Blogger Amy Koester

Confronting Injustice with Bryan Stevenson #pla2014 Opening Session

Today’s opening session of the 2014 PLA Conference featured Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer and the Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative. He is a fascinating man on paper and the web, but hearing him speak about how public libraries can work to confront and correct injustice was truly inspiring. Stevenson shared four suggestions for how public libraries can make our services to the marginalized more effective: Think about proximity. Make sure the library and all it offers is accessible to those who need it most. Don’t just accept the narrative; change it. We all know the status quo because we’re living it, but the status quo can be changed. And that starts with changing the narrative about what’s realistic and what’s needed for services and access. Commit to being hopeful. That doesn’t mean being blindly optimistic; it means we need to be willing to go to places where hopelessness…

Blogger Amy Koester

Marshmallow Engineering: A School-Age STEAM Program

You may have come to expect a full science program from my monthly posts here on the ALSC Blog. Today I’m going to share something a bit different, because my overall goal is to share STEAM programs–and science is just one facet of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math). I want to focus today on a recent school-age STEAM program we did at my library: Marshmallow Towers. It combined engineering and the creative aspects of arts and crafts. Here’s what we did: The Opener: Talking about building. What sorts of things do architects and construction workers have to take into account when they think about building? We talked about design and knowing the materials you’re working with. I also made available lots of the library’s non-fiction titles that give a sneak peak into buildings and construction. Heavily illustrated books like those from David Macaulay and DK Eyewitness were attendees’ favorites,…

Blogger Amy Koester

Preschool Shadow Science

Shadows. We see them every day, inside and outside, but unless we’ve been reading Peter Pan, we probably don’t give them much thought. That makes shadows a perfect subject for a preschool science STEM storytime. We take something that children encounter every day, learn about it, and then experiment with it to create deeper understanding. Here’s what we did with shadows. First, we shared some books that include shadows. I opened the program with M. Christina Butler’s The Dark, Dark Night. The story follows frog and his friends as they try to get across the water at nighttime with only a lantern for light–but a monster keeps blocking their way. The monster turns out to be the shadows of frog and his friends. I followed up with a non-fiction title, What Makes a Shadow? by Clyde Robert Bulla. The narrative explores what has a shadow, how shadows are made, and other aspects of…

Blogger Amy Koester

Librarians at Opening Minds 2014 — Innovating and Advocating!

While many a librarian was still recovering from all the excitement of Midwinter, a handful of librarians ventured on to Chicago to continue advocating for libraries at Opening Minds USA 2014. Opening Minds is a conference focused around early education, child care, and school-age children. Essentially, it’s a conference focused around educating children and the people who care and advocate for them–which is why youth services librarians are a natural fit to have a presence. In addition to the librarians attending the conference for professional development, there were two contingents of librarians attending as finalists for the Innovation Award: Every Child Ready to Read @ your library, 2nd Edition, showcased by Jenna Nemec-Loise (of Chicago Public Library); and Little eLit.com, showcased by Cen Campbell, Dr. Betsy Diamant-Cohen, and myself. The purpose of the Innovation Award is to recognize initiatives that are game changers in early care and education. Librarians absolutely…

ALA Midwinter 2014

Visiting the Exhibits at #alamw14

One of the pleasures of attending an ALA conference is the exhibit hall. Vendors from all walks of library life fill these massive conference spaces with their booths, and it’s a busy, bustling place from opening till closing. I very much enjoy visiting publisher booths while at conference, as it offers a great opportunity to see what upcoming books you and your readers can look forward to. I love browsing the booths, where more often than not a publisher employee will come over and start a conversation. I like to talk about what upcoming titles my kids and I are excitedly anticipating, and I also like to pose questions to the publisher reps to get an idea of what to expect in the upcoming publishing season. This conference, I’ve been asking particularly about books with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) connections. I’ve also spotted a few upcoming titles…

Blogger Amy Koester

Up, Up, and Away! School-Age Balloon Science

Hot air balloons and other flying balloon contraptions are a source of fascination for many children. Every year here in St. Louis, the Great Forest Park Balloon Race captivates and inspires wonder for many a child. But how do those balloons work? That’s the exact question, from a third grader at the information desk one day, that inspired this latest school-age science program, Balloon Science. First, we talked about the history and science. I introduced the history of air balloons, from ideas of flying in ancient Greece to the first balloons by the Montgolfier brothers in the 18th century. We also talked a bit about a more recent use for these sorts of balloons in 20th century history: Japanese balloon bombs set across the Pacific toward the west coast of the United States during WWII. Two great books touch on this little-known historical topic: 2013’s Courage Has No Color by Tanya Lee Stone…

Blogger Amy Koester

Science Skills for Preschoolers: Observation

In most of my previous Preschool Science programs, we’ve primarily explored a particular area of science (e.g., chemistry) or the science behind some everyday concept (e.g., weather, color, water, the body). As I got to thinking about additional Preschool Science topics, however, I began to consider: what if we spend an entire program focused on one of the key science skills? Kids already use so many of these skills in their everyday lives, but if we talk about them and exercise them in meaningful ways, we can really reinforce the idea of being scientists every day. Thus, this Observation Science program came to be. First, we read some stories. I started things off with Pond Walk by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, a story in which Buddy and his mother go to the pond to observe everything there and, hopefully, see a turtle. This is a slightly longer title, so I paper-clipped some pages together…