Blogger Amy Koester

The Science of Slimy Things

A few months ago, one of my frequent program-goers made a request: Would I please be able to offer a program that includes slugs, one of his favorite animals? I was inclined to agree to the challenge, even before said child had his mother email me a photo of him with his three pet slugs. How’s a librarian to say “no” to that? I gave some thought to how I could meet the “slug” challenge while also closing out a season of many science-themed programs. I decided to return to a favorite concept with school-agers–slime–and explore it from two different perspectives: animal biology and physics. Thus “The Science of Slimy Things” was born. The program was divided roughly into two parts, the first considerably less messy than the second. We opened with an exploration of slugs–pictures, how they move, their scientific names, how they differ from snails, and the purpose…


Science Literacy Moments #alsc14

“Pretend the window is a screen,” said poet Susan Blackaby at this morning’s #alsc14 session “The Poetry of Science.” People spend so much time with their eyes glued to their electronic devices that they’re liable to miss what’s going on in their environment. Imagine if people gave as much concentration to nature as they give to their computer screens. How many hawks would they see? What other wonders would they encounter? Author Margarita Engle joined today’s panel, discussing how she uses both poetry and her science background to advocate for animal and environment conservation. As a child, Engle said, “No curiosity was too small for concentration.” She made the point that the phrase “the spirit of wonder” is applicable to both science and poetry. Because of this commonality, it’s possible to interest poetry loving kids in science phenomena and give science fans the chance to experiment with language. Poet Janet…

Institute 2014

The Science of Poetry @ #ALSC14

I love science, and I love poetry, so attending this session was a slam-dunk decision for me! This program was hosted by Sylvia Vardell and featured the poets Alma Flor Ada, Susan Blackaby, F. Isabel Campoy, & Janet Wong Sylvia Vardell started us off by reading a poem call ed “Recycling” by Susan Blackaby, then walked us through the steps of “Take 5 with Poetry & Science:” 1. Read the poem aloud 2. Read again, inviting kids to participate in the reading 3. Discuss and research the poem and its topic 4. Connect the poem to a specific science topic with a demonstration or hands-on activity 5. Share more, related poems & other readings Susan Blackaby shared some of her lovely poems and discussed the connections and similarities between poetry and science. Both science and poetry require precision, careful use of language, trying and trying again, and making revisions. Both use…

Blogger Amy Koester

Excellent Explosions! Chemical Reactions for Preschoolers

Mine is one of the myriad libraries celebrating science this summer through our “Fizz, Boom, Read” summer reading program. Much to the delight of my STEAM-loving heart, all branches across my library system have hosted a ton of science programs this summer for every age. Some were led by outside groups like the St. Louis Science Center (always tap your local STEM resources!), and others have been led by in-house staff. They’ve all been a huge hit with kids and their families. One of my most successful in-house preschool programs this summer was a recent program titled “Excellent Explosions.” Here’s what we did. Excellent Explosions: A Preschool Science Program While I did have plenty of materials on hand for attendees to check out, this wasn’t a storytime program, per se. That is, I didn’t share a book at the beginning of the program as I usually do in my Preschool Science programs….

Blogger Amy Koester

Magnets and Magnetism: A Preschool Science Program

Our latest adventures in preschool science have proved rather attractive. (Get it? That’s magnet humor!) I’ve seen a number of my colleagues (Katie and Abby, for example) offer some great preschool science programs on the topic of magnets, and I figured it was high time I offered something on the topic, too. Here’s what I did: First, we shared a story that provided an introduction to the concept of magnets. I opted for Stuck by Oliver Jeffers, a whimsical story about a young boy whose kite becomes stuck in a tree. He tries throwing increasingly more ridiculous items up in the tree to try to dislodge the kite, but everything seems to get stuck. Quite an amusing story. Next, we retold the story of Stuck using magnet props, and we talked about how magnets stick together. Kids helped me stick the various objects onto our tree on the magnet board, and they experimented with things that…

Blogger Amy Koester

Take-Home Activity Handouts for Preschool Science Programs

Every other month when I post about a preschool science program, I mention the take-home activity handouts that I share with attendees and other library visitors. I get lots of requests from ALSC Blog readers to see what these handouts look like, so today I’m sharing a few. The purpose of these take-home activity handouts is to extend the science learning we do at the library into activities families do together at home. Children learn through experience, and my goal is to facilitate lots of fun, interactive experiences with a science topic to encourage concept learning. As a result, my typical handout includes a few activities and experiments, each with step-by-step instructions and a list of supplies (which I try to keep to common household items in order to make doing the activities easier). I’ll also include important vocabulary, with preschool-appropriate definitions from a children’s dictionary, that relates to our…

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

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…