Monday, August 28, 2017

Behind the Scenes of the Amulet Parties

We had a lot of fun celebrating summer readers at Meadowridge and Goodman South this past week, and there were some amazing creations. But instead of highlighting the students, we thought we’d talk more about the specifics of the Amulet Parties: the preparation, the setup, and little tricks or tips we’ve learned so far. We want to offer insight for those of you who might want to do Amulet Parties for your readers, or for parents who think this would make a great birthday party theme. (P.S. It totally would.)

This year, the Maker Corps decided to reward young readers with books and a making experience rather than a pizza coupon. We wanted to provide them the materials to make something special that they could keep forever as a token of their hard work. We decided on amulets because they are common in many books, can appeal to a diverse group of kids, and are easily scaled to accommodate the age of the reader (meaning the object can be as simple or complex as the kid wants to make it).  

So! What does our Amulet Party kit look like? We have four tote boxes with materials that will provide the base for an amulet, ways to construct the amulet, and tons of things to decorate with. Here are some pictures:

We have found that the pyramid paper, the cardboard cutouts, and the origami are very popular, and offer an easy way for kids to get started. As far as decorations go, we’ve noticed the shinier the better. Kids love the glitter paper, glitter paint, and glitter glue. They also really like the gems and sparkly stars. But perhaps the most exciting part of our kit is the variety of tape we offer. One kid was absolutely tickled by the fact that we had a roll of tape with mustaches and glasses. Fewer kids use the Minecraft stickers we have available, but the ones who do recognize and use them are really into them.

Now, for a peek at our setup.

For our first Amulet Party, we set out a bowl of glitter paint at one of three working tables, along with the glitter glue, scissors, and glue sticks. We had two other tables set up with all the rest of the materials. We tried to encourage kids to take their materials to their work tables instead of loitering in front of things other kids might want. But walking between tables led to a lot more clean up, and having so much glitter paint out led to little supervision of it. Ultimately, we decided to have one table for painting/ glitter glue-- the messy stuff. The materials tables now double as workspace tables. The only thing that hasn’t changed throughout these two weeks is that we have one area for hot glue guns. This setup allows for easy clean up, it is suitable for rooms of different shapes and sizes, and it encourages conversation between readers who may not know each other.

Beyond the physical setup of the room and the way we lay out our materials, we found that the celebratory decorations we provide are also very important. We always intended to have a banner and party decorations to help transform the spaces we inhabit, but we didn’t realize how crucial this would be until we had done it a few times. The sparkly banners that read, “Congrats Readers,” and “Amulet Party” really change the atmosphere of the community rooms we hold the parties in. The photo booth with a sign that says, “Wow” makes the kids feel even more celebrated. The gold tablecloths (which are also practical for clean up) give the room a regal feeling. Not only do the kids and their parents seem to appreciate the transformation, but other librarians have also commented on it. One remarked, “Wow, you’re really going all out.” To which we replied, “Yep! The kids deserve it.”

Figuring out the best setup for this kit has helped everything run much more smoothly. And here are some other helpful tricks we picked up along the way:On our first ever day of Amulet Parties, we spent a long time (over an hour!) just getting the party set up. We realized right away though that this wouldn’t be sustainable, we couldn’t get to every party an hour early just to set up! We had to figure out a way to shave down some of the time.

To help solve this, when we packed up all the materials, we left them in the trays instead of putting all the materials back in their own separate bags. This did mean we needed four tote boxes instead of the original three as the materials did not fit as neatly into their storage units, but for our next Amulet Party it was so satisfying to take out the bulk of the materials and have them ready to go. Now we can set up in about half an hour!

Another important trick we had to learn the hard way was pouring out the glitter paint for the kids instead of letting them have free reign over the bottles. On the topic of paint, we also learned to put out small bowls of paint with a color coordinated paint brush to also help avoid a mess. Having the brushes start in the proper bowls of paint helped keep the kids from mixing the colors.

One last thing we had to work through was whether or not we wanted to play a video during the Amulet Parties. To add to the fun of the event, our Maker Corps coordinator came up with a video compilation of movie scenes showing different characters discovering and using amulets. At first, Caide was hesitant about this idea. Wouldn’t a video be too distracting and overstimulating to kids making amulets? For the first week Caide and Kai didn’t play the video partly because they didn’t have time to set up the technology, and partly because of this concern. However, this week at Goodman South Caide and Kai ran the video multiple times through the party with success. We played the video once with sound, and then afterwards muted the video and played movie soundtracks over the video footage. Kids sometimes stopped what they were doing to watch the video, but for the most part the video just added to the fun and atmosphere of the event and kids still came away with some great amulets.  

Whew! Well, this certainly was a lot of information, but we hope you all found it insightful. No go forth and make your own Amulet Party. Good luck!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Glitter Galore: First Week of Amulet Parties

Hello everyone! Caide and Kai are here after finishing their first week of Amulet Parties! What are Amulet Parties you may ask? Well. This year at the library, in celebration of summer reading, kids who have completed their summer reading goals get to spend a day at the library making their own amulet, lucky charm, or special object that represents something about them. The kids can keep their amulets, or give them to the library to make a community chain of amulets to put on display.

On Monday Caide and Kai arrived at the Central Library ready to explore and get familiar with the the many materials of the Amulet Party kit. They unpacked three bins filled to the brim with colorful paper, glitter paper, cardboard shapes, glitter tape, pipe cleaners, glitter glue, foam stickers, glitter foam stickers, metal gears, glitter paint, easter eggs, gemstones, glow in the dark stars, and, did we mention glitter? Basically, all the crafting materials you could dream of to make the perfect amulet. After several hours of making their own lucky charms and shinny amulets, Caide and Kai were ready to bring the kit to the kids.


On Tuesday, Caide and Kai went to Hawthorne Library where all the Amulet Parties would be that week. Caide and Kai were still setting up when the first families arrived. As they brought out the last materials, some of the kids expressed feeling overwhelmed with the amount of crafts they could use! Caide and Kai recommended they simply start with the materials that called to them most, and many kids went for the gemstones and glitter tape.

A few hours into the making session, a summer camp arrived to make their own amulets. The room was filled with kids at work folding, gluing, coloring, and painting. Most kids wanted to keep their amulets, but some let the library display them for the community.


On Wednesday, Caide went back to Hawthorne by herself to make things with a summer camp and different families that came to the party. After discussing Amulets and brainstorming what the kids were going to make, everyone got right to work, absorbed in making their special objects.

Many of the kids wanted to fill the easter eggs with glitter paint and beads, creating a magical concoction held inside the egg. Although this was exceptionally fun for the kids, Caide had to let the kids know that the glitter paint would not dry inside the egg, and it was only a matter of time before the egg burst into a glittery, gooey mess.

Despite the mess and still being encrusted with glitter days later, the amulets were all worth it. Caide was especially happy when she got to take pictures at the photo booth station of all the kids smiling and proud, holding up their amulets.

Caide was also glad to see one of the makers from Tuesday return on Wednesday to finish her amulet. After feeling upset because she ran out of time to finish, the girl and her family came back to make an epic, wind chime amulet.

On Thursday Caide and Kai went back to Hawthorne for the last time to work with another school group. Caide spent most of the hour making paper cranes with two different kids who had seen her example crane and wanted to learn how to make them.

Caide was especially happy to share this since she first learned how to make paper cranes in 3rd grade at Randall Elementary school when some of her classmates were reading the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. The book tells the story of a 12 year old girl named Sadako who, after being diagnosed with Leukemia due to radiation exposure from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, makes it her goal to make 1000 paper cranes to be granted one wish.


In the story, the cranes are almost like Sadako’s amulet, and it felt special for Caide to share this skill with other kids who were as old as she was when she first learned how to make them. Although some of the steps are very tricky, each kid was able to complete their cranes and add some fantastic decorations.

After another fantastic week of making, Caide and Kai are excited to take what they have learned from the first round of Amulet Parties into the coming weeks. Next week Caide and Kai will be having more Amulet parties at Meadowridge, Goodman South, and the Central Library. We and hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Superheroes Hit Hawthorne!

It was a typical Wednesday afternoon at the Hawthorne Library. There were a few families milling about the bookshelves and teens reading near the windows. The room was filled with the click-clacking of people at the computers.
Kai arrived at the library at two and met with Tracy, the youth services librarian. Most of the materials for the Comics and Heroes kit were already set up in the community room. There were crayons, markers, colored pencils, and stamps for decorating. Kids could color in superhero illustrations, draw comics, and design costumes for themselves. We even provided an enormous roll of Mylar that could be used to make capes, utility belts, or anything else the kids might think up. Although Kai had used this kit often throughout the month, today felt different-- special in a way. She wondered what this day would bring.

When the kids came in, Tracy had them sit in a group on the floor. Each of them ate a push-pop while she read “Hoot Owl Master of Disguise.” Afterward, we talked about other people who use disguises: people like superheroes!

Kai explained the different possible activities available, and the kids set to work. They were so excited! Some went immediately to make a cape. Others wanted to color a superhero. But most of them rushed to decorate and cut out a mask. We were fortunate enough to have an hour and a half with this one group of kids, so they were really able to expand their costume designs beyond what kids usually do.

hero2.jpgA lot of kids began with the basics: cape, mask, arm bands. But with extra time, they started to improve the sophistication of their designs.

hero4.jpgOne kid really wanted to emulate The Flash, so he asked Kai to help him draw a lightning bolt that he then cut out and pasted to the top of his mask.

A friend later helped him tape a lightning bolt on to the front panel of his costume, along with a giant ‘F’ in red tape. Another kid knew from the beginning that he wanted to be Tiger Man, so instead of making a cape, he made claws out of the Mylar and tape them to his finger tips.

hero5.pngThese two makers inspired a lot of kids to do the same. At first they were upset that people were copying them, but they soon realized what an honor it was for someone to like their idea so much that they wanted to do it.

In just over an hour, the transformation was complete. We no longer had a room of third graders, but twelve superheroes all with their own names and powers. They sparred with each other, shooting lasers from their eyes, making tornadoes from nothing, and calling on their sidekicks (often animals) to aide in their endeavors. As time went on, the heroes started forming alliances. One group was identifiable by a yellow sticker they each had.


When the time had come to clean up, the superheroes flew through the air picking up tape, crayons, markers, and glue.

One used his super strength to lift all the rolls of tape at once. Another used his speed to quickly, and very carefully, collect all the scissors. But the hero who made the biggest difference was the least like a superhero.

She made some masks, but did not wear any of them, and she did not make any other costume pieces. She identified as a regular person, but her ability to help was extraordinary. She organized the remaining sheets of paper into neat piles, and divided the markers from the colored pencils even though she could have just left them all in one container. She brought everything to one table to be packed away.

Although Kai was amazed by the transformation from kids to superheroes, she was especially grateful and impressed by this young lady. Just goes to show that not all heroes have super powers!