Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Imaginary Friends & Imaginary Worlds

Dan Santat's Caldecott winning picture book whimsically begins "He was born on an island far away where imaginary friends were created. Here, they lived and played, each eagerly waiting to be imagined by a real child." 

But Beekle struggles in the real world to find that friend who might imagine him... so the Bubbler has decided to step in and help. Using Beekle as our inspiration, Maker Corps has teamed up with MSCR sites at Sennett and Muir to get those imaginations going! And the results have been something magical.

And we have discovered the incredible allure of neon and glitter crayons, the importance of lots of multicolored feathers, and just how much is possible with construction paper and google eyes when paired with imaginations

However, it isn't just Beekle's adorable appearance that makes him so irresistible. It's his adorable personality and sense of adventure, as well as the colorful place where he lives. So this time, we included opportunities and space for our Bubblerteers to give their creatures names, tell us about where they lived, and what made them so special. 

Like through acting. Where at Allied Dr. Learning Center we BECAME monsters to put ourselves in their terrifying shoes. 

Or turned them into pop-up books to give them their own voices and making them talk! 

At at Sennett where we drew our creature's natural habitat and what made them so ferocious! Like creatures who live in lava (they need orange wings to fly over the top!). Or friends named Jelly Bean to live in Weird Forests. And Abstract monsters that turn to squiggles on the page... and blue cats who primarily reside on blue couches. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Making & Learning with the Bubbler

One Bubblerteer with her movie watching pavilion. The
popcorn (packing peanuts) are attached to the top so you
don't have to even walk to the snack bar! 

At the Bubbler, we often get asked "what role does making have in the library?" Let's be truthful here... we get asked this by a lot of grown ups. For our youngest Bubblerteers, "making" is enthusiastically embraced in the library without question. The library to them is already a magical place of exploration, learning, and fun thanks to their experiences with storytimes, play literacy games in the children's section, and arts based programming. 

Bubblerteer posing with his
"Super Travel Camper" 
In the same ways that storytimes and CRAFTernoons support early literacy in developing narrative and storytelling skills, fine motor skills, and imaginative thinking, maker based programs push small minds to grow. Especially the open ended activities designed by our Maker Corps team.

This week at Pinney, we explored creative problem solving and imaginative design (and had a TON of fun) with the Bubbler's Mystery Boxes. these little red tool boxes are filled with myriad of building supplies from purchased plastic wheels and cardboard saws, to all the extra stuff we found floating around the library like packing peanuts, drinking straws, shipping foam, and cable wrap tubing (great robot arm material!) We initially included prompts for ideas of what kiddos could create with their boxes, but quickly learned that inspiration usually comes directly from the materials themselves and what the kids imagine.

And doesn't take long for that imagination to spark! Our Makers at Pinney dove right in and after lots of scrunched eye brows and tongues thoughtfully hanging out of mouths, creating horse drawn carriages, high capacity mini vans, a travel camper, sail boats and more.

The "Six Wheeler" is a great example of creative problem solving.
Having enough room for all the seats, the middle of the car sagged so two more wheels were added.
We also learned that having only 1 screw in the front connecting the wheels
allowed them to swivel for actual steering!
What we're noticing is that our Bubblerteers are so excited about their projects, talking about them and creating stories comes naturally a lot of them, showing us awesome moments of reflection and discussion of design choices. But for some kiddos, this conversation needs a little nudge.  So we're starting to get a little sneaky in Maker Corps...

We're arming ourselves with some questions to push our Bubblerteers to reflect on their creations and design choices. Not that our inventors would suspect we are encouraging "development of narrative skills" or "justifying choices in the making process" or other boring learning stuff when we're just asking:

  • "What's your creation's name?" 
  • "What does it do?" 
  • "What makes your invention so awesome?"
  • "What would you do to make it even awesomer?"  
But the results are showing just how much their minds are working in this creative process. Those sneaky Bubblerarians!! Making me use my brain. Don't they know it's summer time! Here's one response to "What makes your invention so awesome?" 

Top "The Sew Bot" with a library card memory chip and built in needle and thread. Middle: A "Unsinkable Sailboat" with flotation peanuts attached to the sail so it will float! Bottom: "The Falling Down Garage" that specializes in fixing things (but not itself...) notice the extra wheels and screws for repairs. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Bubbler: We're Popping Up Everywhere!

Did you know the Bubbler is a lot more than just a maker "space" at Madison's Central Library? While we love our home base at Central on the ground floor with its easily cleanable rubber floors and awesome birds eye view of the children's section, there are 8 other libraries in Madison! And we wanted to take our awesome making opportunities to every one of them. 

Making Maker Corps mobile was one of our goals from the start. Luckily, we had some awesome expertise to fall back on. The fabulous youth services librarians at Madison have been making storytimes mobile for years. Every season, the children's librarians work together to build kits full of books, rhymes & songs, puppets, and activities. These kits travel through the library delivery system just like a book coming from Verona or Sun Prairie would travel to your home library when you put it on hold. Put a book on hold now and try not to imagine it riding alongside a bucket of woodland animal puppets.... it will make you smile every time. These kits travel to all the different libraries, but also to places like Olbrich Gardens, the Henry Vilas Zoo, Allied Dr. MSRC learning center, or even Capital Brewery. 

We wanted the same thing for our Maker Kits. The ability to do pop up making everywhere and give these opportunities to explore and create to as many people in Madison as possible. We saw an awesome example of mobile making this week when Ife travelled with our Screen Printing kit. 

The regulars hard at work at Goodman. 

She started her week at the Goodman South Library. Being there every Tuesday morning, she is cultivating some dear relationships with the library's regular patrons. "I walked in Tuesday morning and was cheerfully greeted by a running Naviyah, who proceeded to help me set up the community room for our screen printing session. We were shortly thereafter joined by another regular, Preslie and her grandma (who I have endearingly begun calling “Grandma”)." Setting up in the open community room, Ife and her patrons can spread out, chat, and spend time together. It also has let her host larger groups like kiddos from the Taylor St. Boys and Girls club than just setting up in the library space.

But at Sequoya, we love being right in the thick of things, setting up our mobile maker space right in the heart of the children's area. In this bustling library, we love snagging the attention of the passer by. With a large area right at the entrance to the children's area (usually used as homework space... but it's summer!), we have set up everything from sock monsters, to makeymakeys, to screen printing. Introducing patrons to new challenges and providing chances to experiment and explore. We love that the Bubbler is changing the perception of what happens every day in the library.

Or outside the library... we did say we're popping up everywhere! Taking advantage of the beautiful day on Thursday, we set up screen printing on the sidewalk outside the Alicia Ashman library. The response was awesome. The pictures capture it all. Something about art creation appeals to all ages and wakes up our often muted creative sides. What a great way to finish the week!

Mothers, daughters, and sons..

 Old and new... 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

MakeyMakeying with the BubblerBubbler

The Bubbler is on the MakeyMakey bandwagon! We've seen these little innovative machines at maker faires and in maker kits from some of our library partners and are sold on the open ended challenges they provide for kiddos. After working to design an interactive instructional website for using MakeyMakeys with students from the School of Library and Information Studies at UW this spring semester, we were excited to roll out MakeyMakey programs at our libraries with Maker Corps this summer!

UW volunteer Danny and friends discover the magic of graphite pencils to draw their own piano at Meadowridge library.

Being fitted with a conductive bracelet. 

These simple circuit boards, attached to a computer, allow us to design our very own keyboard or game controllers. They also help the kiddos learn more about different materials that conduct electricity, such as play dough, graphite pencils, and aluminum foil. With our traveling maker kits, we have stayed away from the more traditional MakeyMakey materials like bananas.... somehow I don't think our delivery drivers want all the fruit flies hanging out with our library books.

We have seen the most excitement coming from the use of graphite pencils. (Normal #2 pencils won't work, something about what is added to the graphite to keep it from smearing we think?) But any HB or artist pencil conducts electricity when connected to our circuit with an alligator clip. The novelty of drawing your own controller is definitely a hit. The simplicity of it that has super fun results is giving us a lot of smiles.

Fist bumping Pacman controller anyone? 
With a little patience, perseverance and creativity, kids created game controllers and piano keys like no other. Some of our best moments happen when they realize if THEY are conductive to ground their MakeyMakey circuits, OTHER PEOPLE are also conductive. So much fun with high fives that control cheering (or you know, farting) sounds.

The creators of MakeyMakeys have given us a tool that invites trial and error, innovative thinking, and quick alterations or reiterations and we're thrilled. And so are our makers, often staying for over and hour to get their contraptions working just right.

Exploring with Strawbeeze at Meadowridge & Alicia Ashman

We have to start this post with a little bit of a confession. Strawbees was a Maker Kit that was suggested to us by one of our youth services librarians who had seen with at a booth at last year's Milwaukee Maker Faire. We were looking for ideas and enthusiastically ordered a Strawbees die cut machine and jumped in. But when we got our hands on it, we got all grown-upy and boring. We got all doubtful. And then we gave them to kiddos. 

We quickly learned this kit has a way of evoking the wildest and silliest of creations, such as this young kiddo's helmet with arm attachments our a new version of King Triton from under the sea. Who knew you could make so many fun things with only two materials: recycled plastic and straws.

Not to mention introducing great new geometry words like cubes, angles, or you know dodecahedron...
Once we got our grown-up out of our system, we have embraced strawbees as an awesome building and exploratory maker opportunity. And we learned our lesson: Always trust your awesome youth services librarians. They know what's up.

The strawbees company has these awesome instructions for basic shapes, but we added our own flare with inspiration card and challenges. Those wings look like they're coming along! 

We've seen some great inter-generational making happening in our programs this summer. Mom can't resist making her own creation! 
We've added an extra element to our design with the addition of bendy straws! What an awesome robot creature! 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Sock Monsters with Ife at Goodman South Library

These past two weeks of making with the Bubbler at our community libraries and partner sites has been a whirlwind of fun, imagination and play! Just follow me as I relive the special moments from our first week.

Our first week was filled with monstrous fun at Goodman South Library. We set up our Sock Monster station right in the children's section and were immediately swarmed by little makers Tuesday morning. It was wonderful to sit patiently with a group of kiddos ranging from the ages of 6 to 13 and teach them a new skill- sewing.

There were lots of questions, a couple small hiccups (“oops I think I sewed their eyes all whacko.” That’s perfect, monsters a pretty silly and whacko...), but mostly splendid smiles when the kids began to see their creations come together.

Our sock monster kit includes socks (lots of the washed and donated by Bubbler fans), buttons, felt for cutting out fangs and noses, pompom balls, and leather working needles. The leather working needles are pretty big and easy for small hands to hold, but still have relatively sharp points for stitching together our creations. We also have fun illustrated instructions we are posting to the Bubbler website soon!

20160628_121026.jpgAn especially special moment was a father and daughter who diligently and collaboratively designed their sock monster, paying close attention to matching the thread color with the monsters accessories.

We had older siblings making monsters for younger siblings and siblings encouraging each other in their own sock monster making.

I'm excited to be heading back to Goodman every Tuesday morning in July. The next couple weeks we'll be hanging out with the Taft St. Boy & Girls club in the meeting room doing making, but everyone is still invited to come in and join in the fun.

Sibling team at work sewing up a sock monster. 
I love how they used the heels as mouths!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Making at Allied Dr. Learning Center

We are really excited that with Maker Corps help, we are able to expand our hands-on making and learning opportunities, not just to the different neighborhood libraries, but to community partners in Madison as well. This Thursday, we kicked off our month long partnership with Allied Drive learning center's summer program making animal puppets with kindergarten and 1st graders. 

We needed some inspiration for our maker project, and what better inspiration for puppets than Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin and Eric Carle. With awesome inspiration for odd animals, vibrant colors, AND ideas for the sounds our puppets could make in play made it a fun and hysterical choice. 15 1st graders bellowing like walruses? Priceless. 

Plus, it invited even more inspiration at the end where we see all the children at the zoo wearing their animal inspired costumes and puppets. 

My favorite part of the session was when the kids started coming up and identifying which animal they were on the page. Lots of feathery flamingos and peacocks and even an impressively tusked walrus. 

Top right is our walrus, left is a gabby flamingo (see the tongue?!) and terrifying snake. Sorry the Pterodactyl is blurry, he was very busy flying.  

But we're all about open ended making at the Bubbler and Maker Corps. So why restrict our animals to just those in the book? Especially when the shape of our paper puppet mimicked wings as well as a mouth. Pterodactyls were a natural addition to our menagerie. 

This is a puppet of a guy "with really cool hair"

Our simple idea that any piece of paper can become a puppet with some folding (and especially when google eyes, feathers, and scrap paper are provided) was an awesome outlet for not only creativity, but also for play with our kiddos. 

In the end, we had several requests for more pieces of paper to make more puppets, which we happy handed out, but we also had one little girl ask for a piece of paper to wrap her puppet up in so she could give it to her little sister as a present. I love the idea that she didn't just create something pretty to go up on a wall, but that she made a toy she could give and use with her sister when she went home. 

7/8 Addition! Look what our 2nd and 3rd graders created! 

Ms. Angela helping with a flamingo!
There is a clearer Pterodactyl! 

Inspired by our leopard! 
A norwhal maybe? 
So many teeth!