loves dancing, dancing’
Mama’s little baby loves turning ‘round.
Mama’s little baby loves dancing, dancing;
Mama’s little baby loves to boogie down.

(Daddy, Auntie, Grandma….)

I mentioned that these bigger movements of holding them up high, down low, leaning to each side, and turning around helps develop their proprioception, or awareness of their body's position and movement in space. I personally love this movement song, but the caregivers did not really get into it like I expected.

To settle down in preparation for reading the story, we followed that with a gentle tickle used by the regular presenter, with modification:

Tickle You Here

Bounce you here, kiss you there,
Bounce you, kiss you, everywhere.

(tickle, kiss, hug)

Baby storytime

And now it was [finally] time to read our book. I choose Ten Tiny Tickles by Karen Katz, which probably would've been better for the younger "Cuddle Babies" class as it is a sweet, gentle story counting as we tickle baby, working on vocabulary as well. In retrospect, I would have been better off reading her Ten Tiny Babies, which has movements for older, more mobile babies to do, plus has more diversity. But all her books are great for babies and toddlers.

Following the story, we did a classic bounce, The Grand Old Duke of York:

The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men.
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.

And when they were up, they were up.
And when they were down, they were down.
And when they were only half-way up,
They were neither up nor down.

And then the "Five Little Ducks":

Five little ducks went out to play,
Over the hills and far away.
Mama Duck called them with a
"Quack, quack, quack,"
And four little ducks came running back.

(count down to no little ducks)

Then, Mama Duck called with a
And five little ducks came running back!

We finished up by blowing bubbles with music playing in the background.

How It Went

I think it went fairly well. I was a little nervous, never having done that age group before nor having observed as many as I would like, but I didn't suck! Though I love being able to read longer books to older kids who are able to appreciate humor, I had fun with the babies, too, and found I was more comfortable slipping in development and literacy tips with this age.

Each individual part of the storytime was fine, though I did not quite get as much participation from the parents and expected interactions between caregiver and child. Most of the babies were walking, so the parents tended to let them just kind of mill around, though most of the babies did imitate many of the actions. I found that while I liked all the individual parts, I did not feel comfortable with the overall structure for a few reasons.

First, it just felt a little choppy as I quickly moved from one thing to the next, trying to get everything done in our 30 minutes time frame, and the transitions were awkward (that could just be me). I think I would have preferred to leave off a couple of the songs/rhymes, and do more verses or repetitions of the ones we did..

But the biggest thing that felt really off to me was having gross motor play in the beginning, between rounds of songs and before the story. I'm sure those that do it this way have a good reason and it works for them, but to me it just seemed like it got them wound up and left them hanging as there wasn't much time for it. Also, babies start to develop object permanence at 4 months, and it's pretty solid by a year old, so you are risking some serious meltdowns when you have to put the balls away again so soon, and I did have one. 

Personally, I would save playtime for the end, and let them have more time with them. And I would probably vary it, and have different toys or more structured play activities, depending on the ages.

If you regularly do Babytime, what is your structure? How many songs/rhymes/bounces do you do, and do yo include gross motor play in the middle or end?

Monday, April 8, 2019

Bunny Rabbits - Family Storytime

I have this really cute bunny felt set with 2 rhymes and a song to go with them, so since it was the beginning of Spring when we start to see baby bunnies appear and close to Easter I decided to do rabbits for my theme.

I started with my welcome song and introductions, and then realized I completely forgot to grab the non-fiction book I had intended to use in the introduction. I moved on to our story song and decided since it was a slightly older crowd than usual I would get to read one of the longer stories, Muncha, Muncha, Muncha by Candace Fleming and G. Brian Karas, which I love.

In this story, Mr. McGreely finally plants the garden he's always dreamed of, but just when the fruits of his labor are ready to pick, 3 hungry bunnies sneak in and eat them. He tries everything to keep them out, but they still get in every time. There is a lot of repetition, plus an increasingly angry Mr. McGreely.

After that we did a counting down rhyme with the flannel board:

Five Little Bunnies
(modified from Let's Play Music)

Five little bunnies playing on the floor;
One hopped away, and then there were four.

Four little bunnies hiding behind a tree;
One climbed up, and then there were three.

Three little bunnies wondered what to do;
One went to sleep, and then there were two.

Two little bunnies looking for some fun;
One jumped down a hole, and then there was one.

One little bunny, alone in the sun;
He hopped home to his burrow, and then there was none.

[For the pattern and more ways to use this felt set, see my "Flannel Friday Five Little Bunnies" post.]

Then we read another favorite of mine, Everybunny Dance by Ellie Sandall. I love this book because it is is so interactive and incorporates movement. The audience can stand up and pretend to be one of the bunnies and act out the motions with them as they dance and twirl, clap their paws, bang a drum, toot a horn, and sing, until the fox shows up! 

Then all the bunnies must run and hide, holding their breath and not making a sound. But as it turns out, the fox is only looking for an audience. 

Despite these books always proving to be extremely engaging in the past, I was completely loosing my audience so I decided to call it quits, and went right to our closing song, then put out the materials for the optional craft.

I actually put out two options for the craft, one was making a simple paper headband with bunny ears. I cut paper strips for the headband, and printed out sheets with the bunny ears and let them cut them out, figuring they would be easier to color that way, and maybe the kids would get some practice with scissor skills.

For the second, I borrowed a cute idea from another children's librarian who was gracious enough to share her file with me, to make a Duck-Rabbit. If you look at it one way, it's a bunny, but if you flip it over, then it's a duck! I printed it out, and provided crayons, scissors, googly eyes, and cotton balls for tails. I also used feathers last time, but opted not to this time because they are so messy and irritating. I saw one bunny leaving that must've grown up near a nuclear waste dump site, because he had about a dozen eyes all over his body, LOL! This was my example:

How It Went

I have to say, this was a very disappointing and dissatisfying storytime, despite all the components having been extremely engaging and well-received in previous storytimes. My "cute little animals" themed outreach visit last week went much better.

This is the weekend all-ages family storytime, and we (the two children's librarians and two children's associates) each do it one weekend a month. It doesn't have a regular crowd like the weekly storytimes do, so you really have a different crowd each time, and you never know what ages you'll get.

I was at first pleasantly surprised when I saw it was a slightly older crowd than usual, which usually means they are more engaged and can do longer, more sophisticated books and they pay attention and participate more. Not this time. I don't know what it is, but people here often just will not sit close enough to me to really see and hear well. I keep encouraging them to move in close, and sometimes they will, sometimes they won't. This group just wouldn't; it was like they thought I had some terrible contagious disease. I even had one family sit behind me!

No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't keep them engaged, and there was too much chatting amongst themselves by both parents and kids, distractions from other stuff going on, and the parents weren't really doing anything to help keep the kids focused. I really though I'd have a lot of fun with this storytime, and ended up cutting it short instead. I find I'm enjoying my outreach visit more than this in-library storytime much of the time, but there are still days when I get a good group and it goes really well. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Cute Little Animals - Outreach Storytime

Today was my monthly outreach visit to a nearby daycare, and with it being Spring (finally), I decided to do stories with cute, fluffy animals. I see ages 1 through 4 years old, so I need a range of books, and I start with mostly songs for the youngest, then end with mostly books for the oldest. Since I only have 20 minutes per group, I do an abbreviated storytime and start with a shorter "Hello" song than my usual opening song.

1-Year Olds 
The babies still do best with songs, so after the "Hello" song, we did "Itsy Bitsy Spider" twice, then "The Wheels On The Bus", and "Little Bunny Foo Foo". Then I read Mary Murphy's Say Hello Like This. This book is short and sweet, and features animals and their sounds, which little ones usually like and it's good for phonological awareness. I also like the bold, simple illustrations with heavy outlines for the younger kids, since simple, high contrast images are known to hold their interest. We finished with our "Storytime Is Over" song. Though I love the babies, I couldn't wait to get out of there as they all had nasty, snotty noses!

2-Year Olds 
The 2-year olds really surprised their teachers with how well they did last time, and today they [almost] all sat down and were ready to listen almost right away. After the "Hello" song, we sang the ABC's and "The Wheels On the Bus", then I read Five Little Chicks by Nancy Tafuri, which is a short, simple story that begins with the Mama hen and five eggs, which hatch, producing five little chicks. 

The five little chicks then each start looking for something to eat and investigating different things: worms, beetles, butterflies, fish, and strawberries, then finally their mother shows them how to scratch in the dirt near the corn field to look for corn and other seeds. The kids can identify each potential food, and comment on whether they would like to eat it or not.

After that we stood up for a very fun and interactive book, Ellie Sandall's Everybunny Dance! This is a great movement book, as the kids get to pretend to be bunnies and act out the story, dancing, pretending to play instruments, and singing, until the fox comes out and they run and hide! But, as it turns out, the fox only wants an audience. Sometimes I follow this by doing the "Bunny Hop" conga dance, but I thought these kids were too young to follow the steps.

3- & 4-Year Olds 
Today they were expecting me, fortunately, so I didn't have to wait very long for them to sit in the story area and get settled. I started with the "Hello" song, then my "If You're Ready for a Story" song. I had planned to do Everybunny Dance! with them as well, but the space was just too cramped, so I had to change my plans. Instead, I read Wee Little Bunny by Lauren Thompson and John Butler, which was probably a little on the simple side for this age, but they were okay with it. The story shows a new little bunny as he plays and frolics, meeting a new friend along the way, then goes home at the end of the day and tells his mother all about his busy day.

Then I asked the kids if they knew what today was. They knew it was the first day of April, but didn't know about April Fool's Day. So I explained that it was a day people played silly little tricks on each other, just like we would see in our story, Barnyard Fun by Maureen Wright. I was SO excited when I found this book! It is the only April Fool's Day book I have found that is suitable for storytime. It is April 1st, and Sheep has a bunch of barnyard pranks to pull on his friends. He sets Rooster's alarm an a hour earlier, replaces Dog's can of food with a can of springy "snakes", serves Pig a "cake" that is just box covered in icing, and connects Cow's dots to make smiley faces. Then Horse decides to give Sheep a taste of his own medicine, with hilarious results!

I concluded with showing them my April Fool's joke, a nice pan of "brownies".

How It Went 
This was my third visit to the daycare, and the kids seem to be remember me and are getting used to the routine, so it is going more smoothly each time (not that it's ever gone badly). Today I was greeted by lots of smiles and "Hi!"s, and even a couple of hugs.

Everything worked really well, and I was glad to have the chance to read Barnyard Fun for April Fool's again, and share my little prank. They all laughed and thought it was hilarious when the other animals gave Sheep a taste of his own medicine by shearing him to look like a poodle!