A couple of years ago, we introduced a make-and-take craft table in our Children’s Room. The table sits right by our Reference Desk so that it’s easy for staff to keep an eye on it and refill supplies as needed. We found, however, that our craft table did not work so well during the summer months. To accommodate the increased traffic at our Reference Desk, we moved the table a few feet away and we found we were refilling supplies constantly, which was a big pain.
So this year, we debuted our Science Explorers Table. Instead of a craft, we’ve put out various science-related activities for children to explore while they visit the Children’s Room. It’s been a hit! The table is very frequently used and provides a learning experience as well as entertainment for kids.
The table is self-directed, and signage lets parents know that materials stay on the table for the next child to use. We may include some questions or guidance as to how to use the materials, but kids also have fun picking things up and exploring on their own. We switch out the activities every couple of weeks to keep things fresh. The table also provides some space to set out leftover program handouts (all relevant since we’re doing so much science programming this summer!).
We purchased several of the Can Do! science sets from Lakeshore Learning, which are super easy since they come with everything you need. We’ve also used some of our own activity ideas like these magnet wands with pipe cleaner hair (SO simple and popular!) and the mystery boxes my colleage Miss T made.
I’ve been asked by colleagues about keeping statistics and to be honest that’s a part that I hadn’t thought of and we didn’t figure out for this summer. Some possibilities for keeping stats on an activity like this might be:
- selecting a week or a few typical days during the summer to keep a tally and extrapolating statistic
- including some kind of take-home element or something kids can contribute to and then counting up how many were taken or how contributions were made (adding notes or pictures to a notebook, etc.)
- Angie Manfredi at the Los Alamos County Library System posts challenge questions and asks kids to come to the Reference Desk to answer the questions and earn a small prize (I think they use candy, but it could be a sticker or a hand stamp)
I’ve blogged about the Science Explorers Table on my personal blog; see Fizz, Boom, Read: Self-Directed Science Activities for more ideas!
Are you doing any self-directed science in your library this summer? Please share what you’re doing in the comments! We may decide to keep the Science Explorer Table year-round (in lieu of take-home crafts), so I need all the ideas I can get!
— Abby Johnson, Children’s Services Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN