2016 will be eulogized in many ways, by better writers than me, and there’s plenty to write about. The 2016 US Presidential election. The genocide in Aleppo. The Zika virus. The Brussels bombings. Brexit. Bowie. Rickman. Prince. Ali. Cohen. The list is long and sometimes hard to read.

But in the smaller realm, the realm in which the day to day happens, things have been going on too.  I crashed a car. I survived a good dose of S.A.D. I got a new job and moved back to Michigan. I moved into a place alone for the first time in my life. I became almost disturbingly obsessed with Hamilton and Critical Role.

And I realize I haven’t really posted since January. And I’ll try to remedy that. But I’ve learned a bunch – about librarianship, about youth services, about serving patrons, about tech tools and marketing and “other duties as assigned.” I’m super excited to start parsing through all of it and posting some of it here.

And as I (once again) reinvent my life, I am reinventing the website. Some of the categories are gone. I added a page of favorite resources that will begin populating with newer stuff soon.  And I am running a bunch of new programs and initiatives and learning a community which always makes me full of thoughts.

So, until next time…


Still Solid: More Teen Space Changes

A few weeks ago, I posted about the small changes we’ve made to the teen space in our library. And those small changes went a long way toward making the space more teen-friendly.

The challenge has always been that this space is part collection, part programming, and part hallway (we’re the easiest access to the Community Meeting Room). So as we looked at the small things, it got us dreaming of other things we could do.

There’s a rumor of a plan that we’ll be renovating the space in a few years (pending funding), so we didn’t want to do anything too permanent. But one easy-to-notice problem with our room was the limited space to do homework or group projects, or even to use the teen laptop comfortably. Everything was covered in books. Don’t get me wrong, books are great, and a definite service to our community. But they are only one of the services we provide.

So after some (long overdue) weeding, we rearranged the room, removing about 3 shelving units to create more open space in the center of the room (the part that doubles as a hallway) and build a counter-height desk against the wall. We put the laptop and the iPad on the counter, along with a charging station for mini-USB and lightning chargers.

20160128_153734 20160128_153740

We hauled the giant memory-foam bean bag out from behind the shelf where it was tucked away, and it’s already being used half an hour later.

It’s another step in the process of developing this space. While it seems much bigger, it was in fact pretty manageable thanks to the small things we’ve done before.

We’re not just sticking to a Field of Dreams mentality here, either. We know they won’t come just because we built it. So we’re going where they already are, finding out what they want, and trying to build it into our space and programming design. We’re offering a bus stop from the middle and high schools. We’re trying new approaches, and I’m excited to see the changes the teens bring with them.

STEM in Preschool Storytime

I really love STEAM. Which is a weird thing for an English major-turned-librarian to say, perhaps, but there’s something really satisfying about connecting traditional literacies to more recently recognized ones.

I’ve been connected with a lot of great resources through the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, City of Learning, and the Children’s Innovation Project. This week I decided to start pulling some of their information into a new setting – my preschool storytime.

The first week, I’ll admit I copied from the always super amazing Show Me Librarian. She has a showcase of STEAM programs for children, and the one about the Three Little Pigs was just perfect.

We had a small group, so once we danced with our imaginary hula hoops, read through The Three Little Pigs by Bernadette Watts, and retold the story together, we broke out the materials.

I encouraged parents to come down and build. Each child built three small houses – one out of bubble tea straws, one out of popsicle sticks, and one out of Duplos. The kids took about 20 minutes to build all three, though they could have taken much longer. What kid doesn’t like building?

But the real fun was in trying to blow them over. We all blew together and blow the straw buildings apart. Even the stick building fell down with just a good huff and puff (the Big Bad Wolf would be proud). But the Duplos, as predicted, didn’t budge even when we used the Super Big Bad Wolf (aka my blow dryer). The kids loved it. The parents loved it.

And that gave me my opening for talking about integrating more STEM into our storytime. Apparently, a few of the kids had been asking if we were going to do experiments ever since my PreK Art and Science program ended.

The parents are interested in pulling in some more STEAM concepts, and I’m excited to test some of the learning scaffolds that the  Children’s Innovation Project has been studying in an informal learning environment.

It’ll be a great experiment in its own right, and hopefully will lead to some really excellent learning and fun here at preschool storytime.

Teen Spaces: Modifying an All-Too-Solid Room

Chalkboard Table in the Teen Section

You know the problem: you want to create the most epic of teen spaces, but you’re locked into an architectural space that just wasn’t designed for it. All the walls are covered in shelving, there’s almost no plugs, bookshelf islands occupy most of the rest of the space, and everything feels very… stuck.

There’s gotta be ways around this.

And I’ll admit, since my library is in a new building, I don’t have as much trouble as others. The first library I worked at has one tiny corner dedicated to teen collection, with no seating and no space to add any. Here, we have an entire dedicated room complete with a TV, XBOX, and a study table. But the setup of the room still left it feeling like the teens and their creative drives were afterthoughts.

When I started, first thing I bought for the space was a giant beanbag. Our room is divided into teen and middle grade, and all the seating was in the teen area. Tucking that little beanbag into the middle grade nook was a small improvement, but I constantly find kids and teens curled up back there, reading just out of sight. Because it’s not actually in the teen space, I think we’ve dodged the bullet of potential… uncomfortable situations.

Middle Grade Section with return cart and bean bag

We added more shelves after that to accommodate audiobooks and graphic novels, which compartmentalized the space even more. Worse, the study table had been picked up cheap at Ikea, but was pink with the word Love scrawled across it in different languages. No one really wanted to sit at that table.

So we covered it in chalkboard contact paper.

Chalkboard Table in the Teen Section

It didn’t take the teens long to pick up the chalk markers we left out and decorate it. We added cleaning it up to the weekly list of volunteer tasks, and now it’s covered in new designs every week. We also added a bunch of charger cables for devices of all sorts.

The front of my desk is a chalkboard too, and we post upcoming programs there. They used to get overshadowed by the teens’ drawings, so I changed it up – I print small posters for each event I want to highlight and post those to the chalkboard, leaving lots of space around them for the teens to still customize it.

I’ve had more interaction changes from just these 3 changes than almost anything else I’ve done. We’re still tweaking the space, and I can’t wait to see what we come up with to make the space more teen-friendly.

Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Cropped Cover of Uprooted

Agnieszka, called Neshka by everyone she loves, is a small-town girl. She hasn’t much left her little village, and she never really wants to. Her family has been in the Valley for ages, and something just feels right about the place.

Except the Wood.

The Wood always lurks at the edge of the line of little towns that stretches down the river. It is malicious, always waiting to gobble up wandering people who get too close, as it swallowed the runaway Queen some years before. But it has been contained for as long as Neshka and her village can remember – about 100 years – by the presence of the Dragon.

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Still, the Dragon is lord of the Valley in this pseudo-Polish feudal world, and the only tribute he demands from the villagers is a girl to serve him. Every ten years he selects a new girl, and at the end of the ten years, the girl returns, educated and worldly, and promptly leaves the Valley, armed with a sack of coin for her dowry. Families with girls born in a Dragon year learn not to love them too closely as children – it is too hard to lose them so utterly. Neshka, constantly stained, always finding trouble, knows she should be more concerned about the Dragon’s choosing ceremony, but finds it hard. After all, everyone in the Valley knows that Kasia will be chosen.

It is Kasia who is raised by her parents to serve a nobleman, Kasia who is beautiful, graceful and kind. And Kasia to whom Neshka clings most closely, in spite of their inevitable separation when it comes time for the Dragon to choose a girl.

So it comes as a shock that after a quick and derisive exchange with the Dragon, Neshka finds herself in the Tower where the Dragon lives, facing ten years of servitude that she has in no way prepared for. Utterly alone and very confused, Neshka nevertheless tries to make the best of it, even finding her way into the library.

Ready for a Beauty and the Beast retelling yet? I was, but Novik doesn’t play into our hands on this. In the Tower, the Dragon reveals he had to choose her – it was the law. In a world where the number of wizards a country has can make the difference in the ever-present threat of war, Neshka has the capacity to use magic, and the Dragon is required to teach her. Even if, to him, she is hopeless.

Despite his best efforts, the Dragon – or Sarkan, as is his real name – cannot make her keep clean, cannot prevent her from clumsily knocking over expensive potions, and cannot teach her to weave spells in the same measured way he does. She is useless to him and his battle against the Wood. Until she finds a spellbook of Baba Yaga’s hidden in his library.

Neshka finds her magic here, less structured and more organic than Sarkan’s. It’s good timing, as he is called away to fight a monster in a neighboring region. And the Wood uses his absence to attack. It’s been biding its time since its last incursion when it swallowed an entire town, and the madness and horror that it unleashes on Neshka’s village are only a starting point. Because creatures come out of the Wood, creatures made of the Wood itself, and they take Kasia. Neshka is determined to bring her back, despite the Dragon’s warnings, and her rescue efforts change everything. Because if a village girl could be brought back from the clutches of the Wood – what about the lost Queen, held there for all these years?

The answer is different than anyone expects.

Uprooted is the story of the Wood, the ancient evil that operates as the villain in the story, though perhaps it wasn’t always so. So too is it the story of growing up – at one point Neshka realizes her magic will make her nearly as immortal as the Dragon, meaning she will survive everyone she knows. And of course it is the story of magic, both the intuitive, grounded magic of Baba Yaga and Neshka, as well as the learned, eloquent magic that Sarkan wields. Most of all though, it is the story of how relationships shape and ground us. Sarkan and Neshka battle through a combative beginning to a place where they can work together (and maybe more). But Kasia’s kidnapping by the Wood is what sets Neshka’s story in motion, and their friendship is the beating heart of the book. It has a taste of Frozen (where the act of true love is one sister saving the other), but without the True Love’s First Kiss drama.

Uprooted pulls from a variety of folk and fairytale traditions to weave a tale that is as engrossing as it is epic. Anchored by Neshka’s narration to the Valley and to the two people Neshka cares about most – Kasia and Sarkan – the story feels almost homey despite the epic battles the characters face.

Pair with:

  • The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King – More wizarding fantasy set in a high tower, this book – the first written by Stephen King – follows the plight of a kingdom and its noble prince while an evil wizard plots major takeover. An intricate web of plot weaving, littered with clues that you realize afterward you should have put together, this battle between good and evil is just as epic – with the stakes just as high and the ending just as satisfyingly startling – as Agnieska and the Dragon’s in Uprooted


  • The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker – This title brings the setting a lot closer to home: 1930s New York. In the mess of Lower Manhattan during an influx of Eastern European and Syrian immigrants, a golem created by dark Kabbalistic magic and Arabian-Nights style genie find themselves in control of their own choices. There is a constant crisis between the golem’s impulse to serve and the jinni’s unwillingness to go back to being a slave. Inspired by folklore that’s a little more off the beaten path than Uprooted, The Golem and the Jinni feels like it could fit into the same magic world that spawned the Wood – just a few hundred years later.


  • Wicked by Gregory Maguire – This is the book that lots of people point to as the beginning of the fairy tale retelling renaissance. Wildly successful, and only a little bit an actual fairy tale, Maguire digs deep into the Wicked Witch of the West’s past to show us a complex character that has been smoothed over as the tale is retold. That thread of revealing what is hidden in the retelling of tales connects the two – after all, the Dragon doesn’t eat the young girls he takes, despite the rumors outside the Valley, and Elphaba is not actually wicked until the talk in Oz paints her that way. The hint of romance here, too, is a satisfying thread, though it is far more central to the plot than in Uprooted. Both are great reads to look at how small choices can bring the best of friends together – or tear them apart.


Stuffed Animal Sleepover

Stuffed animals hanging out

We hosted our first stuffed animal sleepover (a program where children have a storytime and leave their stuffed friend at the library overnight for photographed shenanigans).

Another program I inherited after a staff member left, I wasn’t entirely sure how this program would go. It was scheduled the week of Christmas, and we don’t have any other programming this week, so I was a little nervous about the timing.

We had a small group register – only about 6 kids, but they were all kids that knew me and the library well, something I found to be really important when they had to leave their stuffed animals in my care at the end of the storytime.

The storytime had been scheduled early in the morning – 10am, which isn’t something I’d repeat. It gave me lots of time to take pictures before the end of my shift, but it made it harder on the kids that had to leave their friends here for much longer than otherwise necessary.

We started with a registration form for the stuffed animal friends. It was simple enough, but let the kids share some great information about their animals. Here’s the form:

Child's Name, Friend's Name, Drawn Picture, Friend's Favorite COlor, Friend Likes To, What Child likes best about their friend, What the friend needs before bed

Once they had completed that, we did the storytime. Here’s the breakdown:

Children bring their stuffed animal into the room. We put a name tag on it and snap a picture of the child with their stuffed animal. The child also fills out a quick “questionnaire” to gather some information about their animal.

Books: I offered a choice to the group, but they ended up wanting to read all of them!

  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late by Mo Willems
  • Waking Dragons by Jane Yolen
  • Found by Salina Yoon
  • Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas


Rockabye Bear by the Wiggles
We danced to this! 

Five in the Bed
There were five in the bed (Hold up five fingers)
And the little one said, “Roll over, roll over!” (Make rolling motion)
So they are rolled over and one fell out. (Hold up one finger & surprised face)
// Count down until
There was one in the bed (Hold up one finger)
And the little one said, “I’ve got it all to myself!” (Spread out arms) (via StorytimeKatie)

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn around
Teddy bear, teddy bear, touch the ground
Teddy bear, teddy bear, reach up high
Teddy bear, teddy bear, touch the sky
Teddy bear, teddy bear, touch your knees
Teddy bear, teddy bear, sit down please

Little Stars
Little stars (fingerplay):
Little stars way up in the sky (hold hands up and wiggle fingers)/ little stars us so very high (stretch hands up higher and wiggle fingers)/ they twinkle brightly through the night but during the day they are out of sight! (pull hands down quickly and hide them behind your back)
(via Storytime All Stars)

Craft: Decorating a picture frame for the photo of the child and their stuffed animal. (I put the picture I took of the child and their friend into these frames for pickup the next day).

Closing: Tucking in their stuffed animal into the giant blanket (I’m bringing a fuzzy large one from home. Singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star as a lullaby, then sneaking quietly out of the room.

After the kids left, we teamed up to take a bunch of pictures – next time I’ll ask a volunteer to help with this, since it took a little more time than I anticipated. But the pictures turned out great!

Stuffed animals reading from Kindle Stuffed animals covering books Stuffed animals on the computer Stuffed animals looking at pet lizard Stuffed animals raiding the vending machine Stuffed animals playing the piano Stuffed animals hanging out

Book Review: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

A drawing of the three main characters of the book Nimona

Nimona is a girl who can shapeshift into a monster. Or a monster who can shapeshift into a girl. Or something more complicated than that. In any case, she shows up unannounced at supervillain extraordinaire Ballister Blackheart’s lair and declares herself his sidekick. He is… not amused. “I can’t have a kid following me around all day,” he complains, to which she gleefully responds (and shapeshifts): “I’m a shark!”

Nimona’s persistence and her incredible powers make Blackheart accept her as an ally and together they set to work discrediting the powerful Insitute of Law Enforcement and Heroics. It’s Nimona’s dream come true – though it might take some getting used to for the both of them.

Nimona, it seems, has more of a taste for the violence of a traditional supervillain – she wants to kill the King and take over or kill Ballister’s archnemesis and be unequaled! But Ballister loathes the mess and waste of death and violence. Still, during their first evil plot together, Ballister runs into said archnemesis, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin. It’s complicated. They had been friends once, back when Ballister was another hopeful hero recruit at the Institute. And then Ambrosius has shot his arm off, and Ballister was forced to become a villain (because what Champion of Law Enforcement and Heroics only has one arm?)

Nimona doesn’t know any of this though, and seeing their plan on the brink of collapse, she takes off to “contain” the situation in her own special way. Ballister is not amused.

But then the Institute decides that Nimona might be too dangerous, that she doesn’t fit into their carefully scripted role for the villain, that perhaps she is too powerful (a thought that the Director of the Institute doesn’t much like).

Meanwhile, Ballister stumbles upon a way to limit Nimona’s powers, something that terrifies Nimona. She’s never been unable to shift, never been out of control of her powers. But none of the stories she’s told Ballister about where she came from made sense, and as a man of science, Ballister is more than a little nervous about her seemingly unlimited magical abilities.

Still, the Institute is up to something terrible, and Nimona and Ballister are the only ones who can stop it. If only each could trust the other to really have their back.

A graphic novel with simple art style for first-time graphic novel readers, but plenty of details for those who are into the genre, Nimona blurs a lot of lines. Good and evil, power and corruption, monster and human, friend and enemy. Context matters here, and the twists of the story – written over a long span during its webcomic days – show that our smallest choices can affect which side we stand on.

Complicated and tense relationships between fangirl-ish and insecure (yet super powerful) Nimona; scientific, conflicted pacifist Ballister; and the melodramatic, changeable, yet good-hearted Sir Ambrosius fill in what could be a simplistic story. The almost-familiar plot gives a lot of solid pegs to hang questions on – is violence ever ok? Is revenge? Are good intentions enough?

Nimona is a quick-read, perfect for teens that are increasingly busy with homework and extracurriculars.

Pair With:

  • The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett – Both books have a bent toward the surprising, and a healthy dose of the magical to balance out the mundane. A traditional text novel, The Wee Free Men is a humorous take on a young girl’s growing up – and finding out she’s a witch. The Elf Queen has stolen Tiffany’s baby brother, and may also be plotting to overthrow the mortal realm. She teams up with the tiny, blue Scottish fairyland creatures the Wee Free Men – the only clan to cast of the Elf Queen’s influence. Another story about a young girl and her magic, this story fleshes out many of the questions that Nimona raises.
  • Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson – Can’t get enough shapeshifting? Really loved Stevenson’s artwork? Then I am happy to let you know that you can get both fixes with the Lumberjanes series. The first comic finds a group of five young women at a summer camp for “hardcore lady types,” and these girls certainly fit the bill (even Ripley’s love for adorable animals. But after they witness a woman turn into a bear, they start to search the woods for clues as to what’s really happening.

See if your library has it here.

PreK Art & Science: Little Blue and Little Yellow

Little Blue & Little Yellow via Chez Beeper Bebe

Little Blue & Little Yellow via Chez Beeper Bebe


Lionni, Leo. Little Blue and Little Yellow. 1947.

Mulder-Slater, Andrea. “Tasty Color Mixing.” KinderArt. http://goo.gl/y9JhLq


Copy of Little Blue and Little Yellow for each child.

For Frosting Station:

Blue food coloring

Yellow food coloring

Red food coloring

Vanilla frosting

1 paper plate/child

1 popsicle stick/child

Small garbage bags, cut into bibs

For Paint Station:

1 small plastic bag/child

Yellow tempura paint

Blue tempura paint

For Playdough Demo (If there’s enough playdough, can be a take home activity):


Blue playdough

Yellow playdough

Lots of handwipes


1 Day Before:

Make the blue and yellow playdough, if making your own. Use any recipe that won’t dry overnight.

Mix vanilla frosting with food coloring to create colored frostings.

Precut garbage bags into bibs, if necessary

Day of:

Put tablecloths/newspaper down in each activity area.

Set up paper plates at the frosting station. Put some of each color frosting in the frosting station for parents to help their kids with. Put supply of bibs at this station.

Get blue and yellow paints in small bottles if available, so children can more easily squirt them in themselves. If only large bottles are available, ask parents to help. Put plastic bags near the paint.


Read Little Blue and Little Yellow together. Try to have enough books for each child and parent to have a copy as well. I used the board book version to make it stand up a little better, as our “preschool” crowd often verges on toddler. If you have colored lenses, you can use these to help children see the combination of blue and yellow in a way that separates back out. When you’ve read the book, as about colors. What happened when little blue and little yellow hugged?

Reinforce color mixing by showing them the two balls of playdough. What will happen when you mix them together? Start with a small blue ball and a small yellow ball (have a backup of each handy for the end of the story.) Have the children walk back through the story with you. When blue and yellow hug, mix the dough together. What color is it now? What colors make green?

When you’ve retold the story, have them try some mixing of their own. For mess-squeamish settings, the paint in a plastic bag can be cleaner, and yet still a nice sensory way to have children squishily explore color mixing. Squirt some of each color into opposite corners of the bag and seal it shut – reinforce with tape if necessary. Children can then squish the bag to mix the paint colors, creating  spectrum of yellow, blue, and green.

At the frosting station, children can make a color wheel out of frosting on their plate. The addition of red at this table increases the number of colors they can have. Have a color wheel example on hand, but allow children to explain with color mixing in all forms. Let them take the plates home.

Parents and children can move between stations as they will.


What happens when blue and yellow mix?

What about other colors? Do they mix?

Can you mix other colors together to make blue, red or yellow? Why not?


These activities allow for some messy, sensory play that can still be contained in a library. Color is an easy way to introduce a variety of art activities that we will be doing in the coming weeks. Seeing that color works the same in various mediums (light, playdough, and paint) will help children feel more comfortable as they experiment with various art methods, as well as encouraging scientific observation and questioning. This is an easy way to help children who are used to normal library storytimes (the ones with books) transition into other learning activities and events at the library as well.

Try it!

Encourage parents to show children how color mixing works. When making pancakes, for instance, adding food coloring can change the dough, and thus the pancake. A tasty learning opportunity!

PreK Art & Science: Ice Painting

Ice Painting via Wadleigh Memorial Library

Ice Painting via Wadleigh Memorial Library


Schwake, Susan. “Ice Drawings.” Art Lab for Little Kids. 2013. p 36.

“Primary Colors.” Ok Go for Sesame Street. 2012. http://youtu.be/yu44JRTIxSQ – 1:30 music video reinforcing primary colors as the basis of all color.


White Cover Stock

Food Coloring

Craft Sticks

Prepared Ice Cubes (See “Preparation”)

Egg Carton


1 week to 1 day before:

Fill an ice cube tray with water, dropping 5 or 6 drops of food coloring into each section based on the colors you want. Put the tray in the freezer. When half frozen, put craft sticks into each section to serve as handles. Leave some cubes without handles to be used directly with the hands

Day of:

Cover tables and area around tables with plastic table clothes or newspaper. Food coloring stains!

Transfer color cubes into egg cartons for easier access.

Set out card stock at each station, making sure each station has easy access to an egg carton full of color cubes.


Talk to students about color mixing. Some will have mixed colors last week in the Little Blue and Little Yellow day. Ask them what happens when you mix blue and yellow. When they realize it makes green, ask about other colors. What happens when you mix blue and red? Yellow and red?  Let them experiment with drawing a picture with the ice cubes, which will act like solid watercolors. Some may stick with the primary colors you’ve created, others may start by mixing. Explain that layering the colors mixes them, creating new colors, and encourage them to try this method. Encourage creativity and experimentation. For instance, does a green line look different if you go back over it a second time? What if you go over it with blue? Some students may begin to grasp the idea of primary and secondary colors.


What is a primary color?

What happens when you mix primary colors?

What happens when you add two lines of the same color?


This activity is focused on experimentation and experience. Children will create an artifact (their ice paintings) while discovering how colors interact with each other. While not all children will understand primary and secondary colors or the color wheel, this will form a concrete activity to begin thinking about this rather abstract concept.

Homeschool Art and Science: Gravity

Page from Jason Chin's Gravity: The Moon would drift away from the Earth.

Cover Image from Jason Chin’s Gravity, 2014.

A quick one-shot lesson plan from a juvenile art and science session I ran as an intern. I wrote this up in detail for a Teaching and Learning class during my MLIS.


Chin, Jason. Gravity. 2014.


For Gravity Drop:

Ping pong balls, marbles, Styrofoam balls, pencils, paper clips, erasers, crumpled papers, rubber balls, tissues, feathers, blocks, coins, Matchbox cars, stuffed animals, or any other object kids might want to drop

Eggs, if the experiment is done outdoors

For Art Activity:

Paper or other canvas material

Lid from a cardboard box – around the same size as the paper/canvas

Washable paint



For Gravity Drop:

Print “What Falls Faster” worksheets, 1/ child

For Art Activity:

Lay a paper or other canvas material inside the lid of a cardboard box. There should not be much extra room. If there is, make sure the canvas is secured flat against the bottom of the box so that the marbles can roll over it. Having paint in squirt bottles makes it easier to add to each box quickly.


Have two volunteers each pick an object. Ask the class which object will fall faster – which will hit the ground first. Record the guesses (hypotheses). Have the group count down from 3, with the volunteers dropping their object at the count of 0. Have the group watch to see which hit first. Was it the object they expected? Repeat this activity several times in order for students to make observations and hypotheses several times using different object comparisons. Have students draw each object and record which one fell faster.

(Note: As gravity will affect all objects equally, any discrepancy will be based on air resistance and the quickness of the volunteer in dropping them. If it becomes an issue, have the volunteers trade objects as a control.)

If facilities permit, have a chair or other platform available for those that want to be higher. A summer variation might include water balloons filled with different amounts of water.

Read Gravity. Ask students what they noticed in the book’s illustrations. What sorts of objects fall to earth? What happens when objects have no gravity? Where might there be little or no gravity? Ask them to think about environments where gravity might act differently for next week.

Start the Art Activity. Note that depending on class size, it may be wise to prepare more than one painting set. If possible, children should do this art project in groups of 2-4, although older students with more coordination may be able to do it on their own, particularly with smaller canvases.

Have students each hold a side of the box. Place the marbles inside the box and have them move the marbles by lifting and lowering the sides of the box. Remind them to keep the marble inside the box, but have them observe how the rate of movement changes depending on the amount of difference between the high end and the low end. (This will help prepare them for the simple machines unit). Once they seem to have a grasp of this (or when you are at least reasonably sure the marbles will stay in the box), add a squirt or dollop of paint to one section of the canvas. Have the students try to roll the marble through the paint and then around the canvas. After a few minutes add a second color, then a third if time allows.

Tell the students that this is gravity in action! Remind them to think about examples of places that gravity isn’t as strong.

Clean up and dismiss the class.


What is gravity?

What things fall?

What happened to each of the objects as they fell?

Why do you think that happened?

Is there any relationship between size and speed? Between weight and speed? Between height and weight and speed?

Can you categorize the items in any way at all?

Adaptations for Older or Younger Groups:

Older Groups:

Have students compare a flat piece of paper and a crumpled piece of paper in the discrepant activity. Begin to lead their thinking toward air resistance and mass, reminding them of the space occupied by air (and so the idea that air is “in the way” of gravity).

Begin to lead their thinking towards the idea of mass. Define Mass [How big an object is.] Clarify that objects with different masses will hit the ground at the same time if an outside force (like air resistance) does not affect them.

Younger Groups:

Students can skip the written explanation on the “What Falls Faster” worksheet. For PreK and K children, the teacher and other adults may be used in place of student volunteers for the drop experiment.

Other Notes:

Last week wrapped up the weather unit about tornadoes, including the building of a tornado tube. Students may remember that air filled up the bottom bottle (air pressure), and that water falls because it is heavier than air. Quickly reminding students of these comparisons and observations at the beginning of the class session may be beneficial and put them in the right mindset

Next week will be about defying gravity – floating in the water, jumping up, and the International Space Station. Consider leaving the items used in today’s dropping experiment for use in a water tank next week so that students can compare what happens when an object is dropped through air and when it’s dropped in water. What other forces are at work when something is dropped in water? What lifts it up? The movement up, and the amount of force it takes to escape gravity, will be the focus of discussion, aided by the use of the storybook Mousetronaut by Astronaut Mark Kelly, and culminating in the launch of a pop-bottle rocket with the group.

Hi There.

Library person. Geek person. Extrovert person. Person about whom other adjectives apply.

Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you.
– St. Augustine

Libraries are a place where, by the accidents of time, place, and circumstance, we are able t
o work within our community to do good and help others. Libraries can help bridge divides by creating a safe place for informal education, exploration, and connection. Long ago, I started working in libraries because I loved books. I ended up in libraries because I love people.

Hobbies and interests include community development, WordPress development, fairy tale origins, Excel spreadsheets (weird, I know), baking way more than I should ever eat, the alchemy of cocktails and good beer, and probably too much Dungeons and Dragons. If you enter the world of my social media, you have been warned (pleasantly!).

I currently work as a Youth Services Librarian at a small suburban library, but I’ve done a bit of everything at a smattering of libraries around the Pittsburgh area, including academic and public libraries (check out my résumé for more detail). I think that libraries are centers of community and informal education, and think a lot about how we can measure that outside of program numbers and circulation stats, especially for youth services.

Outside of work, I’m enjoying learning about fine whiskey, good cocktails, and great people.

Find me and say hello in various places on the web at Twitter, and LinkedIn.

PreK Art and Science: Popsicle Stick Symmetry


Symmetrical Drop Butterflies via Splats, Scraps, and Glue Blobs
Symmetrical Drop Butterflies via Splats, Scraps, and Glue Blobs

Murphy, Stuart J. Let’s Fly a Kite. 2000.

“Making Shapes.” Education.com. 2013. http://goo.gl/g3aOx9

Schwake, Susan. “Fold Me a Print.” Art Lab for Little Kids. 2013. p 76.


For the Mirror Demo:

Symmetry mirror

Household objects, some symmetrical, some not

For “Making Shapes” Take Home:

20 craft sticks/child

Markers in assorted colors

For “Fold Me a Print”:

Cover Stock


Poster Paint



Wash Water


1 Day before:

Prepare bags of 20 craft sticks each, along with instructions and one example set. Be ready to do this activity if there is time, but also make it understandable in case it’s a take home activity.

Day of:

Cover work area with newspapers/table cloths. Create an example of the folded print.

Lightly draw a line of symmetry on the card stock, some vertical, some horizontal.

Set up each station with easy access to a palette of paint, a piece of cardstock, and a paintbrush. Children may choose to use their fingers instead. Have hand wipes available if this is the case. Pre-fold some of the card stock for those who can’t quite fold, making it easier for them to get a good symmetrical fold.


Paraphrase Let’s Fly a Kite for the group. Some things are the same on both sides of a line – like the beach blanket, the kite, and the sandwich. What about some other household items? Hold up things like a fork, a mug, and a picture of a pizza. Are they symmetrical? Why? Show them the line of symmetry on each item using the mirror. For non-symmetrical items, have them say what’s wrong (e.g. there’s 2 handles on the mug).

For the activity, have children look for the line of symmetry on their card stock. Ask them to fold it in half. It doesn’t have to be exact, but it should be close, so ask adults to help as necessary. Explain that things that fold in half exactly are symmetrical. Tell them to paint on just one side of their folded line. They can paint any shape they’d like, but after each color, have them fold the paper in half on the line again. After the first print, they will begin to understand that the mirror image of the paint will appear on the other side of the line. They can continue painting until their design is complete.


What is symmetry?

Can you find a line of symmetry?


Children can apply their understanding of color mixing, learned the past 2 weeks, to this paint and print activity. Allowing them to see their painting after each piece of color added gives them insight into the process of symmetrical prints, and to printmaking in general.  Symmetry is an easy-to-demonstrate concept, but sometimes hard to grasp. By allowing them to see symmetry in things they create as well as things in the world around them, children will have a firmer understanding of this basic geometric concept.

Try it!

Have children hold their hands in front of them, thumb to thumb. Ask them if the shape made by their hands is symmetrical.  Show them that when they fold their hands together (palms pressing together), their hands line up perfectly – they are symmetrical, and the line of symmetry was the line between their thumbs. Are there other body parts that are symmetrical? Face? Feet? Ears?