Yuck @ the Library: Salty Soda Balloons

???????????????????????????????For this month’s “Yuck @ the Library” science program, I wanted to teach the kids about atoms, molecules, and chemical reactions. Not an easy task for little minds! Molecules and atoms are very abstract subjects and can often be hard to grasp. So I decided to do the Salty Soda Balloon Experiment to illustrate what happens when two different chemical molecules interact (especially under pressure).


– a bottle of coke

– a water balloon

– salt

– measuring spoons

This activity requires some hand-eye coordination skills. Consequently, I’d recommend keeping your participants in the 6-12 year old range.

Step 1: The Lesson

With the help of some volunteers, I explained that molecules are made up of atoms and that molecules get “really excited” when they meet other molecules that are different from themselves. I used this information to explain the concept of nucleation sites, which is how the salt latches on to the CO2 in our soda to “ride” up out of the bottle in a fizzy, gaseous, gush!


Step 2: The Demonstration

I carefully had the kids pour salt into their water balloons. Then we went outside, attached our balloons to our Coke bottles, and watched the chemical reactions!


DSC01398All in all, our kids had a fantastic time with this activity! I’d highly recommend this one. Just make sure you do it outside!

Frozen Movie Party

frozen movie party

One of the biggest lures in children’s and teen programming is movies. Especially if that movie happens to feature not one but two Disney princesses. Since we knew the kiddos would be going stir-crazy during Spring Break, we decided to host a showing of Disney’s Frozen.  So I thought I’d be that librarian, brag, and share the photos here.


Front Display:DSC01655

Because we always want to include a literary component, even when we show movies, we pulled a few Frozen books (along with other princess stories). We arranged them at the front of the room with our cardboard Olaf standee. The kids then perused the books and took pictures with Olaf.

Station 1: Snowflake Cookies

I spent three, unholy hours baking snowflake sugar cookies. We provided vanilla frosting and blue sprinkles so the cookies would look “snowy.” Each child was allowed to have one cookie to decorate.


Station 2: Tiaras, Antlers, and Coloring Sheets

We pre-cut antler and tiara “hats” out of construction paper. We borrowed the templates for them from My Sister’s Suitcase. Each child decorated the hat of their choice, then we helped them fit it to their head. We also provided Frozen coloring sheets that we were able to download online. Those sheets were especially useful because they kept our fidgety little ones busy while their older siblings watched the movie.




Station 4: Movie Time

We arranged the chairs into rows with an aisle, leaving a big space in the front so little ones could sit on the floor if they chose. Then we fired up our old-timey popcorn maker, turned off the lights, and “let it go!”




In total, we had 175 children and parents attend! Not bad for a Spring Break program. 🙂

Divergent Book Bash

Teen Volunteers/Faction Leaders

It’s finally here: the post you’ve all been waiting for. I managed to survive my Divergent Book Bash and snagged a few photos in the process!

I believe librarians, just like teachers, should beg, borrow, and steal from one another. So feel free to use any of the ideas you see here for your own programs (though I’d love a shout out if you do).

Choosing Ceremony

I had the teens take a personality quiz to see what faction they belonged in, then sent them off to their home factions. Each student received a “Mission Card” with five tasks: one task for each faction. In order to be eligible for my Divergent raffle, they had to complete all five tasks. At the end of the afternoon, I gave away a copy of the trilogy and tickets to go see the movie next weekend.

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Dauntless Station

In Dauntless, teens had to do two things: choose a temporary tattoo and play a round of Super Smash Bros on the Wii. Given Dauntless’ fondness for both tattoos and fighting, I thought these tasks were appropriate. 🙂

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Erudite Station

In Erudite, the teens had to work as a team with their fellow faction members. Each teen was given a library scavenger hunt with seven clues. These clues took them all over the library in search of seven envelopes. Inside the envelopes, were puzzle pieces. Once the teens found all the envelopes and completed their hunt, they raced back to Erudite Station to put their puzzles together. I had the puzzles made by Printer Studio for only $4.99 a piece.

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Amity Station

For Amity, I wanted to capture the fact that this faction houses both farmers and artists. So teens painted flower pots and then planted a flower or herb of their choice.

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Abnegation Station

Since Abnegation’s focus is selflessness, I really wanted this station to be meaningful.  During a Google search, I stumbled on a wonderful organization called Send Kids the World. This group provides postal address for children with terminal or long-term illnesses. Individuals can then create cards for these sick children to cheer them up. So all of my teens in Amity were given the photo and story of a child. They then worked together to create custom cards to let these little ones know they matter.

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Candor Station

Since Candor’s main quality is truth, what better way to test your honesty with a round of Divergent “Truth or Dare”? My biggest concern here was that I wanted the game to be fun – not cruel or embarrassing. So I made Truth and Dare cards with pre-selected topics. I had teens take turns and roll a dice to determine their fate. Evens = Truth. Odds = Dare. Teens could switch from Truth to Dare, but not the other way around. The teen with the most truth cards at the end won the game.

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I tried really hard to capture the favorite foods of each faction. Ex: soda for Erudite, chocolate cake for Dauntless, etc. Candor’s ice cream was too hard to manage for a two hour event, so I went with Oreo cookies instead since they’re black and white (Candor’s colors).


Dauntless Cupcakes

Dauntless Cupcakes

Amity Apples and Peace Bread

Amity Apples and Peace Bread

Abnegation Appetizers

Abnegation Appetizers

Erudite Soda

Erudite Soda

Candor Cookies

All in all, I had forty-four tweens and teens turn out: a record breaking number for our small, seaside library. I’m absolutely ecstatic with how things went. Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions or would like some advice on throwing a Divergent shindig of your own!

Divergent Book Bash Teaser

I’m currently in the process of prepping for my Divergent Book Bash, which will be held March 15 (the weekend before the movie is released in theaters). I thought I’d give you a sneak peek of some of the things we’re doing. I’ll post more photos and details when I come up for air next week.

Obviously, one of the key parts of the Divergent series is figuring out your faction. So I thought it would be fun to divide the teens into one of the five groups. I made a print version of the Faction Quiz from divergentfans.com. Each student will take it when they enter to figure out what faction they’re in.

P.S. Forgive the “Abnegation” typo in the image. I promise I know how to spell it! 🙂

Faction Quiz

After they’ve been sorted (excuse the Harry Potter reference), each teen will go through the Choosing Ceremony. There, they will receive a button with their faction symbol after retrieving it from the appropriate bowl. I had the buttons custom made by wackybuttons.com for about $30.

I made sure to follow the book as closely as I could, modeling each bowl after the ones described in the actual text. Candor got glass beads,  Abnegation got pebbles, Dauntless got coals, and so on.

faction cups

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I’m really excited and I think the teens will get a kick out of it. Drop me a comment and let me know what faction you’re in! I’d love to hear from you!

Zombie Fest 2013

Zombie teen volunteers!

Zombie teen volunteers!

Fun fact about yours truly: Halloween is my favorite holiday. I have a minor obsession with all things creepy and crawly. So do many of my teens.

So we held our first ever Zombie Fest this year and it was a tremendous success! We had book displays and give aways, zombie food, a costume contest, and watched Warm Bodies. 



We went all out for this event. We created fake “wooden boards” for the windows, had zombie cut outs hanging front the ceiling, and blood red table cloths. We even created a banner and had a “Zombie Goodies” table for participants.



Station 1: The Entrance

Our teens had to walk through a row of tombstones to enter Zombie fest. Stan, our creepy standee, greeted them at the door.



Station 2: Food

Our budget was fairly tight, so I did a lot of baking for this event. I made Zombie Fingers and Zombie Cupcakes (with oozing, strawberry centers). They were a huge hit. The fingers, in particular, were a source of much excitement. Some teens were too grossed out to try them! 🙂




Station 4: Zombie Movie and Costume Contest

We had each zombie shuffle over to our registration table and pick up a number. He or she was then scored by one of three adult judges using a pre-printed rubric. The top three zombies received copies of Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Mayberry and The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.



We had 20 teens come hang out for an afternoon of zombie-themed fun: a new record! We’ll definitely be bringing this one back next year!

Yuck @ the Library: Homemade Lava Lamps

Summer 028One of the programs I run at our branch is “Yuck @ the Library”: an interactive, science-based event designed to get kids interested in STEM subjects. This program is especially valuable because it introduces kids to scientific concepts in a fun, non-threatening way. It teaches them that science can be FUN and it supports their learning in school.

This month, I decided to teach our kids about density by having them make their own homemade lava lamps. Directions on how to do this experiment can be found Science Kids.


– a clear, plastic bottle

– water

– vegetable oil

– food coloring

– Alka-Seltzer tablets

Tip: when adding the food coloring, have the kids gently swish their bottles around. This will help distribute the color so the reaction is easier to see.

The kids really enjoyed watching the chemical reaction between the Alka-Seltzer and the water. Not to mention it was relatively inexpensive – a win/win program!


Book Bash 101: aka “How to Throw a Book-Themed Party”

At my library, we are immensely fond of Book Bashes. A Book Bash is basically a shindig centered around a particular novel or series.  For example, to celebrate “Read Across America” this past Saturday, our library threw a Dr. Seuss-themed book bash and we had over thirty local children and their parents attend.

doctorseuss2 doctorseuss4  doctoseuss7

Book Bashes are a fantastic way to increase foot traffic at your library. Not to mention the obvious fact that it’s a great way to foster kids’ love of reading and build relationships in the community. Plus it’s fun! Tweens and teens love them too – as long as you maintain the “cool” factor.

Book Bashes take an incredible amount of work, but they are definitely worth it. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when throwing a book bash of your own.

1) Plan Ahead

This is not something you can throw together at the last minute – no matter how good you are. I’m a procrastinator by nature but, for Book Bashes, I plan at least three to four months in advance. It helps to surf the net and see what major literary events are on the horizon: author birthdays, book releases, movie debuts, etc. For teens, in particular, I like to focus on book-to-movie releases. That way, the weekend before a movie comes out, I can throw a Book Bash to match it.

Divergent, for example, comes out March 21st. So on the 15th, we’ll be having an epic, faction-finding, mission-completing Book Bash (more on that in another post).

2) Food & Giveaways

Basic rule for any youth services event: if you feed them, they will come. Especially when there’s free stuff too.

But the food shouldn’t be random, nor should the giveaways. Everything should tie into the theme of the Book Bash you’re throwing.  Think oozing finger-shaped cookies for a Warm Bodies, zombie-themed party or glittering cupcakes for Fancy Nancy. If there are specific items mentioned – ex: nightlock berries front the Hunger Games – they should be included in your event.

For little ones, save up book donations you don’t plan on keeping and give them away as prizes. For older kids and teens, raffling off a book series or tickets to see the movie version can be a big draw.

3) The Dollar Store is your best friend. So is FOL.

Book Bashes are NOT cheap in any shape, form, or fashion. So clip your coupons and prepare to bargain hunt in order to get everything you want. Sometimes this means thinking out of the box and doing extra work yourself. For example, I often bake treats myself instead of paying full price for them at the grocery store.

And don’t be afraid to bat your eyelashes at your local Friends of the Library Members. 😉 They are generous, giving, wonderful people and are a great resource. Most of my Book Bashes are funded by the Friends and I’m eternally grateful for their support.

4) Stations, Stations, Stations

Once you’ve amassed your horde of attendees, they have to have something to DO. So set up stations around the room with unique, book-themed activities. At our Dr. Suess Bash, we had a crafting stations where kids could make a Cat in the Hat decoration, a Fox in Sox puppet, or color a red fish/blue fish bowl. At our “Fantastic Food” station, they decorated Seuss-style cookies and made fruit loop necklaces. At our game station, they played Thidwick Moose ring toss (where they tried to get the rings on his antlers). Finally, we had a Thing One and Thing Two picture station where kids could pose with their friends.

In essence, a Book Bash should be a completely immersive event. Kids should feel as though they’ve been transported inside the book the moment they walk in the door.

I hope these tips have been helpful and that they inspire you to plan a bash of your own! I’ll be posting photos and play-by-plays from my Bashes soon, so stay tuned for more details! 🙂