let readers grow!



To my complete and utter horror, I found this flannel board in our storage room the other day, and was completely horrified. I haven’t been a storytime person for many, many years, and completely forgot about this set I made. I tossed it in utter horror and disgust during a recent flannel board purge.

Then this morning while searching for ideas for an interactive to make, I was dismayed to find this pattern all over the Flannel Friday pinterest account.

If you are considering making this flannel board: DON’T!

If you tell this story in your storytime: STOP!

Please stop.

JUST STOP! Tell a different story.

Don’t tell this story anymore. Anthropomorphized monkey characters are a racist trope in children’s literature. I am taking down this tutorial. I think every one of these flannel boards should be resigned to the dustbin of history, and they should never be presented in storytime every again. Look at this old, ugly, stupid book. It’s bad. The stain of this racist narrative device

This books is gross. Tear it apart and recycle it.

In fact, go look at Sarah’s version at Read It Again! posted her awesome flannel board version of Pig’s Picnic by Keiko Kazsa.

More importantly read Edi Campbell’s brilliant blog. Particularly this one Then read every article link to this post. Then read Was the Cat in the Hat Black by Philip Nel.

And if you’re all pissed or indignant that I am slamming your favorite racist microaggressive storytime activity I really DGAF.


Flannel Friday: Happy Cephalopod Week

I got to work a little early this morning. I was  frittering around. I checked Twitter. Then I started to plan out my work for the day. I looked at our desk schedule, and spotted my name slated to do the drop-in storytime.  Gah! Summer Reading, you did it again! I have been crazy busy for the last two weeks. I completely forgot to plan for this. 

Luckily, at this point, you could shake me out of a deep sleep, yelling, “Cate, you have storytime in 30 minutes!” And I could pull together in time…as long as there is some form of caffeine available. So I poured one of my emergency Red Bulls down my throat, and got to work. 

I was about to close Twitter when I spotted this tweet in my feed. 

“Eureka!” I shouted, “Cephalopod Storytime will be awesome!” 

*BTW, you should check out Cephalopod Week 2016 on the Science Friday website. It’s as gorgeous as it is informative.*
Recently, I’ve developed a sort-of formula for choosing books that strike a variety of emotional tones in a storytime. I find it works particularly well for a storytime serving a wide age range like the one I had today–8 months to 7 years. I find that this allows kids and their parents (esp newbies) get comfortable with me, and helps us all focus our attention on the content of the stories we read. 

I start with a sweet, simple story.

Herman the Helper (public library)

Then I move onto a silly story. 

Good Thing You’re Not an Octopus (public library)

And I end with a well-written, and somewhat challenging informative nonfiction book. 

Gentle Giant Octopus (public library)

I have had a lot of success with this game plan. Today, when I introduced my nonfiction selection, I warned them that I saved the book with the biggest words and ideas for last. I gave the littlest littles an out.  I said, “Are you guys getting antsy? If you are done listening to stories, and you want to go play we can sing our goodbye song now. But if you want to learn about how a real octopus lives and becomes a mommy, we are going are going to read this book.” I pulled out the book with a flourish. “It’s full of fancy words, and beautiful pictures.” They all started shouting, “Read it!” “We’re staying.” 

Then they all scootched up close to me. And they loved this story…even the little, little kids were totally engaged the whole time. They asked great questions. They wanted to know what every word meant.

Anyway, enough about all this noise, it’s Flannel Friday! I used felt to make an adorable plushy octopus a little more anatomically correct, and used it as a prop. 

We’ve had an adorable little octopus for years. As I was pulling out one of my favorite storytime books, Herman the Helper by Robert Kraus (public library) I realized how much this little dude looks like Herman. But as I skimmed through my nonfiction selection I realized there was something missing: his suckers. So I grabbed some self-adhesive felt. I cut little circles, and stuck them on to all of his legs, and voilà! 

“Hello! Check out my suckers”

Mollie of What Happens in Storytime is hosting the #FFRU this week! Thanks, Mollie! 
If you’re looking for storytime ideas, the Flannel Friday Pinterest archive is a bottomless pit of brilliance. And if you was to join the party the Flannel Friday blog has all the information you need to dive in! The water is fine, after all.


Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Or Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood As a Library Program. Pt.1: Whys & Wherefores

When I parked myself in front of the TV to revisit Mister Rogers Neighborhood, I didn’t expect to get lost in it. I grew up with the Neighborhood. I have very fond memories of watching Mister Rogers on days when I stayed home sick from school long after I had outgrown it (right up through my senior years in high school). And, yes, I cried like a baby on the day Fred Rogers passed away. Even so, I assumed I would watch a few episodes, feel drunk on nostalgia, and be done with it.  But after only a few episodes, I was hooked, and soon found what I learned leaking into my work at the library every single day.

It occurred to me that I wanted, nay, needed to share this children’s media treasure with a new generation. The library seemed like the ideal setting for such a revival. I decided to develop a joint media engagement experience for kids and their caregivers. After all, Fred Rogers always encouraged parents and caregivers to watch the program alongside their children. In fact, Family Communications (now the Fred Rogers Company) wrote a brilliant activity book to support active co-viewing of the show: Mister Rogers Plan & Play.


MRPP offers parents, caregivers, preschool teachers, and librarians a roadmap for providing a rich, interactive experience for every single episode ever filmed in chronological order. Not only are the activities great, but the discussion guides have helped me to make Neighbor Time so much more than simple movie+craft program. I wanted this program to offer kids a chance to think deeply about the content presented in the show. I wanted to put particular focus on the deep emotional thinking that is the foundation on which Mister Rogers built his Neighborhood.

In storytime, we librarians use all sorts of strategies like dialogic reading and visual thinking strategies to enrich and engage childrens’ experiences with books.  I wanted to take a similar approach to watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I am deeply interested in how young kids process and think about screen media. Watching MRN with a (more or less) consistent group of children over the course of a full school year was mind-boggling. During our screenings, I observed them closely to learn what drew their attention and sparked their delight. During our discussions, I listened to their vividly detailed descriptions of their favorite moments, and how they related the content to their day-to-day experiences.  Mister Rogers talks about important social-emotional ideas and experiences in every single episode. In so doing,he opens the door for viewers to talk about these big ideas, experiences and feelings with their loved ones. Supporting this sort of discussion was one of my big goals for Neighbor Time. I wanted to make time for reflection and connection between kids and the grownups that love them.

Mister Rogers: Timeless and Authentic

Fred Rogers never set out to create a television show.  In fact, he kinda/sorta hated television…especially children’s television.  He told his friend, author Amy Hollingsworth that “he got into television because he saw people throwing pies into other peoples’ faces and he said ‘that is such demeaning behavior, and if there’s anything that makes me mad, it’s one person demeaning another.'” (Mister Rogers and Me) At the same time, he knew this new-at-the-time technology offered a unique opportunity to communicate with young children in a way that had never before been possible. Through the television, he could zip over the folds of time and space, and befriend children all over the world.

The secret ingredient of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is woven so delicately into the show that it’s difficult to believe it is even there: authenticity. Fred Rogers was exactly who he said he was. As a kid, I personally felt I could rely on him.  He was there every weekday when I came home from preschool. He took me to real places. He showed me how real things worked. Most importantly, he looked me straight in the eye, and talked to me about big ideas, important feelings, and who I was deep down inside. That meant something to me when I was little. And it means just as much to me today.

And I wasn’t alone. In Dear Mister Rogers, Does It Ever Rain in Your Neighborhood: Letters to Mister Rogers (public library), fan mail from his youngest viewers shows just how brilliantly Fred Rogers (and his crew) managed to pull this off. The first chapter, “Are You Real” is full of heart-wrenchingly adorable letters from children like this one:

Dear Mister Rogers,

Are you for real? Are you under mask or costume like Big Bird? Are you for real? Are you for real or not? My birthday wish is I want to know if you are for real.

Timmy, age 5

The answer to Timmy’s question was an unequivocal yes. Rogers wrote,

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” I’ve always thought of that opening song of ours as an invitation. It’s an invitation to be close. To share thoughts and feelings. To talk about things that matter to us.

His vision for the show was to make sure every child had a friend who would “help them understand the world, and how to live well in it.”   He follows through on this vision with astounding rigor and dedication. When it comes right down to it, the show isn’t just brilliant, it’s downright futuristic. If you’ve ever tried to maintain a relationship with a child via Skype or Facetime, you know how difficult it is to make the experience feel real. But Mr. Rogers gazed through the screen and into our eyes, and we knew we were loved.

The show was designed to feel real. Every “television visit” felt like a real visit with a real neighbor. Even when it didn’t necessarily look real, it always felt sincere. Mister Rogers referred to the set as his “television house”, and he often made the distinction between this and his “home” in real life. When it comes down to it, every moment has a purpose that fills out a little piece of the Neighborhood so that it became real to young viewers.

Rick Townley talks about how “Fred’s Shoes” became a symbol of Rogers’ relationship with his young viewers in an essay you can find in Mister Rogers Neighborhood: Children, Television and Fred Rogers (public library)

A young viewer watching Mister Rogers change into his playtime sneakers cannot help sensing that here is a man who’s willing to meet the child halfway. That one action tells him that Rogers has a grown-up life of his own somewhere else, but that he has set aside this time to pay full attention to the children’s concerns. By the time the sneakers are laced…Mr. Rogers has invited and welcomed the child into a safe, familiar, and caring world.

When Rogers walked through the door of his “television house”, he was dressed in the kind of clothes he wore while working in the offices of Family Communications. And he changed into more casual clothes better suited to hanging out in the Neighborhood. And those sweaters? They didn’t come from wardrobe. Fred’s mother knitted those sweaters with her own loving hands, and gave them to her son as a Christmas present. In these sincere, simple ways, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood balanced reality with fantasy throughout the run of the show.

Real People, Real Friendships

In “The Gentle Tongue: How Language Affected the World of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” Louisa Danielson says,

Through his language, and lyrics of his songs, Rogers implements a system of emotional survival. He shows his viewers how to understand themselves, and from his position as the chief adult in the show, Rogers yet again fulfills the grown-up role of informing and comforting his audience in the mores of emotional responsibility.

Mr. Rogers brought wonderful people from the real world into the Neighborhood so that he could introduce them to us, his television neighbors. Occasionally, a special guest would return for multiple visits. This would deepen the experience by adding old memories to new experiences, just like friends do in real life.

Some of these these repeat appearances,  cellist Yo Yo Ma and gymnast Cheney Umphry appeared, occurred several years apart.  But one of my favorite Neighborhood visitors isn’t famous or flashy. She is a little girl named Chrissy Thompson. Chrissy was cast as Mr. and Mrs. McFeely’s granddaughter when she was six years old, and returned many times as she grew into a self-assured young lady.

(image credit: Neighborhood Archive)

Chrissy first appeared on the show  in episode 1324 in 1973. Mr. Rogers runs into Chrissy and Mrs. McFeely while they are having a soda in Brockett’s Bakery. After a few minutes of conversation about their plans for the evening, Mrs. McFeely and Chrissy prepare to leave. Mrs. McFeely asks Chrissy if she needs help her with her braces. Chrissy agrees by sticking her legs out. As Mrs. McFeely begins to strap on her leg braces, they joke around bit. They talk about the fact that these are new braces. As Chrissy adjusts Mrs. McFeely’s work, she talks about how it was difficult to use them at first. Then she says that once she got used to them, she started walking faster than ever before.

Chrissy appeared on the show several more times over the years. Then in 1985, she made a very special visit to the Neighborhood in episode 1543 to talk to Mr. Rogers about her recent high school graduation. They discuss the challenges Chrissy faced growing up with spina bifida: facing people who didn’t accept her, finding true friends, and dealing with the frustration of her physical limitations. They also talk about the good times she had: going to camp, making friends, and proving to the world (and to herself) that she could accomplish great things in life.

Throughout the conversation, you see her and Mr. Rogers thinking deeply about these experiences. Their conversation is completely natural. There isn’t a single moment that feels scripted, stagey, forced, or rushed. They pause to think, considering their words and memories. Note in the screenshots below how the composition of these close-ups gives kids a chance to see how long-time friends talk to each other about serious stuff. The way this scene is filmed is so intimate, you feel as if you are kneeling on the bottom step of the Mister Rogers’ porch. As the camera turns from Chrissy to Mister Rogers, and back again, it pulls in so close that you can see their very real thoughts and feelings play across their faces.


Chrissy thompson2-COLLAGE

It is impossible to miss the fact that being on the show meant the world to both the real-life Chrissy and Fred Rogers. As Mr. McFeely returns from his errand, Mister Rogers is concluding a particularly primo Mr. Roger-ism, “There’s lots between us. Lots of years of growing, and lots of very wonderful memories.”

Now, for the most part, previous visits with Chrissy would have occurred before the show’s target audience was even born. So, why even bother digging into these memories? Well, for one thing, young children are always finding themselves in situations where all the grown ups remember events they don’t. This isn’t always a comfortable moment for kids. Experiencing this sort of conversation with Mister Rogers’ gentle, supportive help is a great way to help young children navigate this type of situation in real life.

What’s more, how often to children get to witness deep conversations like this in real life or in the media? It’s rare, if not completely unique.  Is there a better way to introduce young children to art of the heart-to-heart conversation? What happens if we don’t learn to navigate this sort of caring talk in our early years? I shiver to think! Having a heart-to-heart with a friend is just about the best thing a person can do to appreciate all life has to offer. Mister Rogers had a particular gift for this sort of gab, and he shared it with young children so they could grow to be happy, healthy adults.

Make New Friends, and Keep the Old

When it comes down to it, this library program has been a true labor of love. I started putting it together because it just made me feel so darn sad to think that the children in my library were growing up without Fred Rogers in their lives. Don’t get me wrong, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is an awesome show. My storytime kids know all the wonderful songs and characters that made the leap from live-action to animation. The producers have done an amazing job developing a new approach for Fred Rogers’ original vision and curriculum. In fact, we had a lot of Daniel Tiger fans showing up to Neighbor Time this year.

This gave the caregivers and me a chance to talk about how we watched the old show when we were young. We talked about the “New Neighborhood” and the “Old Neighborhood”. We discussed how television shows, like people, can change over time, but still retain what is most essential and important.

On the last day of Neighbor Time, we actually discussed Daniel Tiger vs Mister Rogers, and discovered that the kids didn’t want to choose one over the other. The shows felt like two completely different experiences, and they wanted both. I suppose that was my goal from the beginning. Kids have easy access to Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood; but for the most part, they only watch Mister Rogers at the library. When I asked if they thought Mister Rogers seemed “old fashioned” the kids and grownups all said no. In fact, the grownups all gushed at how well the show stood up to time. They agreed that this was a show they actually loved watching with the kids in their care. They found it soothing and engaging. One parent jokingly complained that she often get so involved in the show that she forgets to check her phone for incoming text messages. I consider this a win, no matter how you slice it.

So this is Part 1 of what will hopefully be a  series of posts. As you may have already noticed, I didn’t get to any of the nitty gritty as to how this program really works. But I had to do a little reflect on whys and wherefores. I will attack that in Part 2: Getting Down to Business.

As it happens, one of my very favorite people in the blogosphere, Rebecca Zarazan Dunn is including some stuff about Mr. Rogers in her epic post about Homeschool Planning & Daily Rhythms. So go see her post because she is a 🦄. Thanks for the kick in the pants, friend-o. I needed it.







Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Or Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood as a Library Program, Pt 2: Getting Down to Business

As a librarian, I’m always looking for new ways to get kids excited about reading and learning. Recently, however, I’ve been turning to an old favorite for new ideas: Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (MRN). For more than three decades, Fred Rogers sent a simple, yet powerful, message to children everywhere: “I like you just the way you are.” I was a loyal Mr. Rogers fan growing up. So when Amazon added more than 300 episodes to their streaming services I decided to revisit my favorite television neighbor.

I expected to revisit a familiar, yet dated, childhood hero. I thought I’d watch one or two episodes, and be done with it. But I found myself mesmerized from the opening song to the closing credits. I realized I was staring into a treasure trove of ideas and early learning strategies that are every bit as relevant today as they were in 1968, 1978, 1988, 1998, and 2001 when Fred Rogers signed off on the series finale. So I decided to design a library program where children and their grownups could experience the awesomeness that is  Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood in the library.

After a year of trial and error–and quite a bit of research–I have developed a process that turns this classic kids show into a simple low-cost program that kid and their grownups love.

I’ll break down the post into 3 sections: Selecting Episodes, Previewing and Planning, and Neighbor Time IRL. At the end, I will lay out 5 episodes that I have used in Neighbor Time, and the activities we did in the second half of the program.

Selecting Episodes

Before I sat down to watch MRN as an adult, I assumed it was an episodic show. I started out cherry picking the episodes. I would read the descriptions, and watch the ones that sounded interesting to me. It being a particularly cold winter, I marathoned my way through 20 or so episodes out of their intended sequence before I realized I was doing it wrong. Watching all willy nilly meant I was missing out on the subtle nuances of the structure, pacing, storytelling, and continuity.

It turns out, MRN was written and produced in five-episode theme-based series. When they were in regular syndication, they always showed themes in sequence with the first episode airing on Monday, the second on Tuesday, and so on. The themes covered could be concept-focused: Big and Little, Up and Down, or Things to Wear; or they could be more social-emotional Competition, Divorce, Mad Feelings, etc. Because the ideas are interrelated in the day and in the week, watching them in sequence offers children a variety of ways to look at–and learn about–a given topic. Don’t get me wrong, every day in the Neighborhood can stand on its own. BUT when watched in sequence, you begin to see the depth with which themes are explored.

Mister Rogers never skims the surface. He always dives deeply into a topic. And yet, he somehow manages to never hit you over the head with the theme. The themes guide the show, but they never constrain the content. Mister Rogers is always putting old ideas (or songs, activities, etc) in new contexts, and new ideas (songs, activities, etc.) in familiar contexts. In some ways, you really never know where a television visit will take you. Every day is an opportunity to sing different songs, or try something new, interesting, and even weird. Most importantly, Mister Rogers never forgets to talk about important stuff. He never hurries anyone through anything, or skips a step to save time. I truly can’t find a single experience that feels cut off or abbreviated. This is something you never see in television.

So when I started planning this program, I knew I wanted to show episodes in sequence as much as possible. The PBSkids website offers nearly 50 full episodes for free on their website. In order to keep the development/planning/testing process simple, I  decided to select from these episodes for now. I needed to populate four six-week sessions. This meant I needed 24 episodes to fill up a full years-worth of Neighbor Times.  Luckily, PBSkids offer several themes in full, or mostly full. This left me with only a few options, which is good. After all, it’s my nature to want to show ALL THE EPISODES.

In the future, I would love to expand this program, and find a way to dip into Amazon’s extraordinarily extensive, well-curated offerings. This service offers the most variety with weekly themes in tact. But until then, I am happy that the decision was made for me.  I chose the four complete themes available on–“Making Mistakes”, “Music”, “Celebrations, and “Friends”–and a four-episode theme (“Helping the Environment”).

Previewing & Planning

When I get down to planning a Neighbor Time session, I watch the episode once straight through first. One of my main goals for this program is to explore effective joint media engagement (JME) strategies in the same way I utilize early literacy practices in storytime. As I watch, I take notes, transcribe my favorite quotes, and brainstorm ideas for talking points and activities. Being prepared for JME means I am ready to recognize the moments that will mean most to the kids and caregivers who attend the program regularly.

After this first viewing, I go over my notes to identify opportunities for participation and active viewing. Television visits vary greatly in terms of interactive opportunities, but each one has at least a few elements that get kids involved in the action of show. Some of these interactive moments are complete segments. One of the best examples, is a visit from the Neighborhood’s resident P.E. teacher and school principal, Marilyn Barnett.

Marilyn Barnett and Fred Rogers, lifting those knees!

Marilyn Barnett and Fred Rogers, lifting those knees!

Barnett showed up at Mr. Rogers’ house every once in a to show him some kid-friendly exercises. I love showing these episodes to kids. It’s a good opportunity to get up on our feet and get our wiggles out. Other interactive moments are small moments, like when Maggie Stewart teaches Mr. Rogers how to say something in sign language, or when Mr. Rogers sings one of his signature songs. Others are teeny tiny moments, just a nod or a hello, but I like to take all the opportunities I can to get kids involved.

One example of a teeny tiny moment happens whenever Mr. Rogers meets someone on a field trip.  These moments stand out to me for some reason. I love the way he strides in introduces himself to the first person he sees. Then he turns to the camera and introduces us–his television neighbor–to this new friend as well. I always love these moments.  In almost every case, no matter who the guest is, a world-famous Olympic champion or a line worker in a soup factory, these introductions strike the perfect note for young children: warm, friendly, and calm. The guests are never overbearing, stiff, or even awkward. It may seem like a small thing, but it never fails to captivate me. How did they manage to illicit these sincere moments from such a diversity of guests? I imagine this sort of thing is the result of deliberate direction and blocking. But I haven’t had a chance to research this yet, but maybe one day…

Anyway, I use these seemingly insignificant moments to encourage kids (by example, I don’t push) to look into the guests’ faces, and say hello back. I started doing this pretty early on in the year. The parents teased me a bit at first. But over time, even the shyest kids have joined me in these television greetings. Even if they just manage wave and smile, it seems like a good way to practice meeting new people. This can be a huge struggle for kids. It think it’s a great way to practice greetings in a safe space. The people on the screen can’t take their shyness the wrong way or put them on the spot. Like I said, I like to be prepared in advanced for all of these opportunities for active viewing, no matter how small.

After two viewings, here’s what my notes end up looking like.


Once I have all this down, I take out Mister Rogers’ Plan & Play Book:


This brilliant activity book was originally created as a professional resource for teachers and childcare providers while the show was still on the air. Each entry connects the content from an episode with activities, conversation starters, and insights into child development written by Mr. Rogers, himself.



I try to match up my notes to the “Thoughts of the Week” to get a little more insight into how they are communicated through the content of the show.

Neighbor Time IRL

The set up for this program is pretty simple. Our storytime room offers a pretty nifty multimedia set-up: A/V equipment, projector, and retractable projection screen built into the ceiling. I use a laptop that hooks into the projector’s HDMI input. I set up a few chairs in the back for adults who can’t sit on the floor. Then I open the doors. I greet the kids and parents. Then I say a few words about the ongoing theme, and press play. You’re not going to believe this, but nearly all the parents stay in the room for the whole program. I didn’t even make that a rule. They enjoy the program almost as much–and sometimes more than–the kids. We watch a full episode. Then we have about 10 minutes of circle time in which we discuss what happened in the episode.

These discussions are by far my favorite part of the program. During the episode parents usually sit along the wall with their stuff, and the kids pile up in the middle of the room like a litter of puppies. For the discussion, I ask the parents to join us as we sit it a circle for a little gab session. In general, the discussion is pretty simple. I just go around the room and ask each person two questions: 1) “What was your favorite thing that happened in the show today?” and 2)”Did anyone say anything that meant a lot to you?” As you can imagine, kids always have an answer to the first question, and it’s never what you expect. I am always astounded by the level of detail the kids recall during these discussions.

For example, Episode 1561 (see below) includes a tour of a trumpet factory. The kids were all over it. During our discussion each kid cited a very specific detail of this segment as their favorite moment. One little girl talked about the women who assembles the trumpet valves. She remembered her name, described the various parts that made up the valves, the steps necessary to put them together, and the fact that her son plays one of the trumpets that she assembled. That’s a lot of information for an almost-four-year-old to keep straight, but she was clearly enamored of this particular television friend.

The second question is a bit more of a stumper, but something really cool happens when I ask it. Often, the kid often his head to the side, then looks up at his grownup. Then the grown up throws out something that she liked, and they talk it over. And that’s how the ball gets rolling. As you can imagine, this exchange often leads to some very sweet moments and warm feelings. And I must say, this is what makes MRN such a unique viewing experience for children and adults together. Words and ideas mean a lot in the Neighborhood.  Feelings are felt deeply, and they stay with you. Talking about ideas and feelings is a critical social-emotional skill. It isn’t an easy thing to learn later in life if you don’t experience them early. These low-pressure discussions offer kids the opportunity to learn how to participate in nurturing conversations about important issues.

Finally, we spend the last 20 minutes doing a hands-on activity: a craft, science experiment, open play, interpretive dance, whatever seems to fit the episode. I always refer to Mister Rogers Plan & Play first for activity ideas. About half of the time the activity is ideal for Neighbor Time. But sometimes the activity doesn’t quite fit the format. They might be too long; require supplies we’re not supposed to use in our program room; or simply require a different sort of relationship than we can cultivate in a library program. In this case, I try to browse around the book looking for an alternative I can adapt to fit my needs. And if this doesn’t work, I reach into my librarian’s bag-o-tricks to find something we can all enjoy.

5 Neighbor Times for You

Here are the activities I used for a week of television visits focusing on Celebrations (1561-1565)

Week 1–How People Make Trumpets–Episode 1561

It’s trumpet time! Mister Rogers brings a toy trumpet to show his television neighbor, but it doesn’t work properly. Luckily, Mr. McFeely shows up with a replacement from the Neighborhood toy store. While dropping off the trumpet, he shows a video from a visit he made to a trumpet factory. In Make-Believe, King Friday decrees that an approaching comet belongs to him, and issues a decree that everyone must celebrate it’s arrival. Meanwhile, Henrietta Pussycat doesn’t feel festive even though her birthday is just around the corner.

Activity: Plan a party! I put a big sheet of paper up on the board, and we planned the party for the last Neighbor Time of the year. Then each child made an invitation to the party. Some kids wanted to trade invitations, and others wanted to take home their own invitation.


Week 2–A Visit to the Planetarium–Episode 1562

Mister Rogers arrives with a basket and a ball, and tells us that Chuck Aber is in the backyard shooting hoops. He goes outside to say hello, and Chuck shows him how to shoot a basket using an easy underhand technique. Next, Mister Rogers visits the Planetarium where Audrey Williams demonstrates the large projector she uses to show a starry sky on the ceiling when talk about stars and constellations.  In Make-Believe, preparations are underway for King Friday’s comet celebration. Lady Elaine thinks King Friday is getting carried away with the comet festivities, and decides she will throw a party for Henrietta’s birthday instead. Chuck Aber tries to cheer up Henrietta, but she still doesn’t feel like celebrating the comet.

Activity: I bumped the activity for Ep. 1562 to week 3 because I wanted to see if I could get these little neighbors interested in the cosmos. I dug up my presentation from Armchair Astronomy, and used the laptop to show some great images from APOD. Then I read some of the captions, which are full of lots of great action words. I encouraged the kids to use their bodies to act out what I was reading. This was a blast. In fact, they asked if we could look at more “star pictures” during Neighbor Time for the rest of the year. I agreed, of course. After all, who am I to blow against the wind?

Week 3–Wynton Marsalis–Episode 1563

Mister Rogers arrives with a tape player. He plays a cassette recording of Wynton Marsalis playing the trumpet. Then he goes to Negri’s Music Shop where he meets Mr. Marsalis (OMG, he’s in his 20s, and looks so young.) In Make-Believe, plans continue to come together for Friday’s Comet. Lady Elaine reports that she visited the Purple Planet, where saw the comet. She insists that no one can own a comet, and they should focus their efforts on celebrating Henrietta’s birthday. Lady Aberlin talks to Daniel Tiger. He is pretty shaken up after a run-in with he thought was a monster. Fortunately, it was just Purple Panda, who apologizes to Daniel for scaring him. Then Lady A, talks with Henrietta who is sad, and wishes she was beautiful.

Activity: We used the activity that was matched with Ep 1562 Mister Rogers Plan & Play: Connect the stars. I set out a bunch of foil stars stickers, construction paper, and markers. The kids made constellations using their imagination. I found a Wynton Marsalis CD, and played it while the kids were making their craft. Then at the end, we all got together, and the kids talked about their constellations and the strange beings who live there. Then they wanted to look at more images from APOD. So we did that for a while, too.

Week 4–Henrietta’s Birthday–Episode 1564

Mister Rogers arrives with a cake that he needs to finish decorating. Someone has written a partial message in icing that reads, “I celebrate.” Mister Rogers completes it by writing “you”. Then he adds candles, and sings a new happy birthday song that he wrote. Then he shows a film about how people make birthday candles. In Make-Believe, the comet finally arrives, and King Friday is forced to accept the fact that no one person can own a comet. The stars and comets in the sky belong to themselves. And we must all share in the experience of seeing them move across the sky. He takes this disappointment surprisingly well. Queen Sarah tells him that she is proud for taking this “disappointment, and turning it into a lesson” for everyone in Make-Believe.

Activity: MRPP’s recommended an activity for Ep. 1564 wasn’t practical for a library program. Luckily, they offered an alternative that did: Decorating Pretend Cakes (from Ep 1179, p. 96). This immediately made me think of the pie art project Rebecca Zarazan Dunn did after reading Tea Party in the Woods back in January. To make this project a bit simpler to do with a big group, I used some thin paper plates we had in our craft closet.Then, I got out our big pickle jar of miscellaneous craft stuffs. It’s stuffed with scraps: yarn, paper, felt, pom poms, buttons, googly eyes, and other stuff that we save rather than putting in the trash. We take out this jar for most of our decorating crafts. I don’t have pictures of the end products the kids made–but trust me–they made some pretty impressive fake cakes.

Week 5–A Star for Kitty–Episode 1565

Mister Rogers arrives, and immediately introduces the newest Neighborhood opera, A Star for Kitty. Lady Aberlin plays a kitty who loves stars so much that she makes a special birthday wish. She points up at the tiniest star in the sky, and asks if she can have it as a birthday present. When Tiny Star (played by Daniel Striped Tiger) hears of this, he is alarmed. He doesn’t want to leave the sky, so he runs off to hide in a big tube of Superbright toothpaste. Meanwhile, Kitty is asleep. She dreams that she is taking a twinkling class so that she can twinkle like a star. She isn’t having much success when Basketball Star (played by Chuck Aber) arrives to air his concerns about Tiny Star being taken from his home. Kitty agrees to leave Tiny Star in the night sky where he belongs. Before you know it, she is shining brightly. When Kitty wakes up she has new-found respect for her own home. She hops out of bed ready to celebrate her birthday.

Activity: We had the party we planned in Week 1. I decorated the room with streamers and fresh flowers.  I made some die cut leaves. I wrote a Mister Rogers’ quote on one side of each leaf. Then, I stuck a small magnet to the other side, so the kids could stick them to their refrigerators. Then, I blew up balloons, and tied the leaves to the end of each balloon string. I also made up goodie bags for the kids which included Mister Rogers coloring pages, a party favor from our big miscellaneous prize box, and a small cup with a lid so that each kid could take home a flower.

So that’s Neighbor Time. Let me know what you think.










Flannel Friday Round-Up April 8, 2016

Hello! We’ve got some great storytime activities for you this week.

Welcome first-time poster, Jennifer! She offers this up a seriously adorable flannelized rhyme: 5 Little Eggs. She’s new to the FFRU, but clearly she’s an old soul when it comes to making flannel boards. 

Wendy at Flannel Board Fun has been slacking this week…NOT! She has two great felt sets:

  1. Freight Train by Donald Crews
    Freight Train:
  2. She makes these amazing flexible felt sets. I LOVE THIS IDEA!!! She creates one beautiful felt set, and matches up the pieces with several different stories. Brilliant!  One set, many stories… Economical and adorable!
    Dessert Set:

Lindsey at Jbrary has 3 great food-related felt boards this week. They are cute and yummy.

Babies are falling all over themselves for Mariah’s 5 Little Babies. Take a look-see at Read Them Stories.

And Annie at SoTomorrow had a nesting chickens playset collecting dust on top of her file cabinet for ages until she realized they’d pretty clucking awesome storytelling prop.

Kathryn is buzzing with Old McRainbow’s Flower Garden at Fun with Friends at Storytime.

Kate from Felt Board Magic offers up 2 delectable felt creations: Five Currant Bun in a Baker’s Shop and Five/Ten Fat Sausages Sizzling in a Pan

A beautiful flannelization of a beloved classic from Lauren at the Dilley Dalley The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Did you notice how chickenful this week has been? Well, here’s one more for you from Jane at Piper Loves the Library: Flannel Friday Chick Week! Cheep, Cheep, Cheep!
Next week’s FFRU will be hosted by the brilliant founder of this weekly tradition, Melissa Depper! YAY! So check out Mel’s Desk, and stay tuned!

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Come On Feel the Noise, or Sound in the Wonder Ground!

It’s a new month, and that means a new theme in the Wonder Ground (NPLD’s STEAM learning zone). February is sound month, and we’re encouraging kids to use their ears to open their minds. Here’s what the room looks like at the moment:

The Big Pegboard

The Pegboard offers lots of information and inactives for kids to read and explore the science of sound.

The Pegboard offers lots of information, books, and interactives for exploring the science of sound.

The Cage


Here are the goodies we keep in the Cage. They can’t keep their hands out of here. I love it!

The Big Idea Board

What's the Big Idea?

What’s the Big Idea?

Each month we derive the Open Lab activity from one “Big Idea”. I post all the Big Ideas on the board at the beginning of the month. I open and close each 20 minute session by introducing, and revisiting, the BI of the week. As the weeks progress, I link the current BI to the previous week’s BI, if applicable. But I have found that it is better to ere on the side of caution when it comes to opening with too much information. Since we only have twenty minutes, and some of the kids are as young as 6, it helps to keep my babbling to a minimum.  I didn’t start out doing this. At first, I found myself talking a mile a minute,  over-explaining everything, and asking too many questions.  I think this confused the kids, and put them on edge. What’s more, it was difficult for me to be consistent with each group.

In December, when were learning about light and optics, I started paring down my jabber. My friend Jen, a science ed trainer at the UofC, gave me the Talk Science Primer. This article offers a set of 9 “talk moves” designed to facilitate productive science discussions in classrooms. The talk moves aren’t a perfect fit for a library setting; but they gave me some powerful tools for improving the Open Lab flow.

I made an effort to speak calmly, clearly, and simply. And I stuck as close to the simple language used in the BIs as possible. Then I introduced the activity, demonstrated the steps, and let them get to it. Something wonderful happened the first time I used this format: the activities did the talking for me.  The kids started finding the evidence, and backing up the BIs with their own experiences. They talk to each other more, and bounce ideas off one another. They focus on what they see unfold in front of them, rather than my expectations or their performance. It’s awesome.

I really love the Big Idea board. I refer to it all the time. And as the weeks go by, I have begun to notice the kids referring to it more and more. Sometimes, I spot a kid taking a break from the activity, staring up at BI board. I see her lips moving and her brow crinkling, and realize, “OMG! SHE’S READING THE BIG IDEAS! MAYBE SHE’S COMMITTING THEM TO MEMORY! YAY!”

The Niles Buzz Blog

Each week I write a post called “This Week In the Wonder Ground”. I was struggling with this at first. I wanted to write something short and sweet, and I would sit in front of my computer paralyzed. I went to my brilliant buddy/coworker, Deidre Winterhalter (@winterstacker), and begged for help. In about 30 minutes she  wrote a post that captured the Open Lab experience with just the right amount of detail, and plenty of enthusiasm. My brain immediately sung with joy. What she had written provided the perfect template for future posts. I would never be able to get these done each week if it wasn’t for her brilliantly simple, straightforward, no-nonsense format. Now, these posts take about 20 minutes, 30 if I am included pictures or other media. They go like this:

This week’s Big Idea: blah blah blah.

Activity: We challenged the kids to do/think/try testing the big idea. We passed out a variety of whats-its. We went around the room, and each kid showed us the whats-it he chose.  Next, we spread out the other materials we were using on the table. Then we used the materials in such a way that they helped us explore the Big Idea. We documented of the results.

Next week’s Big Idea:  yadda yadda yadda.

I’m kinda kidding, but it really is that simple.  It is SO EASY to write using this format. I think thankful thoughts about Deidre every week as I am writing them. Check out the most recent:  This Week in the Wonder Ground.

If you want to read about our weekly activities and Open Labs, I will post links on this blog.

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Year of Wonders: Launching a STEAM Lab in the Library

This poor blog has been neglected for a long, long time. The reason for this long hiatus is that my focus at NPLD shifted quite a bit over the last couple of years. When I started this blog I focused on storytime and early literacy programming. I still do some of that, of course, but the bulk of my work over the last year or so has been one major project.  Before I get into what this project actually is, I will you a little background…

Background: Renovation and Reevaluation

This assignment came about a year after NPLD’s renovation and rebranding project. In 2013, the library was completely gutted, and reorganized. And in 2014, we opened the doors to a completely new NPLD. We had a bigger, better department for teens on the lower level, aptly branded as the Teen Underground (this link leads to interior tours of NPLD). The department formally known as Youth Services was rebranded as the KidSpace. In addition to a new, sleek interior, we expanded and enriched our early literacy play space. And we built a new, fancy tweens-only space for 5th-8th graders. Riffing on the naming theme used by the Teen Dept, we called this space the Middle Ground. *And yes, I still get a a bit twitterpated when I see these two department names in the same sentence because I am just that nerdy.*  The Middle Ground is decked out with it’s own computers, big-screen TV, and gaming consoles. These new spaces were an immediate success with the age groups for which they were designed.

Unfortunately, that left the K-4th graders feeling like they were left out in terms of having a “special new space”.  I mean, they still had the rest of KidSpace to hang out in, but they didn’t have a space all their own. This was intentional. After all, We didn’t want to break up the entire library into little clubhouses. The idea for the MG was developed because NPLD is an extremely popular hangout for middle schoolers. We wanted to give them a space to act in an age-appropriate way without disrupting service for younger children and their parents. Of course, for kids on the cusp of adolescence, being too young for something fun is maddeningly “unfair”. The K-4th graders voiced their displeasure early and often. But the fact is, they are simply not old enough for the responsibility that comes with being on their own in the MG. TBH, middle schoolers aren’t old enough for this responsibility either. We require them to register as a MG user, provide parents’ contact information, and sign a contract promising to follow a set of behavior guidelines. It takes time for them to adjust, but they do grow into it given the chance to to make mistakes a few (dozen) times.

In the spring of 2014, my supervisor told me that plans were in motion to build a maker space and digital media for adults and teens, and asked if I thought KidSpace needed its own makerspace. After the renovation, I had rolled out a new Maker Monday program that was struggling to gain momentum. So far, we had tried a variety of the popular maker programs that my colleagues at other libraries love: bristlebots, scribblebots, t-shirt hacks, Hour of Code, light painting, etc. I never had more than 3-4 kids in attendance, and even when they had fun, they rarely came back. I sort of grimaced at the thought of spending a ton of money, time, and effort on a space I wasn’t convinced our patrons wanted.

I didn’t want to say no. I love a good challenge. So, instead, I asked for a little more insight into what the library’s leadership was hoping to accomplish. It turned out, the Board of Trustees had shown a great deal of interest, not just in the Maker Movement, but in STEM education initiatives in libraries. Now, this was something I could really dig my teeth into. I closed my eyes, took a great big CHOMP!

I started to draw on my memories from past programs to look for science-y inspiration, and one experience jumped into view. It is the single most universally wonder-inducing activities we’ve offered in my time at NPLD: the Monarch Butterfly nursery.

Butterfly house as inspiration.

The Monarch nursery has evolved over the last two or three summers. It started when one of our clerks in patron services brought us a caterpillar in a Dairy Queen cup. Iris Henderson is a monarch enthusiast. She has a large patch of milkweed in her yard. My coworker, the brilliant Debbie Graham, decided to gather some caterpillar books, and put together a proper display. Patrons and staff, alike, were immediately mesmerized by these little creatures. People would come into the library for a quick visit, and wind up staying for hours to watch it nibble and explore its tiny habitat. So, Iris brought more caterpillars. She brought some into the kid’s department, and offered others as giveaways to curious patrons as they checked out books. The enthusiasm for these little caterpillars grew, grew, and grew some more.

One evening, a long-time regular came in with her mom and dad just as one of the caterpillars was preparing to pupate. They were planning on a quick visit before going home to make dinner. But when this girl saw the caterpillar hanging in it’s little J, she plopped down in a chair, and wouldn’t take her eyes off of it. They wound up having a pizza delivered to the library so they could watch the metamorphosis. I had been hoping to catch the moment on camera, but I had a program planned for that evening. I asked them for a full report. And the next time I saw this family, all three of them were bubbling over to describe the experience to me. I had so many questions for them, What did the antennae look like just before it metamorphosed; Did it wiggle around a lot as it transformed?; When did the golden glittery spots appear? They had amazing answers for each of these questions. Their descriptions included–what could only be described–as an “interpretive dance” to demonstrate the process. That’s when my coworkers and I really began to see how powerful this experience was for the library.

So this year, one of my coworkers asked her husband to build an official caterpillar house. It’s a simple whitewashed wood frame about 30 inches tall and 12 inches square, a mesh top that pops off, and fiberglass windows that slide out for easy access. This house allows for clear views on all sides, and it’s very easy to clean. It can house 2-5 caterpillars comfortably.
With this new addition, the staff’s enthusiasm continued to grow. I found a simple Monarch Observation worksheet on Pinterest, and put them in a binder labeled “Field Notebook” to encourage kids to draw and write their observations as they watched the caterpillars. All drawings are really impressive. I don’t mean they are impressive in artistic terms–although they are impressive. But more importantly they are clearly drawn from careful, conscientious observation. The field notebook also offered us an easy way to take statistics. We found it was impossible to track how many people were observing the caterpillars, especially with all the summer reading craziness. These drawings gave us some insight into how many people were actively participating.

But the other incredible thing for us as librarians is that we realized how much we had learned about monarchs from one year to the next.  I don’t think we realized how much knowledge we had acquired the previous year until the were back on the floor. We found we were able to answer patrons’ questions, point out subtle phenomena, and predict behavior without having to look it up.

It’s one thing to know how powerful a learning tool observation can be, but this really illustrated that principle to all of us. I mean, were all had a lot of respect for monarch butterflies before this program, but we didn’t really know that much. And while I wouldn’t call us experts, two months of regularly caring for and observing monarch caterpillars has deepened our understanding of their life-cycle. And when patrons ask, “How do you know so much about them?” Our response, “Well, we’ve read about them in books, but mostly, we just watch them carefully. Over the course of the summer, and we really grow to understand them.” At least half the time, the kids and parents immediately plop down in a chair to ready watch and learn.

So when the opportunity to build something new for the library fell into my lap, I knew I had to infuse it with this type of enthusiasm. I asked my boss if she would consider letting me focus on the Science, Art, and Math rather than the technology and engineering. Just to add a little advantage to direction, I pointed out that a makerspace may require a great deal of maintenance from IT. We have a small, overextended IT department that oversees A LOT of computers for patrons and staff. I suggested they might appreciate if we made this space self-sufficient in terms of tech support. She agreed, so I got to work.

Getting Down to Business

I like naming things.  The moment I decided I wanted to take on this project, I was struck with the perfect name for the space: the Wonder Ground.

Once this was set down on paper, I dove into my favorite part of any project: THE RESEARCH! If you are interested in finding our just how obsessively nerdy I am, you’re welcome to explore my Wonder Ground Pinterest boards. I looked high and low for inspiration: museum’s, zoos, nature centers, classrooms (esp) Reggio and Montessori classrooms, documentaries, parks, blogs, toy stores, and anywhere else I could find it. Once I opened my mind to the possibility that ideas could be anywhere, I began to find it everywhere. I developed a vision: to build a place where kids and their grownups can gain a richer understanding of STEAM concepts while having fun.

I moved on to develop a more focused mission. I read and read and read. I hashed ideas out with the awe-inspiring Rebecca Zarazan Dunn. I wanted the Wonder Ground to emulate the places like the Morton Arboretum and Adler Planetarium’s Planet Explorers even if only on a small scale. I got about a zillion ideas when I visited Gateway Montessori. A magical Montessori community that many of my friends’ kids attend.

Then I outlined the areas of science I wanted to cover: biology, botany, physics, geology, astronomy, and math. I decided to stay away from computer science and chemistry (at least for now). I felt these sorts of activities might create a headache for other departments that already have an intense workload keeping the library clean and running smoothly: IT–as I mentioned above–and Maintenance. I think these are small sacrifices to make in the name interdepartmental relations.  I have seen our maintenance staff stress over carpet stains more than once. I knew they would sleep better at night if I left chemistry out of the picture. I put together a budget, and started purchasing a ton of crazy science equipment (we had a large grant that covered this project and a Maker Space for adults and teens) to cover a full year of Wonder Ground themes.

Somewhere in this frenzy of activity, my department got a new supervisor, the indomitable Arianne Carey, and a brilliant new program coordinator, Deidre Winterhalter. I can’t say enough good things about these two. They are both stellar librarians, and all-around amazing people. Deidre helped me shape my amorphous, hodge-podge of weirdo ideas into a succinct mission:

Kids in kindergarten through 4th grade are invited to play, explore and learn in our exciting STEAM room. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math, and is crucial to a well-rounded 21st century education.  Wonder Ground is a place where we can gain a richer understanding of these topics while having fun.We will transform curious thoughts into meaningful questions and solutions that lead to a deeper understanding of the world

Arianne worked with the publicity department to design a brand, logo,  signage, and web content. They did–and continue to do–a fantastic job on the PR for the WG.




Inside the Wonder Ground

I spent a lot of time thinking about how to design the interior. The space is huge: 11’x 10′. I wanted the space to be flexible, yet structured.

I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on furniture. We needed a high quality locking cabinet for a few delicate items. Maintenance took care of that, as well as an inexpensive, narrow table on wheels. The table is perfect for our needs. It’s narrow, but not too narrow. And we can roll it out of the way if we need a little space play. The white wardrobe is from Ikea, and it’s works as storage+display. We can tie things to it and weave things into it the mesh. I like to keep extras (e.g. related equipment and provocations) in there for kids to explore during Open Labs (I will talk about those in a moment).

I decided to think of each theme as a module, and planned to produce content the same format for each module. A huge pegboard makes this simple and easy. I laminate relevant print materials (e.g. magazine and internet articles/images/infographics, weeded books, reproducibles from our teacher collection etc.), punch holes in the top and hang them from peg hooks, so that kids can read them during open labs. I hang baskets on the pegboard for storing supplies we use for every theme (scissors, magnifying glasses, tape, a plushy Einstein, etc.), as well as theme-specific materials (mirrors for optics, stethoscopes for human anatomy, etc.).

On the wall adjacent to the pegboard I hung a Big Ideas poster. I use this poster to highlight some main principles of that month’s theme. Each week I use this poster to connect ideas from previous weeks to that day’s Open Lab activity.


On the wall near the door, we have a spot for recording and posting kids observations. I keep a big pile of post-its on hand. Whenever a kid makes an observation they want to remember, I write it down, and stick it to the board.


These are particularly helpful when kids return the next week. When I talk about the previous week’s Big Idea, I often refer to a specific observation a kid made. 90% of the time, it sparks a specific memory, and the kids begin to draw connections between the idea and the experience in a very real, and exciting way. Next month, I plan to hang a clothes line across the room for drawings, questions, and other content the kids create during Open Labs.

We Have Liftoff!

We launched the Wonder Ground in the fall, and immediately developed a loyal following. I currently plan and facilitate two 2-hour open-lab programs each week. Each open lab is broken down into 20-minute sessions for 1-5 kids. During the first two months, it quickly became apparent that I had A LOT of learning to do. Luckily, I work in a library where experimentation is strongly encouraged. I quickly realized, I was trying to pack to much into each session: too many words, too much stuff, too much everything. Part of the problem was that I was collecting activities from a variety of sources: online, books from the collection, and word-of-mouth. Every activity I planned was extremely different from the week before, and lessons never built on previous knowledge.  It made me feel like I had to have all the answers ahead of time. Half the time, the activities went brilliantly, and others fell flat.

During botany month, we dissected beans, and this was brilliant, doable, and fun. Then the next week, kids came back eager to learn more about beans and seeds. Some of them had germinated bean seedlings at home, and had very interesting things to talk about related to the previous week. I had planned an activity dying flowers, and didn’t have any beans on hand. Some kids were happy to move on to the new activity, but others were clearly yearning for more. Luckily, I had more flowers than I needed, and as I looked around at some disappointed faces, I was struck by an idea: dissect the flowers! This went over like gangbusters. We pulled the petals apart, sliced up the stems, opened the sepals, spread pollen on our fingers, and so on. We discovered, drew, described, photographed, and examined each part carefully. We took magnified images using the digital field microscope. These two Open Labs made big impact on me, and gave me two big insights into what kids wanted from the Wonder Ground: 1) depth–much more depth than I originally envisioned; 2) a voice. They wanted to describe everything they saw and felt in wildly creative ways. They wanted to feel, smell, see things, and then relate those sensations to other experiences they’ve had. Their descriptions were personal, funny, scary, weird, and AMAZING!!

After this experience I went home thrilled. I was also a bit nervous to lose this momentum, since were moving on to a new theme the next week. I tapped the best resource a librarian could hope for: my good friend and neighbor,

Not only is Jen one of my favorite people on Earth, she also happens to be a curriculum developer and teacher trainer for the Center for Elementary Math and Science Education at the University of Chicago. I told her about the beans and flowers, and she took me to her bookshelves, and started plopping book after book into my lap:  science education materials, inquiry science teacher guides, textbooks, articles, etc. I truly had no idea what I was doing until I raided her shelves. Using her resources and brilliant mind, Jen helped me to hone my vision and philosophy for the Open Labs in the Wonder Ground. She encouraged me to focus on developing a culture of scientific inquiry where all participants can engage in productive science discussions. She has been helping me adapt these methods to the library setting.

This is a work-in-progress, for sure. Obviously, a Wonder Ground-like space isn’t right for every library. But I have found that the Wonder Ground is so much more than space and stuff. The Wonder Ground is a state of mind. If you’re interested in developing ongoing STEAM programs and/or clubs, consider how a science inquiry program can guide your planning. The Inquiry Project offers a ton of great information and research on the benefits of an inquiry-based approach. Their work is geared towards teachers, but can be adapted to a libraries. If you are interested in exploring the scientific-inquiry-through-library-programs concept with me, here is a great article to get you started: Talk Science Primer. If you want to see what we’ve done since starting down this new path, check out the Niles Library Buzz Blog posts from December on light and optics.











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Flannel Friday Round-Up 4/24/15

Happy Arbor Day, and welcome to the Flannel Friday Round-Up! I am a huge bum, so I have no #FF, but these awesome librarians have some great flannelboards for you!

Kim flies high with “Five Colorful Kites”:

Kathryn forgot her umbrella, and raindrops keep falling on her head in storytime:

Miss Meg sings about colors in spanish:

Storytime Katie is counting babies with her flannelized Ten Tiny Babies:

Danielle is doubling up this week with some great color-coded toddler storytimes:



Mallory offers up a little mouse barn flannel, with bonus favorite scissors…oh boy, tips! I love tips!

Mallory is hosting next week, so flannelize your hearts out!