Three Makerspace Challenges (July, August, September 2016)

It’s time to celebrate, because I’m back with not just one, but 3 makerspace challenges! I’ve decided that posting about each challenge on a monthly basis is tough, so I’m going to try posting 3 challenges quarterly. We’ll see how this goes…

July: Paper Folding

July Makerspace Challenge Paper Folding

While July isn’t as busy as June, it’s still a month in which a LOT of kids are hanging out in the Children’s Department on a daily basis (except for the weekends…we’re dead on the weekends in the summer). Since I knew we’d be busy, I needed an activity that was cheap, simple, had a huge kid appeal, and was easy to stock. Paper folding met all of that criteria.

I bought some origami paper, placed some paper folding books out at the makerspace, and let the kids have at it! I will say that while there were plenty of kids who tried their hands at origami and paper airplanes and other forms of paper folding, there were also a lot of kids who preferred to just cut a bunch of shapes out of the paper. And that was fine with me.

August: Mystery Bags

August Makerspace Challenge Mystery Bags

I was very excited for this one! I love the idea of giving kids an open-ended challenge, and mystery bags are perfect for this kind of activity! I filled the bags with a random assortment of supplies and told the kids that they could only use what was in their mystery bag + scissors + tape to create whatever they can imagine.

This one was a HUGE hit with the kids! I would put three bags out in the morning, and usually by afternoon all three were gone. I even had one child in particular stop by the desk on her way out to tell me out much she liked the mystery bags. Will definitely be doing this one again.

September: Straw Sculptures


Straws are a staple in the makerspace, but the straws that we usually use are clear. For this project, I went out and bought colorful straws in a variety of sizes to make the challenge more fun. I also throw in some colorful pipecleaners as a way for children to construct their sculptures, though they also use tape when they don’t want to use pipe cleaners.

I’ve been gone on vacation for most of the month (and the month isn’t over yet), so I can’t say how popular this one is, but a group of girls did make some straw pyramids, which they then put on their heads to become unicorns, so I know at least some kids are having fun with it.


I’m Going to Try a Bullet Journal

Bullet Journal

It has been a bumpy road for me and my bullet journal, and I haven’t even officially started yet!

When keeping a bullet journal first became super popular a few years back, I was torn between “Yes! This is right up my alley! I’m totally going to do this!” and “…But I kind of already do? But, like, on post-its and stuff?” So while everyone on the Internet started posting about their bullet journal habits, I continued to alternate between the conflicting feelings of “THIS IS SO AWESOME!” and “Why is everyone freaking out about this? It’s not a new concept. I do this already!”

And then I forgot about bullet journaling, almost completely…until a few weeks ago.

I was scrolling through Buzzfeed when I stumbled upon this post. Suddenly, my urge to bullet journal increased by leaps and bounds. I immediately grabbed the nearest notebook and pen and washi tape and got to work, only to discover that:

  1. I am not nearly artistic enough for a pretty bullet journal.
  2. I am not interested in a basic bullet journal. (It’s the Taurus in me; I love beautiful things.)
  3. I do not have time to invest in creating a pretty bullet journal.

I was just about to give up when I found this planner at Target. I picked it up on a whim [side note: I really need a chaperone in Target to keep me from picking up things on a whim] and immediately thought, “Hey, this could work for bullet journaling!”

This is a massive tome of a planner! It has a space in front for you to map out your big picture goals for the year, each month starts out with a monthly calendar, and each page is dedicated to a single day (excluding the weekends, which are smooshed together on one page). On each day page, there’s a place for your schedule, your to do list (with a separate place for your top three things to do), a notes section, a quote, a gratitude, and plenty of space for you to write other things.

Needless to say that my inner Taurus was very happy with this planner. So, yeah, I bought the (overly priced) planner. And I’m going to try the whole bullet journal thing in September. I’ll let you know how it goes.

P.S. Is it still bullet journaling if you use a planner?

Makerspace Create: Tensile Bubbles

Tensile Bubbles Group

The end of Summer Reading always kicks my butt, which is why I’m typing this post up at the beginning of August instead of the beginning of July, which is when I actually offered the program.

So, yeah, at the beginning of last month, I offered my second Makerspace Create program.  Once again, I needed something that was appropriate for a variety of ages. I also needed something that would have high kid appeal, but would be fairly cheap and simple for me. Therefore, I decided to do a tensile bubbles program.

This program was such a big hit! And it was so simple and fun that I’m seriously considering offering it again next year!

Interested in doing a tensile bubble program? Here’s what you need:



Prior to the program, cut the straws into relatively equal quarters and fill the containers with a mixture of bubble solution and water (I believe the bottle of the bubble solution recommends 1 part solution to 7 parts water).

I started the program by instructing the group of kids on how to make a pyramid-shaped bubble wand with pipe cleaners and straws. Afterwards, I gave them some time to create their own bubble wands in any shape they wanted. Once all that was done, we migrated outdoors and spent a good 20 minutes blowing bubbles.

I highly recommend blowing the bubbles outside as opposed to inside. The bubble solution was WONDERFUL, but very, very soapy.

Goodreads Challenge Update #3

2016 Goodreads Challenge 3

Well folks, I have just over 5 months to read 20 more books to meet my Goodreads Challenge! When I posted my last update for this challenge, I mentioned that I hoped I’d fit in an adult book and nonfiction book for this third round, and neither of those things happened. Fingers crossed that I get both an adult book and a nonfiction book in during the fourth round because I’m pretty sure the final round will be mostly middle grade fiction as I read the best middle grade books of the year in preparation for my work’s annual Mock Newbery! Anywho, onto the books:

Amulet // I finished round two of this challenge at the end of April/beginning of May, and there were two books coming out that first week of May that I knew I would devour. So I didn’t want to start a big book, but I needed to read something during the few days that I had before the books came out. So I reverted to what I always revert to in these situations: graphic novels. I picked up the first volume of Amulet because it’s hugely popular at my library (this seems to be a theme with me this year…reading stuff that’s popular with the kiddos). I have to admit that the first volume didn’t enthrall me, but I can see the appeal. I got some strong Neil Gaiman vibes from it, and I would love to read another in the series just to see where it goes. (Whether or not that actually happens is yet to be seen.)

The Crown // I was initially so excited for this one because I love the Selection series, and Eadlyn’s story in particular. However, I was disappointed from the moment I picked the book up in the store. It felt so light to what I was expecting, and I would not be surprised in the slightest if I found out that Kiera Cass wrote both The Heir and The Crown as one book, decided it was too long, and lopped off the last part to make into a separate book. The whole thing felt like one, rushed denouement, and I really would have liked to have seen more development. Plus the guy I was hoping for didn’t win. However, I still really liked this book. It’s a perfect example of how sometimes a book isn’t what you want, but you can still appreciate it for what it is.

The Rose and the Dagger // This was another book that I was very excited for and then somewhat disappointed in when I finally read it. Although my disappointment for this was is because I thought that this series would be a trilogy for some reason. So I read this book thinking that it was the second book. It felt very much like a second book, seeing as it introduced us to new characters and places and concepts. It also felt…and I hate to say it…a little sluggish. Much like how many second books feel. So when it ended, I felt very disappointed. Both over the fact that there wasn’t a third book, and also because for 400 pages, the characters were preparing for a big battle…one that really didn’t seem to come. But, again, I liked it. I think if I had known that there wasn’t going to be a third book, I would have read it in a different mindframe and wouldn’t have been so disappointed with the end.

A Court of Mist and Fury // After reading two books that I was very excited for but ultimately a little disappointed in, I ended up picking up a book that I wasn’t really excited for and ended up loving SO FREAKING MUCH! I read A Court of Thorns and Roses last year, and I wasn’t that into it. As a matter of fact, I remember skipping/skimming entire chapters of it. It was only the end…a moment between two characters (Rhys and Feyre) that made me pick up the second book. And I am so glad I did.

This is Where It Ends // This book had been on my to read list for awhile, so I picked it up once I was able to move onto a new book that wasn’t A Court of Mist and Fury (that book stuck with me for a long time, keeping me from reading anything else). This book is powerful. It’s well-written. And it made me cry at the end (which rarely happens). As a side note, I finished this book (which is about a school shooting) the night of the Orlando shooting. I woke up the next morning and heard the news and promptly decided that I probably won’t read another book about a shooting anytime soon.

The Crown’s Game // I don’t know how I feel about this book. It’s well written, the characters are great, and it has a really strong setting. It also has a lot of things that I would normally love in a book: a historical setting, Russia, magic… Still, it was kind of a slow read for me. I liked it. It was fine. But I found myself sighing a lot and wondering how much longer I had until the end of the chapter. 

The Raven Cycle // I hadn’t intended to read this series. The plot seemed very weird to me (psychics? a dead king? prep school boys? what?). But so many people were raving about the series that I decided to pick it up…and I became enraptured with it. The plot’s still silly. But the writing is amazing. The characters are amazing. The setting is amazing. Definitely one of my new faves!

Makerspace Challenge: Pipe Cleaner Creations

Pipe Cleaner Creations

June’s Makerspace Challenge was pipe cleaner creations, and it was a huge hit! As a matter of fact, the day that I changed the challenge to pipe cleaner creations, a coworker came up to me as I was filling a tub with pipe cleaners, and she said, “Did you stock up on pipe cleaners? Because I can see this one being popular.” And even as she said it, a tween left her computer to come over to the Makerspace and make something!

Since then, I saw a lot of flowers and bracelets and finger puppets, all made with pipe cleaners! I even had one tween make a very realistic pipe cleaner Sonic the Hedgehog!

Sonic the Hedgehog

June is almost over, so in a few days, I’ll be putting most of the pipe cleaners away in favor of a new medium. In the meantime, I can’t wait to see what else kids will make!

Makerspace Create: Exploding Boomerangs

Exploding Boomerangs

Back in April, I started a kid’s Makerspace. It’s been going pretty well, and one of these day I’m going to have to post an update about it, but today is not that day. Today, I’m going to talk about a maker program that I did a few weeks ago that ties in with the Makerspace.

Makerspace Create is a monthly maker program for kids that I’ll be offering at my library. Starting in August, this maker program will be held in the actual kid’s Makerspace, but because we get SO MANY kids during the summer, I held the inaugural Makerspace Create in one of our larger meeting rooms. I also chose a project that was relatively simple, cheap, and could work well with a large group of kids of varying ages: exploding boomerangs.

I got the idea for this project from I Can Teach My Child. If you follow the link, you will find super simple instructions for how to assemble the boomerang.

As for the program itself, here is what I did:


I started the program by talking about boomerangs, what they look like and how they work. I would have liked to add a bit about the cultural and historical aspects of the boomerang, but this program took place during the first full week of Summer Reading, and I just didn’t have time to prepare and research, so I left that out.

I then talked about the boomerangs that we would be making. I explained that the explosion wasn’t a chemical explosion with a puff of smoke (and there were some groans at that). Next, I demonstrated how to put the boomerang together. This demonstration is tricky and almost impossible for a large crowd, particularly because I can only do the fourth part by placing the boomerang on a table. Still, the kids got the basic gist of it.

Boomerang Assemblage:

My program helper and I passed out little baggies that each contained 4 Popsicle sticks and instructions. I told the group to follow the instructions to make their boomerangs and to raise their hands if they were having trouble.

Some kids caught on quickly and were able to assemble their boomerangs all on their own in a matter of minutes. Others were able to follow the first three steps and understood how the fourth step worked but didn’t quite have the fine motor skills for it (it is tricky…even for me). And a few were just plain lost.

Because kids were at different skill levels, there were a few minutes of frustration as the ones who had their boomerangs assembled were impatient to try them out, but we had enough kids who still needed help that my program helper and I were too busy to organize lines for the exploding part. Therefore…

If you plan on doing this program and expect a large group of kids, you may want to either have extra helpers on hand, or have a simple craft (maybe coloring paper boomerangs?) that kids can work on if they assemble their boomerang quickly.

Time to Explode:

After everyone was ready, I had the kids form three lines, and they took turns throwing their boomerangs at the wall and watching them explode. Some of the explosions were spectacular, with sticks flying everywhere, and there were a couple of times where the boomerang wouldn’t break a part, and I would congratulate the builder for making a super strong boomerang and give him/her another turn.

Once the boomerang(s) exploded, the owners would rush forward to collect their sticks, and I had a rule that the next person in line couldn’t throw theirs until everyone was out of the way. Kids would then assemble their boomerangs again and run to the back of the line.

We spent about 15-20 minutes exploding the boomerangs before I called for one last throw in which several kids lined up and threw their boomerangs all together. The kids were delighted to hear that they could take their boomerangs home, but I did tell them to ask their grown-ups about where they’re allowed to throw them.

Overall Assessment:

There are definitely some things I would do differently if I offered this program again. I would definitely add a little bit about the culture and history of the boomerang at the beginning, and I would make sure to have a project for kids to work on while they waited for others to assemble their boomerangs. But other than that, this program was a big hit with most of the kids, who loved the process of building something and then destroying it only to build it again.

How Does Your Garden Grow: A Gardening Program for Preschoolers

How Does Your Garden Grow 2

On Monday, my wonderful coworker, Teresa, and I partnered together to offer a gardening program for preschoolers. The day was warm and sunny — prefect park weather — yet about 70 people showed up for this program. It was so much fun! And really simple! Here’s what we did:


We decided to start off with a storytime. This was a great idea, because there are always a few late comers to every program. By starting with a storytime, by the time we got to the actual gardening part of the program, we had everybody and everyone started on the same page.

Also, as most of you probably know, I gave up themes ages ago. It takes a very special program for me to break out a storytime theme, and this was one of them.

Garden Storytime Books


My Garden by Kevin Henkes
What Does Bunny See? by Maggie Smith
Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
Up, Down, and Around by Katherine Ayres
Alfie in the Garden by Debi Gliori

This was a great assortment of books. We were able to practice our colors with What Does Bunny See? We stood on tippy toes, crouched down low, and spun around with Up, Down and Around. And Alfie in the Garden had the kids acting like animals.

Flower Color Matching


Flower Color Matching:

I did a very simple flower color matching activity with the kids. We had five colors total (blue, red, orange, yellow, green). Each child got one flower, then waited until I called their color to come up and place their flower in a hat. It’s an oldie, but goodie. And the kids really enjoyed it.

Five Green Peas in a Pea Pod Pressed Fingerplay:

Five green peas in a pea pod pressed (make fist)
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (count on fingers)
They grew, and grew, and did not stop! (extend arms wide)
Until one day, that pea POPPED! (clap)

Four green peas in a pea pod pressed…

Credit: ???


After storytime was over, everyone headed over to our program room where we had all the supplies necessary to start a small garden that the kids were able to take home.

Garden Supplies

Teresa was in charge of getting the supplies for the program. I believe she got them from Lowe’s (but it could have been Home Depot…one of the two). We had flowers for them to plant, as well as biodegradable pots, potting soil, and a few seeds for those who wished to plant a seed. Here’s how we organized the gardening portion of the program:

  • We had every family grab some newspaper and spread it out on the floor.
  • We passed out small bowls and souffle cups.
  • People came up to get a flower and/or seed, and they filled their bowls with potting soil.
  • They then went back to their newspaper area and used the souffle cups to transfer the soil to their potted plant/seed.
  • We had measuring cups by the sink, so once the plant/seed was planted, children came up to the sink and used the measuring cups to water it.
  • Lastly, we had paper bags on hand for parents to put the plants in to save it from spilling over in their cars.

Overall, this was an AMAZING program!