Archive for the ‘STEM’ Category

C is for Cloud

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

Look up in the sky, and what do you see? At a recent Wonderworks (our preschool science program) we explored clouds.  Children had fun guessing what shapes were in Charles Shaw’s classic, It Looked Like Spilt Milk.

Next we talked about different kinds of clouds, reading parts of Anne Rockwell’s Clouds in the Let’s Read and Find Out Science series.

In the weeks prior to the storytime, I took photographs of the sky at different times when I saw different clouds. Soon I had enough photographs to illustrate several different types of clouds that we would discuss: cirrus, cumulus, cumulonimbus and stratus. This was a great day for vocabulary — we talked about what a funny word cumulonimbus was, with the children repeating it several times. Hard c sounds and soft c sounds . . . c really is for cloud! This was a great exercise in observation skills, and I was able to tell the children that these were clouds they could see in the sky above them, because they were all Ohio skies in the photos.

Rhyme: Rain is Falling Down
Adapted from: Jane Cobb’s I’m a Little Teapot

Rain is falling down                          Flutter fingers downward
Splash!                                                 Tap floor with hand
Rain is falling down
Pitter patter, pitter patter
Rain is falling down
(repeat: falling lightly – just touch with fingers; falling hard –slap floor with whole hand)

We also read Dragon is Coming by Valeri Gorbachev and at the end talked about what each of the dragon’s attributes actually is; for example — the dragon’s roar is thunder, his fiery breath is lightning . . .

Next, we shook our rainstick style shakes to the song, “If all the raindrops were lemon drops and gum drops . . . “

A few other outstanding picture books on clouds and the imagination are:

Sora and the Cloud=Sora to komo by Felicia Hoshino – a bilingual book in English and Japanese

Sector 7 by David Wiesner, a Caldecott honor

and The Cloud Book by Tomie dePaola, which is also available as an e-book.

Hands on activities included making and playing with cloud dough (mix 1/2 cup baby oil with 4 cups of flour and voila! You have a sensory concoction that is crumbly and soft, yet sticks together when molded, like wet sand.)

and creating different kinds of clouds with cotton balls –

stretching them into long thin strips for cirrus clouds, fluffing them up to make cumulus clouds, and adding glitter to represent those water droplets getting so heavy that they are about to rain from the cumulonimbus clouds.

Full STEAM Ahead!

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Wonderworks is the Westerville Public Library’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) storytime for preschoolers. This week’s program featured tunnels, beginning with Ryan Ann Hunter’s Dig a Tunnel.


We introduced the idea of tunnels for transportation — tunnels that go through mountains or even under water. We talked about trains that go underground in big cities before watching the Tumblebook version of  Subway Ride by Heather Lynn Miller.

This colorful picture book features different underground trains from around the world: from the London Underground (the Tube!) to Stockholm’s T-bana. In the pages featuring the New York subway, the Tumblebook plays jazzy music referenced in the text.  You can play Tumblebooks at home, just visit the library website and have your library card handy.

You can also explore tunnels with your child at home. Save cardboard tubes from paper towels or wrapping paper to use as tunnels for trains and cars. Or use them to make your own marble run. We attached velcro to toilet paper rolls to create a marble run on the activity center wall (thanks to the LibraryMakers site for the idea!). Children love to crawl through tunnels, so save your cardboard boxes to make long tunnels.


Feel the Wind! STEM Storytime Fun

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

On a very blustery spring day, we explored the wind in preschool STEM storytime. We talked about using our senses to experience the wind: to feel the wind, to see the wind (even though you can’t see air, you can see wind blow flags, kites, ribbons, streamers), to hear the wind (what sound does it make? a howl, a whoosh), and even to smell the wind (salty, like an ocean breeze; sweet, like cinnamon or chocolate baking – mmmmm.) I used a wind cannon to show how they feel the wind and wind chimes to hear the wind.

Books read included The Wind Blew by Pat Hutchins and I Face the Wind by Vicki Cobb. The latter has experiments to do as you read, so we did some of these, like catching the wind in a plastic bag (simple, but it works!)

We talked a little about wind energy and windmills. Next, we danced with scarves so they could make the air move and see it moving to Fred Penner’s  song I am the Wind.

For our last group activity, we used the always popular parachute to demonstrate making wind and watching and feeling the air move. We started by sitting around the parachute, creating a gentle breeze with a slow up and down motion. Then it got windier and the breeze picked up! To end the children lay down on the floor under the parachute while parents made a swirling windstorm overhead.

There were several activity stations to explore the wind, including:

  • Cotton ball  soccer, where one used a straw to blow the “soccer balls” toward the goals.
  • Pinwheels that children could blow or put in front of a fan to make them blow. They experimented with holding the pinwheel at different angles and closer and farther from the fan.
  • A hot and cold air experiment with a balloon and a soda bottle, to demonstrate how air expands when heated to make wind (and shown by the balloon inflating!) We had two large bowls, one with hot water and one with ice water to move the soda bottle between. When the bottle  is moved to the ice, the balloon deflates rapidly.  This experiment is from Vicki Cobb’s book mentioned above. Thanks to the LibraryMakers blog for suggesting really hot water and ice to make the experiment work better.
  • Making wind socks  from construction paper and streamers.

Trees in the Library!

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Have you noticed the new trees in the library?

A recent STEM Storytime celebrated trees.

We read A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry — beginning by discussing the physical book itself, asking children, “What do you notice about this book? What shape is it?”

Then I showed the children different kinds of seeds (an acorn, a walnut) and we talked about trees providing food and shelter (for who? squirrels, birds, people). We talked about how even our book came from trees! I had enough maple seeds to give them each one,  which they threw in the air and watched spin like a helicopter. I also had several different pine cones to show them and introduced the word “conifer.”

Next we watched and listened to the They Might Be Giants song, “C is for Conifers” from Here Come the ABCs.

Then we read Are Trees Alive? by Debbie S. Miller.

This accessible informational picture book compares each tree part to body parts: “roots anchor a tree, like your feet help you stand.”  So the trunk is compared to legs; branches to arms; bark to skin, veins in your hand to veins in a leaf;  sap to blood, and more!

Next we learned “the tree version” of  Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes:

Leaves, branches, trunk, and roots, trunk and roots.

(waving fingers for leaves, arms for branches, touch tummy for trunk and touch toes for roots)

Leaves, branches, trunk, and roots, trunk and roots.

Trees are important to you and to me…                     

Leaves, branches, trunk, and roots, trunk and roots!

We ended by dancing to Laurie Berkner’s “Under a Shady Tree” with shakers.

The scientific skill we emphasized in this program was Observation and vocabulary for today included “conifer” and the parts of a tree: bark, trunk, roots, crown, sap.

At the end we went outside to do bark rubbings from real trees!



The foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone . . .

Monday, March 25th, 2013

A recent STEM storytime was all about bones. We began by discussing bones (Can you see them? Can you feel them?) and introduced some vocabulary, including “skeleton” and “skull.” Our first book was Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler, with fantastic realistic and funny illustrations by S.D. Schindler.

Then children pointed to different bones in their body to the song “Lazy Bones.” (Tune of “Dem Bones”, with the foot bone connected to the ankle bone, the ankle bone connected to the leg bone, the leg bone connected to the knee bone, etc.)

After moving our bones around, we looked at Jessica’s X-Ray by Pat Zonta, which includes x-rays of a child’s arm, head, and a coin-swallowing toddler’s rib cage!

Next we read parts of  Bones: Skeletons and how they work by Steve Jenkins, an author anyone interested in appealing science books for children should know. We talked about how different animals have different skeletons, and they were wowed by the fold-out pages of the snake skeleton.

We also watched and danced with Count von Count from Sesame Street to the song “Bones, bones, bones, bones, bones inside of you.”

Another fun book on this topic is You Can’t See Your Bones with Binoculars: A Guide to Your 206 Bones by Harriet Ziefert.

For this week’s activity, we supplied large pieces of butcher paper. The children lay flat and parents traced around them. Some drew in bones, while others were very creative. Some drew what they were wearing, while others made swamp monsters! A skeleton pattern gave them a visual if they did want to draw bones and others took it for a take-home activity.


STEM Storytime: Building

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

This week’s preschool STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Storytime focused on building. First I asked the children what materials they like use to build things. Blocks, legos, sticks, sand, and snow were mentioned. All of these, plus many more, can be found in Christy Hale’s Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building (Lee & Low, 2012), which pairs illustrations of a child building with different materials with a corresponding work of architecture.

Reserve It!

Wooden blocks are juxtaposed with Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. Sand castles are paired with Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona. All the children nodded when I asked if they had a set of stacking rings when they were a baby.

After looking and talking about the book, children were given a variety of materials to construct their own edifices. And build they did!


This one’s for the birds!

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

In a recent STEM storytime we explored birds you might see in your own backyard this winter. We read Simon James’ The Birdwatchers, in which a little girl goes birdwatching with her grandfather.

We found out more about birds in Carol Lerner’s Backyard Birds of Winter and from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Birding in Ohio site.

Reserve It!

Another great book for budding scientists is Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery From Your Own Backyard by Loree Griffin Burns, which has a different project for each season of the year (and includes birdwatching for winter.)

You can be a citizen scientist this weekend by participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count, February 15-18. It’s easy enough that kids can participate too — it’s free, fun, and you’ll be sharing your sightings with others around the world. Last year 17.4 million birds were counted!



Marshmallow Bridges and Building Fun!

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

STEM Storytime recently focused bridges, featuring Phil Bildner’s Twenty-One Elephants (Simon & Schuster, 2004)

which tells the story of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge from a little girl’s point of view. Her father, family . . . indeed, everyone she knows, feels the bridge is unsafe. That is, until master showman P.T. Barnum parades his 21 elephants across as testimony to its stability.

We then learned about different kinds of bridges, like-beam, arch, suspension, and truss, and talked about what shape is most stable (the triangle), before beginning to build with marshmallows and toothpicks.

 The materials are basic, but open the door to so many possibilities!

If you’re looking for an easy, open-ended activity for the kids, marshmallow building is a sure-fire hit!


Round in a Circle

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

How much fun can you have with circles? More than you might think! This week’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Storytime explored circles (and other round things!) We read Maggie’s Ball by Lindsey Barrett George and What is Round? by Rebecca Kai Dotlich.

Other great choices are Round like a Ball by Lisa Campbell Ernst and Round is a Mooncake by Roseanne Thong, which is also available as a Tumblebook.

We also made a great big circle and sang “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” “Ring around the Rosy” and “the Hokey Pokey” and went on a circle hunt through the children’s area. There are lots of circles and round things in our library! Just look at the red wall:


Finally, we made a circle mural on a big, mostly blank – except for circles of various sizes – piece of paper and children created whatever they wanted with these circles.


I spy a magnifying glass, numbers (using the circle as the zero), and  . . .


A circle becomes a face, with circles added for the eyes and for the dress. And look at those hearts for the cheeks and hair!

So much creativity! An open-ended art and math related activity that puts the “A” into STEM . . . to get STEAM!