Since we are always trying to improve things here in the Children’s department, we have revised the way our kits are shelved. Kits with lots of pieces or that are a little pricier or more easily damaged than others will be shelved behind our children’s desk. On the regular kit shelf, we have place a binder with the information about each kit that you can bring to the children’s desk, where you can trade in the binder and be given the kit. Binders will look like this:
When you find a binder you would like to receive the kit for, bring the binder to the children’s desk and we will give you the kit to check out.
This new method of shelving and checkout applies only to new kits that contain lots of pieces or are more costly, but the majority of our kits will stay the same as they always have been.
We had a LOT of fun at Spy School! We did this as part of our new program Spotlight. Spotlight focuses on a different topic each month. It follows the interests of what we see in our department. Since Stuart Gibbs’ latest book Spy School Secret Service is now out, we decided to have some fun with it sending our school-aged kiddos through different tasks and missions in order to officially be spies.
Here is a quick look at what we did!
The overall set-up was stations that they could go to as they pleased. There were no progressive steps (with one exception which I’ll tell you about in a minute). We do the majority of our programs this way for a couple reasons. First, kids don’t all go at the same pace. This set up gives kids the freedom to explore stations where they need more time without feeling self-conscious and likewise allows them to move on from stations that go quickly for them. Though it may sound chaotic, it actually helps keep everybody on task. Second, we serve kiddos with special needs and this format gives them the ability to participate at a level that is comfortable for them and adjust as they need.
These were our stations:
Hand Scanner for Entry
This was quick and easy. Just use a name-brand Ziploc bag (the generic I have tried to use leaked terribly), clear hair gel and water color paint or food coloring. I sealed the edges of the bag with duct tape just to reinforce. Be sure to squeeze all the air from the bag before sealing it up!
We found some fun Secret Agent Badge printables online. The kids grabbed a color out of bucket A and an animal out of Bucket B and this became their Code Name for all missions.
We created a book cipher using copies of Fox in Socks. The kids (and some parents) had a lot of fun figuring out our messages!
We set up a wax resist station for kids to right secret messages to each other. White crayons on white construction to write the messages and water color paint to reveal the messages made it a fun little project. The kids loved leaving messages for others to find.
Pom Pom Target Practice
We found this really cool blog that had a great tutorial for pom pom target practice, so we tried it out. The kids did a great job with this simple activity and LOOOOVED creating their own shooter. Pool noodles, duct tape, balloons, and pom-poms are all you need for this and it is a huge hit! We set up a target on our wall. Their objective was to stand at varying distances and shoot into the caution tape.
Dodge the Lasers!
We used a strong, thing book tape to create a laser field for kids to dodge in and out of, trying to avoid getting stuck.
This is the one station that I wasn’t thrilled with. Sadly in programs, sometimes ideas that seem great on paper just aren’t as great in real life. The objective is to stomp and walk through the pool (or minefield) and not pop a balloon. Unfortunately, this really wasn’t a challenge. The balloons would fly out of the pool before they could even attempt to pop, or not pop, them. Were I to do this again, I would not confine it to the pool and I would use a lot more balloons.
All in all, everyone loved this program, including me! In fact, we liked it so much we are putting it on again (minus the minefield) at our Exploratorium on November November 29th!
Coding. That’s something with computers, right? But what’s this about young children doing coding? It turns out, coding is just a way of thinking that we start doing at an early age. I’ve just let the term “code” freak me out. There are many ways for a child to develop those coding skills without looking at a computer for those parents wishing to limit screen time. Being surrounded by technology, learning how to code becomes more and more necessary in life and just like a foreign language, it is easier to learn at an early age. That’s because creating a code is like a language – a special language that tells a computer or robot what to do. Turn left, go straight. clap three times. Coding helps children with problem solving and logic. The ability to direct technology instead of just using it, builds confidence and skills that will help children later on in school and in careers where there is more and more demand for technology.
At our November 1st Exploratorium we started with very basic coding concepts using a variety of coding kits that will be available to try out in the Children’s Dept the week of Thanksgiving and then will be available to check out at a later date. This is a great way for your child to get started with the concept of coding before purchasing items that are more complicated. Some of the new items we have available include:
Fisher-Price Think & Learn Code-a-pillar, Cubetto Educational Coding Robot, Learning Resources Learning Essentials Code and Go Robot Mouse Activity Set and an Ozobot.
A basic game to play with your child that demonstrates coding basics at no cost is a form of Simon Says. Simon says, if I clap my hands, then you stomp your feet. Or, if I nod my head, then you nod your head. Simon is the programmer, everyone else in the group becomes the computer.
Ready for something more complex? Place a black checker somewhere towards the far side of a checkerboard. Place a few red checkers on the board to act as obstacles. Place another black checker in the lower left corner of the board. Now direct the lower left black checker to the other black checker using only these simple directions: Go Forward, Turn Right, Turn Left, Repeat. The checker can move only 1 square at a time. It does not matter if the square is black or red.
Continue until you reach the black checker. Write down the instructions, step by step.
Now place the black checker back to the lower left corner and follow your written instructions. Did it work? If it didn’t, go back and figure out where you went wrong and try again. If it did work, then you just wrote your first piece of successful code!
In January we will have another coding program for Exploratorium that will be a bit more advanced than last weeks program. In the meantime stop by the children’s desk to try out the basic coding program kits we have.