At my library, we are lucky to have a variety of cool technology for kids that we use in programming. We tend to do structured, instructional programs, but we’ve wanted to incorporate more relaxed, informal programs as well. So last Saturday we did a Technology Open House for kids and teens. Despite it being a snowy day, we ended up with a great turnout of 90 (!) people.
We set up six stations around our large program room. The idea was to let everyone explore the stations at their own pace in a self-directed way, but at a few of the stations they needed a lot of help.
- Makey Makey: There were five computers with Makey Makeys for kids to play with, along with a variety of conductive materials including play dough. Many of the kids had never used a Makey Makey before and needed 1:1 help from me to get started. Luckily the learning curve isn’t steep and they generally got it pretty quickly.
- Lego Mindstorms Robotics: There were five computers with Lego Mindstorms robots and a maze on the floor for kids to try to move their robots through. Michelle (teen librarian) ran this station. Most kids hadn’t used Lego Mindstorms before and it was difficult to teach kids in this setting. I might not do this station again in an open house.
- iPads: We have iPads loaded with apps for in-library use, so we put three out at this station for kids to play with. We featured a few apps (including Sock Puppets and Toontastic) but they were free to look at everything that’s currently on the iPads.
- Light Painting: Kids could take light painting pictures in our small (and windowless/dark) kitchen that’s attached to the program room. They used their LED throwies, flashlights and glow-in-the dark wands. Katie (children’s librarian) ran this station and took most of the pictures.
- LED Throwies: We bought a kit online and had a staff member at the station to explain to the kids how these work and how to assemble them. (If you’re not familiar with LED throwies, Instructables has a how-to.) Once kids made a couple, there were targets set up for them to aim their throwies at. The targets were large photos of things that light up, like Daleks, R2D2, and Harry Potter’s wand (it was pretty awesome). They were able to take the throwies home with them.
- Wii: Super Smash Bros Brawl was set up; this was basically filler so that kids had something to do/watch when the other stations were full.
We were not expecting such a large turnout and it ended up being a little crazy, especially at the beginning. (Seriously, I expected hardly anyone to come, so it was shocking to open the doors at the start time and have about 30 people come trooping into the room.) I’d make some changes if I did this again (scrapping the robots, perhaps) and definitely getting some additional help (there were only four of us, plus another staff member we dragged in for a little bit). That said, it was great to see so many dads and entire families in attendance. A number of the parents got really into the technology and seemed to have a fun time working with their kids on it. There were also plenty of younger siblings enjoying the stations with help from mom or dad. This program made me realize what a huge demand there is in our community for technology programming for kids and families, and I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate more into our summer program schedule.