From the monthly archives:

January 2012

Robot Garage

by Vicky on January 2, 2012

Our final Winter Extravaganza program deserves a post all to itself.

Tony Gondola, a Museum of Flight educator, led an incredible program designed for fourth to eighth graders.  I was glad to see that a respectable number of girls had signed up for this program.

He started with an introduction and overview on robots and robotics, and got the kids to think about the differences between machines and robots.  They had to think about the uses of robotics in different industries, and why they were more useful in some fields than in others.

Then he divided the group into teams of three or four kids and passed out small plastic boxes of parts.  He gave the kids only three pieces of information: 1. their robotic rovers should be able to move forward, backward, to the left, and to the right; 2. he identified one type of motor, which could go fast; and 3. he identified another type of motor, which was slow but could lift a lot of weight.  Then he turned them loose to explore, brainstorm, experiment, problem solve, and work cooperatively.

He walked around and offered occasional comments and suggestions as needed, but mostly in the form of questions.  He also told them that it was OK to get ideas from other teams.

After about 45 minutes, he called the teams to gather around a ring he had taped off on the floor.  He had dumped a pile of spare parts in the ring, and the object was to remove as many pieces as possible in 10 minutes.  At this point their rovers looked quite individual.  It was surprising how different they all looked, given the fact that they had started with the same set of parts.

Then they had 15 minutes to make modifications on their designs.  When they came back for the final round of competition, their rovers looked very much alike.  Quite a few had figured out that the elegant pincers on their robotic arm might not be the most efficient tool for removing parts from the ring, and they had fashioned large scoops to push or pull the pieces out of the ring with their faster motor.  The winning team managed to remove 22 pieces from the ring!

I had been concerned that some teams might be dominated by one kid, but that really didn’t happen.  For the most part, they shared the work and even took turns at controlling their rover even during the intense competition.  The parents were pretty good at letting the kids work on their own, although I did notice some parents offering suggestions as the competition ratcheted up!


Winter Extravaganza!

by Vicky on January 2, 2012

Winter Extravaganza is a series of exciting programs at the library for school kids during their winter break.

This year I led two out of the three.  The first one was easy.  I taught two sessions on making origami star boxes and star-shaped books.  Since I’ve taught this class before, it felt like a walk in the park for me.

The second one was another story!  That was the one I had to come up with on my first day of work, when I learned that the previously planned program had fallen through.

I made the mistake of thinking aloud that it was too bad I didn’t have my musical partner to help produce The Nutcracker puppet show that had been such a success for us in Albuquerque last year.

My new boss, a dancer, loved the idea!  Before I knew it, I had not only agreed to produce a Nutcracker puppet show, but also to create Nutcracker puppet designs for the kids to make!

This time I had help from my colleague Mira, who was perfect to play the part of Godmama Drosselmayer, and my boss, Jill, was equally perfect as the Sugarplum Fairy.

I had looked at Stuart’s magical expanding Christmas tree from last year’s production as we were packing the truck and thought, “Nah, we won’t be needing that THIS year!”  So he heroically constructed a new one for our Stanwood production.  You can see it in the background behind Mira, clowning as the evil Mouse King.

This year I added the Spanish Dance, since I found my childhood marionnettes and untangled them as we were packing.

Since I had also left behind my Kingdom of Sweets backdrop, I was really happy to have the beautiful shadow puppet theater that Stuart built for me last summer.  I just removed the screen and hung it with fancy draping.

For the Tea Dance, the dancing tea bags were back, and the St. Nicholas doll and Bear puppet performed the Russian Dance.

My Unicorn puppet once again danced to the music for the Arabian Dance as Godmama Drosselmayer’s special gift to the children (in my old chidhood Victoria theater).

It was perfect to have two puppet theaters as part of our set, because that gave the kids more room for their newly constructed puppets to perform!

The kids could choose from three projects: a stick puppet Ballerina, a paper bag puppet Nutcracker, or a Mouse King mask.

My coworkers brought lots of beautiful ribbon and trim and doilies and bits of fabric and buttons, and gold and silver paper and gorgeous embellishments of all kinds for the Fairy Ballerina puppets.  

Since we used slim dowels for their rods, the ballerinas could pirouette beautifully!

For the Mouse King masks,  we started with the Mouse mask we designed last year and added a crown.

Voila!  Behold the Mouse King!

The Nutcracker paper bag puppets were the most complex of the three projects, because there were so many different elements to cut out.  The end product was so worth the extra work, though.  The puppets’ sword arms were able to whip to and fro for quite convincing duels.


How Anansi Got His Stories

by Vicky on January 2, 2012

My arrival at my new job coincided with a storytime hiatus, so I was suffering a bit from storytime withdrawal!

Imagine how glad I was to receive an invitation to visit the Cedarhome Elementary School, where the third grade was learning about storytelling and puppetry!  I decided that the perfect story to tell them was the African folk tale, “How Anansi Got His Stories.”

I had a pair of black gloves, so I transformed one of them into Anansi.  I also had to make a very large Snake!

The kids were enthusiastic and engaged and full of great questions.  And nearly all of them had library cards!

They think the library is AWESOME!

And so do I.

The third graders of Cedarhome Elementary School are pretty awesome themselves. 

Here is the beautiful Spider puppet thank-you card they gave me!