Thursday, October 29, 2015

American Girl Club: Meet Molly

This month's American Girl Club focused on Molly, an American Girl character from 1944. Like Felicity, she is one of the first American Girls, and therefore will always be a favorite of mine. She is also easy to plan for, especially if you search for activities that are related to celebration of the USA's Fourth of July.

The program started out with our usual discussion of the time period and Molly's books. Participation was even better than usual, because the kids seemed pretty familiar with the events of World War II. In particular, we talked about the hardships Molly and her family faced and how each family was required to do their part to help the war effort.

For our active game we played "Prisoner's Base", a game I found in the always helpful "American Girl Party Book". It is a version of tag that involves putting players from the opposite team in your team's "prison" and rescuing your own teams players from the other team's "prison".

Next we had a little contest to see who could make the most words out of Molly's full name: Molly Jean McIntire. This is always a fun little activity that can be adapted for use with any word/theme. The "winner's" treat was getting first pick of the free books I gave out from our stash of extras.

We ended with a craft and snack as usual. The craft was making flowers our of plastic bags. All you need to do this craft is about 4 plastic bag per child and some pipe cleaners. It did take a little assistance for the younger kids in the group, but most were able to do it pretty independently. Here are the instructions I gave each child.

As our snack we had star shaped jelly sandwiches, carrots (because Americans many grew "victory gardens" during World War II), M & Ms (invented during Molly's childhood), and juice. I was very impressed with the child who pointed out the M & M could stand for Molly McIntire because I hadn't even thought of that when I purchased them!

For information on my other American Girl related programs go to these posts:

If you ever have any questions about this or any programs I'd love to answer them! Feel free to comment here, reach me on Twitter (@MsKellyTweets), or email me at marrak at

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

ATLAS: Spooky Science

Science programs are always a huge hit with my 3rd-6th graders, so this month we combined science with a Halloween theme to do Spooky Science.

I had five experiments planned, including making slime. As usual, I registered 12 kids for this one hour program. The biggest issue I ran into was that slime making was way more time intensive than I remembered from doing it a few years ago. We didn't have time to go through all five experiments, but the kids seemed to have a fun time anyways. My handout of instructions for each experiment is linked to in the title of each.

Experiment #1: Wiggly worms

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For this experiment you soak gummy worms in baking soda water then transferred them to a cup of vinegar. The chemical reaction is supposed to make the worms move. Word of warning, it only works if you slice the worms very thinly. This is also a good experiment to do first and come back to, because the worms do take a significant amount of time to soak.

Experiment #2: Magic Pumpkin

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This is an optical illusion I found on Steve Spangler's website. There is a template of a pumpkin that you attach to skewer so that when you spin it you get a moving jack o lantern face. The explanation on the website was slightly confusing so I simplified it on my handout. The basic idea is that you glue two of the four pieces together, glue the others in half, and tape them on the skewer in a "plus sign" formation. For my skewers I used some leftover chopsticks I had in my storage cabinet.

Experiment #3: Slime

As I mentioned, this was the most time intensive part of this program. It still was messy, fun and definitely worth doing. There are many recipes online, and many variations you can make. One of my favorite variations is using clear glue, adding a paint called GlowAway and making your slime glow in the dark.

Experiment  #4: Ghost cup

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This was one of the experiments I sent home because we didn't have time to do it. I found it on the website "Science Bob" listed as a chicken cup. It is a lesson in friction, as well as sound amplification. I don't remember how I figured this out, but if you pull the paper towel in a longer stroke, it sounds like a ghost. My tip for this experiment is to make sure to cut holes in each cup ahead of time.

Experiment #5: Dancing ghost

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This is a simply activity done with a tissue and a balloon. You cut a ghost out of the tissue, rub the balloon in your hair, and use the static energy to lift the ghost. This was definitely the easiest and most simple experiment we did. It was another one I first found on Science Bob.

How it went
We accomplished three experiments in the program, and I sent two of them home. The slime seemed to be the most popular activity, followed by the magic pumpkin. Overall, this was a fun program that was relatively inexpensive. It cost about $20, but only because I had to buy new containers of glue and Borax for slime making.

Feel free to use these experiments and handouts at library programs or any other opportunity you may have. I would love to hear about how they have been used! You can comment here, email me at marrak at libcoop dot net, or find me on Twitter (@MsKellyTweets). 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Frozen Family Fun Night

The idea for this recent program began from two separate goals I had. The first was to include more evening programs for working families. The second was to find a high appeal program that would draw large crowds and combat the beginning of the school year attendance dip. I figured I might as well take advantage of  the kids' remaining Frozen fever and kick of the school year with a bang.

To add to the draw of the program I hired a performer to be our Elsa for the night. I think it worked pretty well, because we had about 70 children come! We started our program by having Elsa read a story to the kids. The book I chose was called "An Amazing Snowman" by Barbara Hicks.

After the story we broke into six different stations. In choosing the stations I did my best to accommodate a wide variety of activities and age levels.

Snowball Toss

Supplies needed:
Foam balls (found at craft stores)
Plastic bins (purchased at our Dollar Store)

This was a simple activity where kids had to throw the foam balls into the bins. The younger kids stayed occupied throwing the balls, while some of the older kids liked the challenge of getting the balls into the farthest bin.

Pin the Nose on Olaf

Supplies needed:
Printable template (found here)

Kids used tape to give Olaf back his nose. A fun addition, but I think more kids would have done it if I had an adult available to consistently help them.

Make an Olaf puppet

Supplies needed:
Paper plates
Cut out noses
Popsicle sticks

I had the kids add a noses, eye stickers and black circular stickers to create an Olaf face. A popsicle stick taped to the back and you've got a pretty cute little puppet. This also creates a great opportunity to encourage developing literacy skills through imaginative play!

Build a Marshmallow Castle

Supplies needed:

I've done marshmallow building with school age kids several times. It is pretty inexpensive and is always a big hit. I wanted to include something that appealed to older kids, so I figured this would work well. The only problem was that the ten bags of marshmallows I bought didn't appear to be quite enough.

Craft station

Supplies needed:
Frozen coloring pages
Foam snowflakes
Construction paper

I happened to have extra foam snowflakes and stickers in my craft cabinet so I figured I'd put them out to be used up. I supplied glitter glue, crayons and construction paper for the kids to create as they wish. I also printed out some Frozen themed coloring pages.

Pictures with Elsa

I wasn't going to let the kids leave without a picture with our Elsa. She was multi-talented and also made balloon animals for us. The backdrop was a last minute addition, made by painting over some large foam snowflakes I had on hand.

To complete the party, I also provided snacks, including carrots (Olaf noses), pretzels (Sven's Antlers), and Frozen fruit snacks.

Overall, I think this party was a success. It was fun and definitely brought in the large crowds I was looking for. If you have any questions about it, I'd be happy to answer them. I'd also love to hear about what programs have been big draws at other libraries!