Summer reading is done and Dinosaurology kicks off a series of -ology programs that I will be running for the next few months. I chose dinosaurs to begin with because it is a popular topic, I have a lot of books to display, and it is something I am interested in myself and I think sometimes that extra enthusiasm about a program really makes a big difference.
Our first activity was a dinosaur scavenger hunt. Just an hour or so before the program I hid several 8.5 x 11 sized dinosaurs throughout the library. Each one had the dinosaur name and a secret letter. The kids got a checklist with all the dinosaur names to find and the secret letters spelled out a code.
When the kids returned from the scavanger hunt and turned in their paper with the secret code they got to choose a small capsule and a dixie cup of water to “hatch” a surprise dinosaur.
When all of our dinosaurs had hatched we moved on to some fossil education. I had all of the kids come to the front and center of the room where I talked very briefly about fossils and passed around some fossils for them to touch. A coworker brought in a mammoth tooth, an egg, and some coprolite. Not surprisingly coprolite was probably the favorite and somehow it was a thing that every kid had to smell it to make sure it didn’t smell like poop.
And finally the most fun part of the program is the actual dinosaur excavation! To prepare excavation kits I had buried plastic dinosaur toys and shells in a mixture of plaster of paris and sand. It dries hard, but not as hard as store-bought kits so they are a bit easier for the kids to do. Each kid got a toothpick and a paintbrush to help dig out their dinosaur.
Activity 1: Dinosaur Scavenger Hunt
Activity 2: Dinosaur Capsules
Activity 3: Fossil Education
Activity 4: Fossil Excavation
I know other libraries have had after-hours sleepovers and such, but that is not an option for me so I planned a summer “campout” that would be a little like going to camp if it were held at a library and not at a camp! I added a secondary theme of stars because it would give me more options for activities and books to put on display.
Our first activity was a color resist constellation art piece. One of the shelvers and I prepped pieces of watercolor by drawing a constellation on with white crayon. I chose to use the constellations Orion and Ursa Major as they are popular and easily recognizable. I used a light table and a printout of the constellations to easily draw the constellations. At the program I passed out the constellations at random and set out paintbrushes and some watercolors I imagined were night sky appropriate- purples, blues, and a little black. When the kids painted over the constellation it “magically appeared”. I also explained the story of Orion the hunter.
Next I put together a powerpoint slideshow of different stars and galaxies, turned off the lights and projected them in the dark room. For extra effect I told the kids to pretend they were like nature’s fireworks and we could “oooh” and “ahh” over each one. While we were looking at galaxies my coworkers put together some s’mores in the kitchen. We had a little break so everyone could eat and wash their hands and then we moved on to the last activity.
Our system has a pretty realistic looking campfire that gets used fairly frequently. We borrowed it and had the kids gather around to listen to Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark.
Overall this was a pretty simple program that was well received and the s’mores actually did not make as much of a mess as I thought they would.
Activity 1: Watercolor resist constellations
Activity 2: Stars/Galaxies powerpoint presentation
Activity 3: Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark
Part of the inspiration for this program came from the fun day my junior high/high school did on the seniors’ last day of classes. They had a talent show and a big water balloon fight outside. I thought having a water balloon program would be fun so I planned to have a big water balloon finale and then filled out the program with some other backyard water-inspired games.
Again I separated the kids into two teams so that we could easily play games.
The first game was a relay race with participants running with a sponge to a kiddie pool, dipping the sponge, and then running back to wring out the water and hand off their sponge to the next person in line. The team with the most water in their bucket at the end wins.
The next activity was something I called water balloon tag. I had seen some people play kickball but using slip and slides and kiddie pools as the bases on the diamond. I didn’t have slip and slides or enough pools so I simplified. I had the first person in line be the runner – they would attempt to reach the kiddie pool “base” without getting hit by a water balloon. The next 3 kids in line were the water balloon throwers. When the runner was done thrower #1 became the new runner. The kids actually liked this one a lot, especially if they got to crash into the pool at the end.
We also did a few plain water balloon tosses, which are pretty self explanatory and probably what I would switch up next time. It took much more time to set everyone up to toss than it was worth.
Finally we had an epic water balloon fight that was pure chaos. I stationed buckets with balloons around the field and let the kids go at them with the only real rules were not running past a certain point (near the street), taking one balloon at a time, and throwing the balloons away from me!
Honestly the most memorable thing about this program was filling up all the balloons. I was afraid to do them the day before as they might weaken and break so I think I did almost 300 balloons by myself and had some assorted help for another 74 or so.
Activity 1: Sponge Bucket Relay
Activity 2: Water Balloon “Tag”
Activity 3: Water Balloon Toss
Activity 4: Water Balloon Chaos