Bee-hold the Bee-Bot

One of the perks of this job is that I get to be one of the first people to play with the toys.

This particular toy, the Bee-Bot, is one cute little bug meant to teach kids programming fundamentals. The plan is to integrate it into the summer program, and I’m sure it will be a hit with the kids.

It’s also an attention-getter. When I was shooting this video, (adult) heads were turning to see what was cooking with this new gadget.

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Drumroll, please…

KM logo color 256 widthIs this not the coolest logo ever?

Thanks, John Roe, for your unfailing, long-suffering patience in the face of one more
“I like it, but could we?”

And by we, of course I meant you.

It really pays off to surround yourself with great people!

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3D Printer Optional?

I must confess.  I’m considering getting a 3D printer.  I know, I know, I said it wasn’t necessary.  And it isn’t.  And I just submitted a proposal for a panel presentation in the fall at the Pennsylvania Library Association’s annual conference entitled MakerSpaces for Kids: 3D Printer Optional.  Because, well, the glitzy star of the maker world, the 3D printer, is NOT necessary to introduce kids to creating and making and doing.

But.  There’s a new model out there that just got released.  Getting great reviews.  VERY reasonable cost – $700 assembled.  AND it looks like our Friends group may be willing to donate the funds.  Hard to resist, people.

I am also trying hard to not feel like we should be doing everything.  Coding.  Minecraft. Soldering.  And there’s so much I would like to learn – the Department of Making and Doing in Philly has a great class for newbies to learn how to use the laser cutter.  LASER CUTTER.  Who wouldn’t want to learn how to use one of those bad boys?  But I really have enough of a learning curve to keep me frantically busy.  And yet – that laser cutter class is April 22nd and is only $50 bucks.  Anybody else tempted?

Printrbot 2014

Printrbot 2014

As time marches on (gallops, really) closer to summer, I am working on getting the PR assembled – press releases, PowerPoints for school visits/assemblies, flyers, game board reading logs, registration cards, etc. John is working on a logo for KidsMake, and I am in danger of making him head for the hills with all of my “suggestions.”

Good thing I’m taking vacation in May, right?

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Equipment and Materials Page Updated!

equipBeen wondering what we actually plan on doing this summer?  Head over to the Equipment and Materials page to get an idea.  I have grouped the materials by general category, with a VERY brief description.  Some of these amazing tools could – and just might – get their own post.  But for now – take a look.

Can’t wait for me to get around to describing them more fully?  Leave me a comment and I will respond ASAP.

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Tinker with Technology – Terrific!

Tinker Group ArtBots

Tinker Group ArtBots

I’m back in the library and finally able to share with you the highlight of Friday at the Public Library Association Conference, (well, besides hearing David Sedaris at his snarkiest) the Tinker with Technology presentation by Tinker Group.  Tinker Group is a networking group of librarians who work with technology, kids and teens.  They are youth librarians at several Chicago libraries who originally thought they were alone in their efforts to bring technology to their younger patrons.  Now they are a group that meets once a month in-person to share ideas and projects as well as online through their blog Tinker.  They describe their philosophy of learning as “open-ended, self-directed learning through play.”  Bingo!

The only difference is the resources – theirs always involve technology.  I am certainly happy that this is their focus, as my steep learning curve is certainly one of the main reasons that I am seeking to gain wisdom from those who are more experienced and/or more tech-blessed than I.

The presenters provided detailed information regarding three different themes:  Animation & Film Making, Robotics, and Art Meets Tech.  Want the details?  The stop motion animation tutorial is available on their blog, Tinker.  The handouts for all of the three themes are available at the PLA website here – search for the program entitled Tinker with Technology: Simple and Creative Programs for Kids and Teens that was presented on Friday, March 14th at 10:45 a.m.  Suggestion – download the handouts now as I’m not sure how long this link will be active.

Resources that were new to me?  (And yes, I will be updating the Resources and Equipment pages soon. Soon is a relative construct, by the way.)

  • Lego WeDo.  The younger version of Lego Mindstorms.  Cheaper and easier than the regular version of Lego Mindstorms, says Robotics guru Mike.  Programmable with either Lego software or Scratch (which we have already introduced to kids last summer in our computer lab).
  • Pencil Animation software.  Katy tells us no, really, it is software.  No actual pencils involved.
  • LongExpo – App available on iTunes that allows for taking digital photos with long exposures and light trail effects.  And Janet promises it’s easy.

But one of the best ideas was their suggestion to introduce some of this technology play time to staff at our next in-service.  It wouldn’t be boring!

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A Makerbox Revolution



The conference is fantastic.  Truly.  So exciting to meet others in public libraries who are taking the “makerspaces-are-for-kids-too” plunge. The first program I attended Thursday was entitled “Makerbox: No Space Required.”  Five libraries in Illinois received IMLS funding to create easily transportable boxes featuring both high and low tech resources to be used with kids and teens in libraries.  Each library received $800 and created a separately themed box – 3D, Electronics, Music, Craft and STEM.  The participating libraries were gracious enough to provide us with a list of the equipment and materials included in each box.  Unfortunately there is not a link on the PLA Conference page to their lists, so I’ll work on getting that directly from the presenters ASAP.

None of the equipment discussed was brand new to me except for the WaterColorBot.  This is definitely a product worth checking out.  Ridgeway Burns, the presenter of the 3D Box, described the WatercolorBot as a 2D way of introducing children to the concept of the 3D printer.  Using Microsoft Paint software, a child (or Me!) will create a design on the computer, send it to the WaterColorBot and watch this machine create the art with paint and brushes.  Also,

(The) WaterColorBot was a creation of Sylvia Todd, star of Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show. She came up with the idea for the WaterColorBot because she wanted to create an art robot and enter it in the RoboGames competition. She approached us at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories about collaborating on the project, and we loved it.

Watch Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show.  Immediately.  Bookmark it.  Well done.

Back to the Makerbox: No Space Required program.  It was fantastic to see the ways in which these libraries tackled a few of the issues that I have heard from naysayers.  Makerboxes don’t require a lot of money ($800 per box) or any dedicated space.  Just storage enough for the box.  And they are not all high-tech.  They also believe, as I do, that the makerspace movement is not necessarily a high-tech movement.  Their descriptive phrase was “participatory learning experience.”  I like it.

They have already been sharing the boxes among themselves, allowing the resources  that each library purchased to be used by their partners.  The next step in their process will be expanding the number of boxes and participating libraries and allowing them to be shared among libraries throughout the state using interlibrary loan.  Nice.  They share their toys well.

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Different Yet the Same – from museum to library to museum


Blockopolis in Playscape at Children’s Museum of Indianapolis


Waterfall in Playscape

The workshop this morning was provided by Family Place Libraries™ and held at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.  We also heard from the Children’s Library of Manhattan.  Do you sense the pattern here?

Children’s museums get it.  They are based on the concept of interactive, hand-on learning.  They acknowledge and celebrate the vital link between play and learning.  What about the Family Place Library?

A Family Place Library is a center for early childhood information, parent education, emergent literacy, socialization and family support.  (They) redesign the library environment to be welcoming and appropriate for children beginning at birth…

A major part of their redesign of a new Family Place Library is to provide a welcoming space that includes developmentally appropriate materials and resources which accommodate a wide range of ages and abilities.  Another way to say this?  Open-ended play, informal and unstructured.  They want to create a paradigm shift from Librarian as Expert to Librarian as Facilitator.  They seek to create a partnership with families and the community, to provide opportunities for peer-to-peer learning in an open and welcoming environment.  Yes!

More on the actual workshop after I take a nap.  Conferences are exhausting.  And it hasn’t even started yet!

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