Boats That Float Program

Synopsis: Using basic materials, children crafted small boats that actually float.

Prep Time: If you have the materials on hand, prep time is pretty negligible.

Budget: Around $20 – $40 depending on how many materials you would like to include

Supplies Needed:

Styrofoam

toothpicks or popsicle sticks or some type of small wooden dowels (these will serve as your nails to connect Styrofoam together)

craft foam material

kiddie pool or some type of large container to hold water

chenille sticks

box fan

sponges (optional)

aluminum foil (optional)

rubber duckiees (opitonal)

Other craft supplies as desired

Directions:

This is the type of program that I truly enjoy running, because the children can dive right in from the beginning and begin to tinker and play. Preparation for the program was gathering the materials and placing them out for the children to use. I also filled up two kiddie pools with water. The building blocks for the program were large pieces of Styrofoam (whenever I hear of anyone tossing out a large amount of Styrofoam, I try to snag it because I know that I’ll eventually use if for a library program.).

I did build a couple of boats ahead of time to give children some ideas of what they could create. I showed them how to connect blocks of Styrofoam together using popsicle sticks and tooth picks as ‘nails.’ I also demonstrated how to construct a ‘sail’ using pieces of craft foam and turned on the fan to show how it would push the boat across the water.

The children took over from there and, as you can see from the pictures, they came up with some fantastic boats!

LEGO Car Program

Synopsis: We built motorized LEGO cars powered by small DC motors and 9 volt batteries.

Age Group: Elementary Aged

Prep time: several hours

Budget: around $50 for a program with 12 children attending

Supplies needed:

small DC motors with gear boxes

9 volt batteries

small switches

9 volt battery clip connectors

3D printed axels (to connect gearbox to LEGO axel)

Lots of LEGOs (especially wheels and axels)

Soldering tool

glue dots

Directions:

I wired and soldered all of the electronics ahead of time, because this process is not safe for children. Begin by soldering the wires to the motor leads. Then solder one motor wire to a lead on the switch. Solder another motor wire to the battery clip connector. Solder the other wire from the battery clip connector to the other switch lead. Refer to the picture for the final result.

Next insert your 3D printed axels (mine are blue in the picture) onto your gearbox axels. Then insert LEGO axels into your 3D printed axels. Connect the 9 volt battery and turn on the switch to see if it all works. Refer to the picture for reference.

Now use glue dots to place a couple of LEGO pieces on top of the gearbox, on top of the battery, etc. These LEGO pieces will serve as the starting point for kids to build and connect other LEGO pieces to make their car. Also make sure to use glue dots to position the battery. Refer to the picture for my final outcome. Yours may look a little different and that’s fine.

When the program began, I placed all of the wired motors and batteries on a table, so that children could grab one and get building.

Encourage children to be as creative as they want. Many of the kids in my program built some interesting looking cars! We even set up some ramps using cardboard and wooden blocks, which was a big hit.

Conclusion: This program was a hit. I would grade it as a B+/A- based on the enthusiasm and interest level of the children. I allowed each child to take their pre-wired motor, battery, gearbox, etc. so that they could continue to build at home. The only downside of this program is the expense of materials and the time spent soldering, 3D printing, and putting things together.

Time Travel Programs

Historical Time Travel Programs

As a history buff, I wanted to find a way to get kids excited about learning about the past.  I came up with the idea of a Time Travel Program in which children could interact with a famous historical figure in person.   Audiences would actually witness me, as a Time Traveling Mad Scientist/Librarian, travel to the past using a spray painted refrigerator box as a “time machine.”  I would then bring the famous person back to the present day where audiences would be able to ask them questions about their lives and times before they were returned to their respective historical periods.

The “back in time” scenes would be done by projecting a video on a large screen at the program to be shown after I crawled into the “time machine.”  This would give the illusion of time travel.

These Time Travel Programs have been very successful and I have managed to kidnap such figures as Henry David Thoreau, Lewis and Clark, the aviator Richard Byrd, and Patrick Henry.  View the below video to see me bring the writer Edgar Allan Poe to my library!

 

Build It Program At the Library!

Built It Program

One of the programs that I do for school aged children at the library is a “Build It” program.   This is an event in which children construct a hands-on project that is fun and functional.  Ideas include marshmallow shooters, two liter bottle rockets, and balloon cars.

I was inspired to do a “Build It” program out of sheer frustration with being inept at crafts.  I have tried for years to do crafts programs at the library.  While many have been successful, I can say that I honestly do not have the enthusiasm for crafts that some of my coworkers do.   Early this year, I decided to throw in the towel and start focusing on constructing things with kids that had a purpose.    PVC pipe, screws and 2X4’s, would trump glitter, pipe cleaners, and pom poms!

One of my “Build It” programs focused on building medieval siege weapons!  Kids constructed a mini catapult using popsicle sticks, rubber bands, and bottle caps.  We played some games with the mini catapults–knocking down cups, who can shoot the farthest, etc.

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Then we went outside and I introduced them to the trebuchet that my coworker and I had been building for the past week.  Below are some pictures of it under construction.  Our trebuchet was about 5 feet tall by 3 feet wide.  I used the plans that some high school girls had posted on line at this Instructables site.

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During the Build It program, I did not allow kids near the trebuchet.  This is important because of safety.  The counterweight that we used was a 45 lb kettlebell that can hurl an object about 150 feet.   We used our trebuchet to launch water balloons at the kids out in a field.  This was perfectly safe and the kids had a blast trying to catch the balloons.  It was a great time at the library!  Please see the below video that I made for some early childhood educators to see how our trebuchet works.