Special Events

Ready, Set, Code — Session II

I didn’t take any pictures of our first coding session but I did this time so I thought I’d post them!

At this session we started by reviewing the definition of commands:

commands definition

Then we practiced our commands by playing The Name Game. We started by spelling out our first names on graph paper then writing down the commands to write each letter:


You can see the sheet on the left has the key of up, down, left and right. Then they had to pick a starting point for each letter and write the commands from there. This program was designed for ages 6-10 and I had a few 5-year-olds who had some trouble with this one. But the older kids I had who were going into fourth and fifth grades loved it. I had one younger kid named Max and we all had to band together to help him design an X. That was a tough one! I got this idea from the book How to Code: A Step-by-Step Guide to Computer Coding: Book 1 by Max Wainewright. Fantastic book and series for this sort of program.

After The Name Game we talked about algorithms:

Algorithm definition.jpg

And programs:

program definition.jpg

(If you’re wondering, I got the template for the robot signs on postermywall.com.)

Then it was time for graph paper programming. This concept was difficult for the younger ones so beware. The older kids did great.


We started at the left. The yellow star in the top left corner was our starting point. The text at the bottom were our instructions. We followed our instructions to make a pattern. But we discussed how those instructions in long form were tedious and took up a lot of room.

The next image is the coded instructions. On that blank piece of paper we designed the code for that image together.

On the second to last paper is a code we did together on the blank graph paper which gave them an idea of how to play the game. Then I paired them up. One person wrote the code and gave it to the other person who followed the code and hopefully, made the correct image based on the instructions. I gave them six images to follow but, of course, they could make up their own images if they wished.


I got this idea here.

Finally, we ended with a craft. I explained what binary code is and the kids spelled out their names in code:


You can see the ASCII Alphabet in binary above my example craft. The 1’s in binary code are black and the 0’s are white. Of course, they could pick any color they wanted. I got the strips here and based the idea on the necklaces I found here. Logistically, a paper craft is easier for us.

So that was our second coding session. One more to go!

Special Events

How It Works: The Wizard of Oz

This was the last of my How It Works events for the spring and I think it was the most successful. The experiments worked great, we had a huge (for this program series) turnout, and the kids really seemed to enjoy themselves. I need to try and figure out how to work STEM programs around book/movie themes!

Of course, I forgot to take pictures but I have some of the signs I posted and the equipment we used for some of the experiments. First, we made a tornado in a bottle to get our story going. I bought a tornado tube on Amazon and attached two empty soda bottles. It didn’t work great (it required some squeezing and swirling of the bottles) but it worked well enough to show the tornado and why it worked. I made the accompanying sign:

Tornado bottle sign.jpg

The text and information for this sign came from one of my favorite STEM books: The 101 Coolest Simple Science Experiments: Awesome Things To Do With Your Parents, Babysitters, and Other Adults by Rachel Miller, Holly Homer & Jamie Harrington.

the 101 coolest simple science experiments

The tornado took us “over the rainbow” so next we made our exploding rainbow cups. I put two drops of food coloring and about two tablespoons of white vinegar into each cup. In separate cups I put about a tablespoon of baking soda. Then I picked six kids to help explode the rainbow. They poured their baking soda into the vinegar and WHOOSH! Colorful rainbow cup explosions. (I put the vinegar cups in disposable baking trays so we wouldn’t have a huge mess to clean up.) I made this sign to explain why it worked:

Exploding rainbow cups.jpg

I found the experiment here and used some of the wording on the site.

Once we were in Oz we started to meet our friends. The first friend Dorothy meets in Oz is the scarecrow who wants a brain. So we explored how our brains work. I had them draw corresponding pictures on two circles cut out of card stock. I made a fish on one circle and a fish bowl on the other as an example. (I also told them they could draw a bird in a cage or a person on one side and jail bars on the other.) I had some very creative kids. One drew a nest and a tree and one drew a jail cell and a zombie!

Once the drawings were done, we taped them onto a straw which we then spun between our palms and the two images made one! Totally cool.

Here’s mine:

Brain game sign.jpg

This experiment and sign wording was also found in The 101 Coolest Simple Science Experiments book.

Next in the story, Dorothy meets the Tinman who wants a heart. So we checked our pulses. We poked a toothpick into a mini marshmallow and placed them on the inside of our wrists and watched our heartbeats. This had varying success. I don’t think the kids were sitting still enough to see anything but they did enjoy eating the marshmallows …

I didn’t make a sign for this experiment since it was so simple but I found it in The 101 Coolest Simple Science Experiments book.

Finally, we met the Wicked Witch and made “melting” bath fizzies. I’d already mixed together the baking soda, cream of tartar, olive oil, and food coloring. I gave each kid a silicone cupcake mold to fill and take home. (I ran out of molds so we had to give some latecomers plastic cups!) They filled them about halfway and then patted them down nice and tight. I told them to take the fizzies home and let them dry for two days. Once they’re completely dry, they can add the fizzy to their bath (or drop it into a filled sink). I wanted them to have an experiment to complete at home because, of course, there’s no place like home. I told the kids to come back in and let me know if the fizzies worked!

Melting bath fizzies sign.jpg

This experiment and wording came from the Smithsonian Maker Lab: 28 Super Cool Projects book. One of the parents was leafing through it at the end of the program so I checked it in for her so she could take it home and do some at-home experiments with her kids. I like to think the How It Works programs (the family attended three out of four) sparked an interest in science and experimenting!

maker lab

The kids had an awesome time. I had an awesome time. I even wore my red flats so I had on “ruby slippers.” A great way to wrap up our How It Works series!

Special Events

How It Works: Water, Water Everywhere

chalkboard sign.jpg

Our second to last How It Works of the season! We had to compete with a GORGEOUS day so attendance was light. But because of that I was able to spend time with each kid and make sure they understood the experiments. I think they had a great time!

First, I explained our density tower.

(As an aside, this took me three tries and almost didn’t happen. I finally got it to work about 10 minutes before the program was scheduled to start! The problem child was the [Dollar Tree] dish detergent. And I was using a tall glass vase in the beginning and I think the detergent had too far to drop and was disrupting the milk too much so the soap wasn’t forming a nice smooth surface. Also, I think there may have been too much water in the cheap dish soap to form properly on top of the milk. I switched to a name brand detergent [Ajax] and it worked perfectly. I also used a much shorter container and the soap didn’t have as far to drop and I think that helped as well.)

density tower.jpg

We sunk the bolt and floated the pink pong ball on top of the vegetable oil in the tower.

Here’s the sign I made explaining the molecules and density and why certain liquids sit on others:

density tower sign.jpg

I got this experiment and the illustration from the book Maker Lab: 28 Super Cool Projects.

maker lab.jpg

Our first experiment together was floating paper clips. This experiment came from a book I bought at Kohl’s for $5 and it’s been invaluable. Totally worth the price!

the 101 coolest simple science experiments.jpg

We used small cups of water for this experiment. First we dropped in a paper clip and watched it sink. Then we dropped in a small piece of tissue and put another paper clip on top. Gently we prodded the edges of the tissue with a toothpick until it absorbed the water and fell away and the paper clip floated!

floating paperclip.jpg

Next, I demonstrated to the kids how an egg could float in water. I did this experiment myself because I knew giving the children raw eggs would be impossible without disaster. One cup was full of regular water and the other was full of heavily salted water. The egg dropped in the water and floated in the salt water! Really cool. I got this experiment from The 101 Coolest Simple Science Experiments.

egg float

Our last experiment was paper boats. We floated paper boats made out of card stock in trays of water and made them move across the tray with drops of dish soap. This one was touch and go. It worked the first time we did it but that one drop of soap really messed up the molecules in the tray of water so it only worked that one time and then we had to empty the soap water and refill the trays with fresh water. Also, the card stock boats took on water and curled very quickly. In the book they painted the boats and I see why. I’m sure they lasted longer than our flimsy paper ones. I got this experiment and graphic for the sign from the Maker Lab book.

paper boat sign.jpg

But the kids still had fun and I hope they learned a little something!

Special Events

How It Works: Fairy Tales & Fables

I forgot to take pictures from this event!!! But I wanted to post a summary anyway.

First we read the fable, The Goose and the Golden Eggs.

Book: Aesop’s Fables by Jerry Pinkney

aesops fables.jpg

Then we “laid an egg” into a glass bottle! The bottle I used had a larger neck than this one and some of the eggs I made just fell in so, sadly, it wasn’t this impressive. BUT when it did work the kids were very impressed. In fact I had to use all four hard-boiled eggs I brought and the kids would have had me keep going if I’d been able to.

Next we read a passage from The Little Mermaid after I told them the original story was very different than the Disney version. I explained how instead of living happily ever after with her prince, she throws herself into the ocean and dissolves into bubbles.

Book: The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen; illustrated by Robyn Officer

the little mermaid.jpg

I made them unbreakable bubble solution to play with to go along with this story. More on that later.

Then I read them the summary of The Three Bill Goats Gruff that came with our problem-solving STEM kit from Lakeshore.

billy goats.jpg

I provided foam blocks and the Velcro blocks that came with the kit and told the kids to build a bridge high enough and safe enough for the goats to get over the troll. I had a great group of social kids and some of them ended up working together to make their bridge.

So … the “unbreakable” bubbles. I forgot the recipe for the unbreakable bubbles at work so I looked one up online. I found a couple that added glucose (instead of the rubber cement that was noted in my original recipe) and thought, what the heck, I’m sure they do the same thing, and added the 1 tablespoon the recipe listed. The solution had to sit for 12 hours which is why I made it ahead of time.

When I came in to work the next day I found the recipe in the forgotten book and it said to add HALF A TEASPOON of rubber cement. Quite different. Suffice it to say, the solution didn’t even make a bubble let alone a bubble that didn’t pop. *sigh* BUT I used the failure as a teachable moment for the kids that we don’t give up and if we make a mistake we press on and keep experimenting. I bought them some normal bubble solution at the dollar store and they had a blast blowing real bubbles. I also told them I’d remake the unbreakable solution for next month’s program (theme: water) so we’ll try it out again with the proper recipe in a couple weeks!

Special Events

How It Works: Magnets

This was the first program in our new series called How It Works. Each month we’re going to explore a science or history topic with activities, books, and games. The programs are intended to be STE(A)M programs but aren’t explicitly advertised as such.

Since this program was on Valentine’s Day I thought magnets would be a fun theme since they “attract” (or repel!) each other.

First we read Magnets Push, Magnets Pull by Mark Weakland.


This book is a great summary of magnets, how they work, and how they’re used in everyday life. Then we discussed what we learned using this poster:

magnet poster.jpg

I got the idea on Pinterest here. I loved that the poster summarized what we were learning so perfectly.

Afterwards, the kids experimented at the stations I set up. Our first station tested which everyday objects are magnetic and which aren’t.

is it magnetic table.jpg

Our program was for kids in grades K-4 so I wanted to find a worksheet that could be used by many ages. I found this one here and it worked perfectly. I gathered everything we needed in the two baskets above and magnets were in the green container. Here’s the sign I posted above the station:

is it magnetic sign.jpg

I wanted to explain to the kids why each experiment worked.

Next we had a runaway train maze:

runaway train maze.jpg

Here’s the sign for this station:

runaway train maze sign.jpg

A, our other children’s librarian, created and taped this maze down with masking tape and it came out awesome! We were originally going to use cars from the dollar store for a “getaway car” maze (as they did here) but I couldn’t find bar magnets in enough time to allow for the opposite poles needed to guide the car. So we ended up using trains from the train table and magnets we had on hand. We also set out the foam blocks in case anyone wanted to build arches (as seen in the picture above) or road blocks.

Of course, the boys ended up building a city with foam blocks and using a magnetic slime “bomb” to bomb the city …

Which brings me to our next station: Magnetic Slime:

magnetic slime table.jpg

Making magnetic slime is an option but it was much cheaper to buy the slime and let the kids have more time to play with it. Also, it looked like it might be toxic to breathe in and touch while it’s mixing and I didn’t want to mess with masks and messy hands. I bought this one from Amazon.

Here’s the sign for the station:

magnetic slime sign.jpg

I purchased really strong magnets on Amazon as well so the kids could move the slime better. They were a little too strong. All four eventually got stuck together (I think with slime mixed in) and they are now IMPOSSIBLE to pull apart. So if we ever have another magnet program we’ll just have to use all four as one super strong magnet!

Our next station:

magic cup table.jpg

magic cup sign.jpg

Not as exciting as the other stations but the kids seemed to enjoy the challenge of getting the paper clip out. And I added a last minute addition to the station: cut up pipe cleaners in a soda bottle with another strong magnet. You could make the pipe cleaners dance through the bottle which was a fun effect.

And our last (somewhat disappointing) station:

magnetic cereal table.jpg

magnetic cereal sign.jpg

Apparently there are teeny, tiny bits of iron in dry cereal and if you run a really strong magnet over the cereal, the little metal bits are supposed to be pulled out. I found the idea here. We just couldn’t get it to work. I used different cereals than the ones in the linked experiment so maybe that was part of the problem. In hindsight, we should have used the giant magnet from the slime table. But that’s part of experimenting. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t!

This program required a lot of planning and was a bit expensive. And we only got 24 participants. (We think Valentine’s Day might have kept some families away.) However, I think next month’s program (How It Works: Fairy Tales & Fables) will be much easier/cheaper!

Special Events

Mo Willems Party

We knew Mo Willems would bring in a lot of families so we were expecting a healthy group. Then we heard a local elementary school was promoting the event to their kindergarten classes because they’d just finished a Mo Willems unit. That’s when we knew it was going to be big.

Here’s the flyer I designed. And here’s the itinerary:

Book: Elephants Cannot Dance by Mo Willems

elephants cannot dance.jpg

After the book I taught them “Dances of the Decades.” I looked up fad dances from the past 70 years and taught them to the kids. Then we performed the dance to a popular song from that decade. (I planned to start with the 1920s but there just wasn’t enough room to Charleston [there’s a kick!] and I didn’t think there’d be enough time to get through everything. So we started with the 1950s.)

Dance: The Hand Jive
Song: Willie and the Hand Jive by Johnny Otis

Dance: The Twist
Song: The Twist by Chubby Checker

Dance: The Hustle
Song: Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees

(This one was particularly fun!)

Dance: The Electric Slide
Song: Electric Boogie by Marcia Griffiths

Dance: The Macarena
Song: Macarena — Bayside Boys Remix by Los Del Rio

The kids had a blast and we worked up quite a sweat! Then I told them to teach me a current dance and they taught me how to dab. 😀

After our dancing, we read another book:

Book: Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems

naked mole rat gets dressed.jpg

I wanted to read a Mo Willems book that wasn’t as well known as Elephant & Piggie, Pigeon, or Knuffle Bunny. I think a couple of the kids had seen this one but most hadn’t so it was nice to introduce them to something new.

Song: Baby Shark
Baby shark do do do do do do (shark mouth with two fingers)
Baby shark do do do do do do
Baby shark do do do do do do
Baby shark

Other verses:
Mama Shark (shark mouth with hands connected at the wrists)
Daddy Shark (shark mouth with whole arms)
Grandma Shark (shark mouth like mama shark but with fists)
Shark attack (snap arms overhead)
Swim away (swimming motion with arms)
Safe at last (jazz hands)
Source: Adapted from Kindergarten Nation

This song has nothing to do with our theme but I wanted to break up our two books with something and I thought this was a funny song for any age child that might show up.

Book: The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems


And back to a classic Mo character for our last book.

After we read that book everyone scattered to participate in the games and craft we had set up:

In honor of The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? we had a throw the cookie on the bullseye game:


We used masking tape to make the “board” on the floor.


I made the cookies using containers I bought at Dollar Tree. I printed cookie clip art onto card stock and taped the cookies to the tops of the containers (five for $1!). Easy peasy (and super cheap). And they got some good air!

Our other game was Pin the Bowtie on the Naked Mole Rat:


I drew our Naked Mole Rat using the book as my reference. Here’s our other children’s librarian demonstrating how our game is played:


I bought the blindfold at Dollar Tree (notice the chic leopard print pattern) and found a bow tie pattern online. I printed and cut out 50 bow ties. Each child put their name on their bow tie with crayons and colored it if they wished. We stuck a little tape on the back of the bow tie, turned each kid three times, and sent them toward the mole rat. Good fun! We had one kid do a complete right turn and pin it to the side wall. That got a good laugh from the crowd.

Last we had our craft:


A pigeon puppet! We set out the shapes and glue and kids taped the sticks on. Luckily, we had lots of parental help because there were so. many. kids!!

Here are a few pictures of the room set up:


I think my Piggy is a little portly …


Books for loan. This table was empty about two minutes after I finished the last story.


Chairs for the grown-ups.

So that was our Mo Willems party! Phew!! We ended up with 98 people (in a small conference room where I’m sure we were breaking some sort of fire code)!

I always get a little nervous before big events like this because you can never tell how it’s going to go but one of the moms gave me a really nice compliment and hearing that made me think it was quite successful!

Special Events

Stuffed Animal Sleepover

I was in charge of our stuffed animal sleepover last year and I had a blast! We put tags on each of the lovies that spent the night with us to identify the owner, the pet’s name, what they like to do and their favorite food.


The first thing our animals did was play at the train table:


After the train table, we played with blocks and puzzles:


Then we played on the computers and colored:


And had a bathroom break:


And a drink from the water fountain:


Then we picked out a library book to take home with us:

And Miss Elena read us a bedtime story:

We said goodnight:

nighty night.jpg

Or so Miss Elena thought … After she left we played in the book return:

And had fun with the photocopier:


And played poker with Mo, the library monkey:

I had so much fun setting up all of these photos.

The next day I presented a slideshow to the kids showing them how their animals had spent their night. Then I read them The Stuffed Animals Get Ready for Bed by Alison Inches; illustrated by Bryan Langdo, just like I read to their lovies in the pictures above.


I also took individual pictures of each animal along with the book they picked out and made a slide for each lovie telling everyone whose they were and their stats (favorite food/activity that the kids had provided for us on the tags).


I also have to make a special mention of Sparkle. Her owner included her bed and a note in case she got homesick. How cute is that?













So that was our sleepover! I think the kids really enjoyed everything and I loved taking the pictures. It was a lot of work but totally worth it!