Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Elf Academy

Every season, my library has hosted some sort of holiday program. For the past few years, we've done a Polar Express program. This year, I decided to try to switch things up and host an Elf Academy. The basic idea is that the kids would complete various elf-themed crafts in order to become Santa's official elves. It was a huge hit! Here's the rundown:

Ages: We opened the program to all ages.

Days/Times: We offered 3 different sessions on consecutive evenings at 7:00 p.m. The program lasted about an hour.

Staff Needed: Me plus another staff member. I also had 2 teen volunteers each night.

Program Outline:

As the families arrived, I had them complete 4 different "Elf Activities". This took about 30 minutes for the majority of the kids to finish all of the crafts.

Elf Activity #1: Elf Hats

You Need:

  • Red poster board headbands
  • Green construction paper triangle "hats"
  • Elf ears (cut out from manila file folders)
  • Pom poms
  • Markers
  • Glue sticks
  • Staplers

All the kids do for this is glue the pom pom to the triangle, the triangle to the headband, and then staple the band to fit the child's head. I let the kids decorate their hats with the markers. I asked them to put their name on the front of the band (so that Santa would know their name).

Elf Activity #2: Reindeer Food

You Need:
  • Rolled oats
  • Birdseed
  • Decorator crystal sprinkles
  • Sandwich baggies
  • The reindeer poem printed on cardstock

Each child takes a baggie and adds a scoop of each ingredient. Place a copy of the poem in the bag at the end and close it up. Easy peasy!

Elf Activity #3: Ornament Creation

I just purchased ornament kits from Oriental Trading. I went with scratch art ornaments this year.

Elf Activity #4: Jingle Bell Bracelets

You Need:
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Jingle bells

Each child took 3 bells and strung them on the pipe cleaner. Then they wrapped it around their wrist and tucked in the ends.

As the kids finished the activities, I had them gather on the other half of the room on the floor, where I read a story. I chose Shhh! by Julie Sykes, which is one of my favorite Santa stories. It's interactive in that you can have the kids say "Shhh" at the right times in the story.

After that, my staff partner sang a fun song with the kids using their bells. 

Ring the Jingle Bells
(Tune: She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain)

We will ring those jingle bells so loud and clear
We will ring those jingle bells so loud and clear
We will hear the dingle, dingle
When they jingle, jingle, jingle
We will ring those jingle bells so loud and clear

We will ring those jingle bells so quietly
We will ring those jingle bells so quietly
We will hear the dingle, dingle
When they jingle, jingle, jingle
We will ring those jingle bells quietly

We will ring those jingle bells so fast and loud
We will ring those jingle bells so fast and loud
We will hear the dingle, dingle
When they jingle, jingle, jingle
We will ring those jingle bells so fast and loud

Then, one of us said something to the effect of "You know...I wonder if something magical will happen if we all shake our bells at the same time together." That ended up being Santa's cue to come out!

We have a fabulous volunteer who dresses up as Santa for us every year. We set out an armchair for him in the corner of the room to sit in while he talks with the kids.

After Santa's comes out, I announce that I'll be splitting the group in half according to last name. Half of the group will visit with Santa and half will decorate sugar cookies and have some hot cocoa. Then they'll switch over to the other group as they finish. Hopefully, this way the kids/parents won't get restless waiting for Santa.

Group #1: Santa
Santa sits in the armchair and greets each child. They can visit for a moment and tell him what they want for Christmas. The parents can take photos and Santa hands off a diploma and mini candy cane to each child for finishing Elf School. My coworker had a clipboard with the certificates and wrote each child's first name in marker as they visited Santa.

Group #2: Cookies and Hot Cocoa

While I read Shhh!, I had the teen volunteers clear off 2 of the craft stations and set up the icing and sprinkles. Before the program began, we had set each sugar cookie on a paper plate and had them on our kitchen counter. This way, kids could take a cookie and then go over to the tables to decorate them. We also had big carafes of hot cocoa. I had 4 carafes each night, which was a good amount for the 100+ people I had at the program.

What I Learned:

  • Originally, I allowed a maximum of 50 children for each session. Because it was so popular, I opened it up to 60 total instead. This ended up being too many people, even though we held the program in our large meeting room. Next year, I would stand firm on 50 and maybe open a 4th session instead.

  • I purchased red and green icing and sprinkles because I was thinking it would be festive, but I had some comments about concerns with the dye in the icing. So next year, I would probably also offer plain white icing.

You can click here to see more photos of the program on our library department's Facebook page!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Teen Jewelry Making

After hosting several technology programs recently at my library, I was really itching to do sort of a "back-to-basics" hands-on craft program for teens. A few years ago my mother and I had taking a jewelry making class at our local craft store, so I thought I would see if I could teach others how to do it!

The thing with jewelry making is that there are a ton of different types of it out there, from leather to wire work to crochet. I decided to stick to something less complicated, which was beading.

First, I pulled a bunch of beading books from my library's shelves to refresh my memory. Here are the ones I found to be the most helpful:

Fun and Simply Beads by Tair Parnes
The Girls' World Book of Jewelry by Rain Newcomb
Teach Yourself Visually Jewelry Making & Beading by Chris Franchetti Michaels
The Impatient Beader Gets Inspired! by Margot Potter

Next, I figured out a shopping list of the materials/findings I needed. Here's what I ended up using:

  • Craft felt sheets (it acted as a bead board and allowed the teens to lay out their designs without their beads rolling around)
  • Round nose pliers/Flat nose pliers/Wire cutters (I found these in a fairly cheap set from Amazon. You could also ask co-workers to lend you theirs.)
  • Bowls (to carry their beads in)

  • Beads (I just purchased bulk seed and glass bead sets from my local craft store. You could ask co-workers to clean out their craft drawers at home and donate them too.)
  • Beading wire (You can purchase various "strands" of wire, which gets more expensive the finer/higher number of strands it is. 7 strand worked just fine for us and it's cheaper.)

  • Crimp tubes
  • Jump rings
  • Lobster clasps
  • Earring hooks
  • Head pins
  • Eye pins

Then I worked on my format for the class:

  • Introductions
  • How to design/think about jewelry design
    • Use a felt sheet to plan out your design before stringing so you don't have to start over
    • Color theory
    • Patterns - Is there a pattern to your design? Alternating small and large, alternating colors, etc...
  • Tools/materials overview
    • Pliers/wire cutters
    • Bead wire
    • Beads - seed beads, glass beads
    • Findings
  • How to open a jump ring correctly
  • Bracelets
    • How to attach a crimp tube
  • Earrings
    • How to turn a head pin

After I went over everything with the teens, I let them come up and choose their beads/findings (this is where the bowls came in handy!) I originally told them they could make 1 set of earrings and 1 bracelet, but I ended up allowing them to make more if they had time. I also gave them a handout with a hodgepodge of pages from various jewelry books with more tutorials on the concepts, such as attaching the crimp tube, as well as glossaries of the tools they were using. This is where the books mentioned above came in extra handy.

How It Went:

Overall, I would call it a success! I had a slightly low turnout due to prior school activities, but the number of teens who attended ended up being good as I was the only staff member in the room. If you do this program and end up with a lot of sign-ups, I would recommend having some extra adult help in the room as inevitably the teens will have questions and need assistance completing their jewelry creations. 

Also, I had planned on 1.5 hours for the program, but I could have used more! The teens got really into their designs and some were unable to finish before the end, so I gave them plastic baggies to take their beads/findings and finish at home. I would recommend around 2 hours for this activity.

In craft programs, I like to have music in the background. So I set up some speakers and opened Pandora radio on my phone. When I asked the teens for a good music artist to look up for a station choice, I suggested Katy Perry. One of the teen girls said, "Miss Kim, Katy Perry can be inappropriate!" Taylor Swift was okay, but ended up going too country for them. FYI: The perfect Pandora station for my teens ended up being Demi Lovato.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Pizza and Pages: Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass

Type of Book: Realistic

Plot Summary: Just before Jeremy Fink's 13th birthday he receives a mysterious box from his deceased father along with a letter. The letter states that the box contains none other than the meaning of life. One problem though...there aren't any keys! In this sometimes humorous, sometimes touching tale Jeremy along with his best friend, Lizzy go on the hunt to locate the keys to this mysterious box...and hopefully learn the meaning of life.

Average Teen Rating: 7.4
I wasn't sure how my teens would react to this book since most of them are die-hard sci-fi and fantasy fans, but for the most part they loved it! They especially liked Wendy Mass's writing style and touches of humor throughout. I highly recommend this one for middle school book groups.

Discussion Questions:

The majority of my questions came from here.

1. Throughout the book, Jeremy and Lizzy end up delivering 3 different items back to their owners (the book, the lamp, and the telescope). What lesson did they learn about life from each? Did one resonate with you more than another?

2. Jeremy dubs the hour between 11pm and midnight the "Hour of Jeremy". Do you have time set aside daily like Jeremy? If so, when is it and what do you do during that time period?

3. Let's go back to the scene where Lizzy and Jeremy miss their bus stop, but because of that, Lizzy finds another rare card to add to her deck. Was that fate or coincidence? Do you believe in either?

4. What do you think about Lizzy as a character? How would you describe her? Same with Jeremy. Do you relate to one more than the other?

5. Were you surprised to learn that Jeremy's dad planned everything that happened in the story? Did you guess it beforehand? If so, when did you know?

6. What is the meaning of life to you? Why are we here?