One of my goals in my new position was to get some STEM programming going as there was very little being done in this system and none at my library. So once I had early literacy covered with both take-home kits and virtual storytimes, I turned my attention to STEM.
Since we serve a lower-income community where many lack internet access at home and are facing even greater economic hardships due to the pandemic, I did not want to assume they had internet access or materials at home. I decided on a hybrid program, combining a video presentation with a take-home kit that would include as many of the materials as possible with basic instructions for the activities, as well as how to access the video presentation of the program on Facebook & YouTube with URL's and QR codes. That way, if they didn't have internet access they could still do the activities.
I targeted elementary aged kids for a few reasons. First, there really was not much being offered for that age range, especially the upper end; preschool was covered with both storytime and take-home early literacy kits, my co-workers have craft and book club programs for teens and adults, and the central teen librarian sends out additional craft kits for teens each month. Central youth services does send out some really basic craft kits for kids, but they really only appeal to the younger kids and exclude all the kids who aren't interested in crafts. Second, the more basic science activities that are appropriate for this age are also more budget-friendly and more easily adapted for take-home kits and virtual programs. And third, this was the same age I did STEM programming for in my previous job, so I had 2 years worth of tried and proven programs I could adapt.
For my first one, I fell back on a tried and true program I've done many times for many different groups in many different settings and it has always been very successful. My "Mirror, Mirror" program is about mirrors and reflection, and the kids make their own simple, but very effective, kaleidoscope out of easily accessible materials. I knew this would be perfect for a take-home kit, and easy to do with basic written instructions. However, if they had access, they would get more in-depth instruction and be able to watch me make one, as well as see a really cool demonstration of a mirascope, on video.
Materials Included In Kit (not all are pictured):
- cardboard tube
- 2 pieces of construction paper cut to fit tube (they only need 1, but I wanted to give some choice in color)
- glue stick
- tape (wound around a 1" piece of plastic straw)
- flexible straw, cut to fit tube, with about 1" past the flexible part extending past the end
- mirrored scrapbook cardstock, cut about 100mm X 112mm and scored into thirds (so there are 3 sections roughly 100mm X 37mm)
- 2 cardstock circles, 4" in diameter with holes punch in center
- 4 markers (wanted to be sure they had enough to get decent results in case they didn't have markers at home, but couldn't afford to give out whole sets; crayons don't work well)
Prior to going through the construction of the kaleidoscope, I talked a little about mirrors and reflection, and how this can be used to create some cool effects, and in fact, this was how many special effects for movies were achieved back before more sophisticated technology like CGI was available.
I showed them one really cool effect, using a mirascope. This is a very simple device that creates a really realistic holographic image using two parabolic mirrors, with one inverted on top of the other, and an opening in the center of the top one. When assembled it looks like a flying saucer, and when a very small item is place inside, the curved mirrors produce a multitude of reflections from all sides, which results in a 3-d image of the item being projected through the opening so that it appears to be sitting on a mirror on top of the device. It is super cool, and they are less than $10 from a certain giant online retailer.
I don't know how many watched the video, I think probably not very many, and I did have major problems with audio at the beginning, and had to start over after 8 minutes of trying to figure out and fix the problem, all while live-streaming! But, I did later get some very nice compliments from parents, and I noticed that I had 5 people register for the following month as soon as it was posted, which is encouraging.