[kids-lib] Resources: ideas for creating circulating science kits

Katie Anderson katie.anderson at state.or.us
Thu Nov 20 16:29:11 PST 2014

Hi! Below is an email from ALA’s Association for Library Services to Children about science theme kits for circulation. This might be a great way to start bring science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) into your library.

Katie Anderson, Library Support and Development Services
* Youth Services Consultant * Oregon Center for the Book Coordinator *
Oregon State Library, 250 Winter St. NE, Salem, OR 97301
katie.anderson at state.or.us<mailto:katie.anderson at state.or.us>, 503-378-2528

Become a StORytime<http://storytimeoregon.com/community-partners/become-a-partner/> partner!

Circulating Science Kits<http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/AlscBlog/~3/LexXSGL1gdU/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email>

Posted: 20 Nov 2014 09:01 AM PST

My manager and I toss around What Ifs all the time. What if we tried this? Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could do that? What if it’s finally time to try that crazy idea out? The Fizz Boom Read summer reading theme seemed like the perfect time to try one of our most beloved What Ifs: circulating science kits.
[Backyard Science Kit]<http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/BackyardScience.jpg>

Backyard Science Kit

This was a challenge firmly outside our wheelhouse. We’ve done some science programming in the past, generally for preschoolers, but it’s no one’s passion. I browsed Lakeshore Learning and Amazon for ideas and divided my favorites by age, preschool, elementary and tween (4th to 6th grade), while keeping some practical guidelines in mind: we wanted to include a related, high-quality nonfiction book in each kit, everything had to fit the backpacks I had already selected, and we needed to avoid consumable items. I split most of my orders between Lakeshore Learning and Amazon. My favorite exception was owl pellets, which came from a school supply store complete with forceps and identification booklets. That kit has received a lot of responses – mostly amazed and thrilled, only a few horrified.
[Disection...]<http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2014/11/circulating-science-kits/dissection/>[Owl Notes]<http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2014/11/circulating-science-kits/owl-notes/>

We ended up with 17 themes, 3 copies each at the main library and about a dozen total at each of our two branches. Prepping the backpacks was probably the most onerous part of the project; it took me several days and plenty of assistance to organize, de-package, and pack. We photographed each kit’s contents to assist patrons, but ran out of time to laminate and include them. We included small notebooks for comments, but these are not often used and most of the feedback has been verbal. We allowed three exceptions to the ‘not consumable’ rule: owl pellets, rainbow scratch sheets and sunpaper. For these, I put ten into a baggie labeled with a request to only use 1 to 2 per child, and everyone has respected that. Our library associate Jenny doubles as our Kit Mistress, doing random checks of the kits every month and any necessary restocking or repair. For labeling, we bought badge holders and luggage loops. The badge holders contain color coded cards with the zbar on one side and the title/recommended age on the other. These are the one thing that often seem to go missing! We had to re-barcode several before we swapped the loops out for zipties. I chose to use coatracks and hangers for display, which didn’t take up much room and made browsing simple. Due to space issues, we chose not to make the kits available for holds. Brief catalog records were suppressed so patrons couldn’t search for them but we could access them from the staff side. On day one, 25 out of 51 were checked out. Day two, they were all out! We never had more than 10 checked in at a time all summer long. Even at our branches, which always see much lower circulation stats, there were only 1-2 available on any given day. We checked the numbers after three months – in 13 weeks, with one-week checkouts, every kit had circulated between 8-10 times, a few as high as 13. A month later, after school started, each kit had gone out another 1-3 times. Even the Bedtime Math kits, offered only because we already had the logs, went out consistently. Now that we have about 20 checked in on any given day, we store them in a divided cart, which offers more room. The kits were a runaway success, and we’ve heard so many positive comments from kids and caregivers alike. When I was given more money this fall, though, I knew what changes I wanted to make.
1.       [Discovery Kits Logo] <http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/DiscoveryKitLogoF.jpg>

Discovery Kits Logo

We tend to call them our science kits, but we’ve never wanted them to just be science. Officially, they are Discovery Kits, and our next round will include writing, music, art, foreign language and more technology.
2.      Age groupings are too limiting. Anyone can do just about anything if they have the interest and adult support. Geometry (Spirograph, Playsticks, Growing Spirals) was color-coded elementary, but preschoolers and tweens like it, too. We’re still finalizing our new categories, either mostly All Ages, with a handful of Beginner and Advanced, or by topic: Physical Science, Life Science, Math and Engineering, Technology, Arts and Music, Language Arts.
3.      We bought an extra of every activity for what we thought were inevitable replacements, but no more! It takes too much storage space, and people have been handling everything so carefully that we’ve only had to replace two things. We’ll repurchase on an as-needed basis.
4.      [Cubby] <http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Cubby.jpg>

Discovery Kits Cubby

The divided cart holds all the backpacks, but gets messy quickly. We purchased cubbies from Lakeshore Learning – one backpack per cubby. This will make the kits easier to browse and easier to keep neat. This is important as we add another 30 backpacks into the mix.
5.      Patrons want to know what’s inside. On our next set, the attached cards will list out brief descriptions of content. They’ll also include our brand new kit logo, from our in-house graphic designer.

Our full list, including new themes, is here: http://bit.ly/OPPLKitList This has been an exceptionally fun and rewarding collection to launch. The planning and organizing were a bit time-consuming, largely because I started out so ambitiously, but the returns have been incredible. I love seeing the kids marching out of the library wearing their new Discovery Kit – although it’s even better when they bring it back and beg to get another one right away! I can’t wait to see the response to the expanded selection of themes.

(All pictures courtesy of guest blogger)


[ShelleyEleven]<http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/ShelleyEleven.jpg>Shelley Harris is a Children’s Librarian and Family Learning Coordinator at the Oak Park Public Library<http://oppl.org/> in Oak Park, IL. She can be contacted at ssh.librarian at gmail.com<mailto:ssh.librarian at gmail.com>. Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC. If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog at gmail.com<mailto:alscblog at gmail.com>.

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