RovingFiddlehead KidLit

Maker Monday: Magnets

July 13, 2015

magnetThis week’s Maker Monday highlights magnets. Magnets impact so much in our world (and are just plain fun!). Do not do loose magnet projects with children who put things in their mouths.

Preschool Magnet Play

Magnet Painting. Inspiration from Left Brain Craft Brain.

Magnet Busy Play Jar. What We Do All Day keeps kids busy and curious with this project.

Paper Plate Magnet Maze. Cakies created a clever maze project for her kids.

Elementary Projects

Magnetic Sculptures. Some strong magnets, an assortment of hardware and imagination are the only requirements to create inventive sculptures.

Magnetic Slime. FrugalFun4Boys provides clear step-by-step instructions for this fun project.

Money Smoothie. Make a money smoothie to find the iron in American bills with a magnet. If you’d rather keep your money intact, try this simple experiment to demonstrate that the bills are magnetic. Try currency from other countries too! Mileage will vary. Canadian bills, for example, are plastic.

Simple Electric Motors

Evil Mad Scientist shows how to build a very simple electric motor.

Electronics Online has a tutorial for building a simple electric motor on a base.

These homopolar magnet dancers at BableDabbleDo extend the idea.

Spinning pen fun from Arvind Gupta.

Maker Notables

Ayah Bdeir, founder of Little Bits. The color-coded magnetic system takes away the intimidation factor when introducing electronics, but with plenty of add-ons such as Synth kit and Arduino kit, allows plenty of room for creativity and learning. Having just completed a Series A round, the company appears to be on solid financial footing as well. @ayahbdeir

Colleen Graves, Texas teacher librarian, with boundless energy and a knack for Vines that demonstrate both how easy many maker activities can be to implement and the joy they bring to students. She is moving from a middle school library to a high school library for the upcoming school year so it will be interesting to see the different projects that emerge in a new setting. She maintains a helpful list of MakerEd resources and is ever-present on Twitter at @gravescolleen




Making Monday: Toothbrush Robots

July 6, 2015

Mini robots created with parts from old toothbrushes (both standard and electric) take center stage today.



Photo by Windell Oskay

Bristlebots are a popular “first robot” project with many sets of instructions available on the Internet. The Show-Me Librarian has a great step-by-step poster from her Bristlebot program. Handy for anybody, but especially large groups. The video from Make is very clear. The basic ingredients are:

Pager motor (or vibrator from an old cell phone)
Double-sided foam tape
1 coin cell battery
2 small pieces of wire (if your battery or motor doesn’t have wires attached)
Decorating supplies!

Another alternative is purchasing a BristleBot kit from MakerShed with all suppllies (including precut toothbrushes) except for the art supplies for embellishment. (July 2015 pricing: $19.99 for 4 BristleBots)

Dish Scrubber Bots: Cutting the toothbrush handles can be the most challenging part of this project, Mellssa of Making It Sweet and her children attended a workshop that used dish scrubbers instead.

Light-tracking Bristlebots: Amy Cowen and family used the Science Buddies kit which adds a breadboard and circuitry so the bristlebot tracks the light as it moves about. She provides a clear outline of how her family learned about breadboards and resistors with this project.

Drawing Bots

Maker Jawn curriculum for creating Art Bots with parts from old (or Dollar Store) electric toothbrushes.

For a much simpler variety, just keep the electric toothbrush together and attach markers as Hillside Library did. While it doesn’t give children a chance to learn much about electronics, it can be a fun intro project if you are short on time or dealing with a really large group.Hillsdale Toothbrush Squiggle Machine

Maker Notables

Dale Doughtery. Founder of MAKE magazine and Maker Faires, Doughtery has been and continues to be a source of inspiration for oh-so-many makers. MakerCamp kicked off today.  @dalepd

Laura Fleming. Library media specialist, author and, with educator Travis Lape, cohost of Movers and Makers Podcast.  @NMHS_lms

Tinkering Studio at The Exploratorium. In addition to amazing programs they offer in their community, The Tinkering Studio shares instructions for a wide variety of maker projects on their site. For the second summer, they are leading an online Tinkering Fundamentals Course geared to educators and librarians through Coursera (session begins July 22).

Flannel Friday June 26

June 25, 2015

Flannel Friday

Fun and varied contributions this week from Jane, Kathryn, and Katie.

Kathryn of Fun with Friends at Storytime has made a charming Five Clean and Dirty Pigs useful for multiple storytime rhymes. It’s always so nice to be able to use our flannels and storytime props in varied ways.

Storytime Katie has put together adorable animal flashcards for “Where is Animal?” I guarantee it will have you checking out the Etsy shop that created the graphics!

Jane of Piper Loves the Library got her whole community involved in promoting summer reading with yard signs. One hundred families were involved! Fantastic idea!

Thank you for sharing your storytime flannelboard and prop ideas in the midst of summer reading craziness!

Finding Flannel Friday

You can also find past and future roundups and lots more information about Flannel Friday at the Flannel Friday website. For a visual round-up of all postings, check out Flannel Friday on Pinterest.

John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall #nfpb15

June 24, 2015

John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall

In John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall, Julie Danneberg has chosen a dramatic episode in the naturalist, writer and explorer’s life to illustrate his approach to the world around us. Moved by a growing desire to live “anywhere that’s wild,” Muir built and ran a small lumber mill in the Yosemite Valley in 1871. From there, he was able to explore and study the natural world around him. He filled his days with long hikes and a series of “experiments” to experience nature more and more intimately.

On the day in question, Muir climbs Fern Ledge beside Yosemite Falls. “For a moment John is perfectly content. But then he wants to be closer still.” This is a pattern that repeats throughout the day, wavering between contentment in the moment and wanting more — a feeling most of us can relate to. Taking advantage of a gust of wind, Muir steps between the curtain of water and the rock face. It’s not hard to imagine the danger he soon faces! Fortunately, only his hat is harmed in the escapade, but even Muir shaken by the event. “My wetting was received in a way that I scarcely care to tell. The adventure nearly cost all.” The trauma does not last, however. In later writings he describes waking the next morning “sane and comfortable, better, not worse, for my wild bath in moonlit spray.”

Even the most ardent free-range parent today would probably discourage their child from sleeping on a rock in the middle of a river or climbing a tree during a storm. The challenge of modern adults is how to nurture that same spirit of adventure and wonder in today’s children. Thanks to Muir’s legacy as founder of the Sierra Club and influencing President Theodore Roosevelt’s creation of National Parks and Monuments spaces for that exploration still exist.

John Muir and Yosemite Falls

Fern Ledge Trail (with a bold “You could die on this trail” warning)

Sierra Club John Muir Digital Exhibit

Yosemite Falls Webcam

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge

For this week\’s nonfiction picture book challenge roundup, visit Alyson Beecher's blog, KidLit Frenzy. #nfpb2015

Making Monday: Sun, Wind & Water

June 22, 2015

Wind, water and sun, the staples of summer fun — and renewable energy.

Kits for Iowa Educators

University of Northern Iowa Center for Energy and Environmental Education is the go-to place for Iowa teachers/librarians wanting to do free energy projects with kids. Individuals may purchase the kits. Anybody can download the lesson materials for free. Kits include:

  • Mini Solar Car
  • Solar Ovens
  • Wind Tunnels
  • Propeller Kits

Mini Solar Car

Projects with Materials around the Home

Pizza box solar oven. Instructions from New Mexico Solar Energy Association.

Wind Car with Stir the Wonder.

Wind Turbines with STEM Mom.

Weather Stations

Is it a good day to go to the beach or pool? Create a weather station to make your own predictions.

Arduino Weather Station Instructable.

littleBits Real-time Weather Dashboard using the CloudBits Kit.

Raspberry Pi Internet Weather Station Instructable.

Video Inspiration

William Kamkwamba built a windmill using old bicycle parts, diagrams in  in Malawi to help his parents’ during a drought. His story has led to the inspiring book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, with adult, teen and picture book versions.

Maker Notables

Josh Burker. Educator, writer (Invent to Learn Guide to Fun) and maker-extraordinaire. He chronicles his adventures in making on his blog and in real-time (glitches and all) via Twitter  @joshburker.

MakerBridge. Makerbrarians facilitating growth in makerspaces and maker culture, especially in libraries and schools. @makerbridge

Quin Etnyre, 14 year-old hardware developer and entrepreneur. His products include the ArduSensor Learning Kit and the Qduino Mini, an Arduino-compatible board with built-in battery connector & charger and fuel gauge. This Edutopia video shows Quin sharing his passion for electronics with fellow students and teachers. @QTechKnow

Twenty-two Cents #nfpb15

June 17, 2015

Twenty-two cents

Muhammad Yunus

Picture book biographies about bankers are a rarity, but Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus is worthy of the attention.

In Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank, Paula Yoo begins with the everyday acts of kindness his mother demonstrated by sharing food with the poor. Her exampleprimed Yunus to notice inequalities around hi and his father’s interest in education placed him a position to act.

As an Economics professor at Chittagong University had an impact, but his realization that twenty-two cents was keeping a talented artisan, Sufiya, in an inescapable cycle of debt and poverty is what changed the world. The microcredit solution he and his students developed has reached millions and spawned a global response to poverty.

For a topic so new to its reader, the text is rather dense and the addition of a glossary would have been helpful. Yoo does a good job of explaining the barriers poor women in Bangladesh faced when borrowing money, but the text explaining the workings of the Grameen Bank assumes more background knowledge than the intended audience is likely to produce. Nevertheless, it is an informative biography and a good topic to spark conversations about how we can help those in need and the barriers they face. And, clearly others disagree with me. It received a 2015 South Asia Book Award for positive portrayal of South Asia.
South Asia Book Award

Additional Microcredit Resources for Youth

Kids Go Global Microfinance


A Basket of Bangles: How a Business Begins by Ginger Howard

One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Kate Milway

The Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge

For this week\’s nonfiction picture book challenge roundup, visit Alyson Beecher's blog, KidLit Frenzy. #nfpb2015

Making Monday: National Week of Making

June 15, 2015

June 12-18 is the National Week of Making, which coincides with last weekend’s National Maker Faire in Washington, D.C. If you tweet about any projects you do this week, add the hashtag #weekofmaking. Let’s look at a few tutorials for kids’ projects at the Faire.

Lockpicking. Specialized tools can be purchased from MakerShed or you can get started with old locks from second-hand stores, a paperclip and this Instructable tutorial. In case this project makes you uneasy, read DH MakerBus’ post Why Teach Children to Pick Locks?

Soldering. The Makey Robot Learn to Solder Skill Badge is a regular at Maker Faires. Technology Will Save Us Solder and De-Solder Videos are helpful as is the “Soldering is Easy” Comic Book.

Squishy Circuits

Squishy Circuits. By using batches of both sugar-based and salt-based playdough, electric circuits can be created with a fun and safe product. Instructions from St. Thomas University Check out the possibilities in AnnMarie Thomas’ TED talk.

Telegraph. Heather Pang of Castillejas School has a nice writeup about the telegraph in history project she did with her class including tutorial links.

Video Inspiration

From Sesame Street, comes “The Power of Yet.” Janelle Monae encourages Elmo and friends to stick with it as they struggle learning new skills. “There’s no mountain you can’t climb, it just takes a little time.”

Maker Notables

Diana Rendina. Middle-school teacher-librarian in Tampa leading the way incorporating makerspaces into schools. @DianaLRendina

Project H Design. Youth-led public design projects that incorporate design-thinking, tinkering and vocational skills building. “In my classroom, no one is ever bored and no one is ever finished,” says Emily Pilloton, Director. @ProjectHDesign

Project M@CH. Designing & implementing the first Makerspace in a children’s hospital at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN. @ProjectMACH

Making Monday: Music Projects for Makers

June 8, 2015

The beginning of a weekly extension of the Coding & Making Resource list I put together for Iowa Tech Chicks and also featured on this blog. This week, the focus is music projects for makers.

Music Projects for Makers

Makey Makey

Makey Makey Banana Piano

Famous for the Makey Makey banana keyboard, there are many musical projects you can try with this invention kit. Any material that can conduct even a little bit of electricity can be connected to a computer and a Makey Makey to create a keyboard. Other musical projects to try with a Makey Makey:

Homemade Harmonica

Grab some craft sticks and rubber bands and your preschooler can make a simple harmonica.

homemade harmonica

Outdoor Music Wall

This looks like so much fun – but you may want to get buy-in from your neighbours first!

outdoor music wall

Make a Carrot Clarinet

Australian musician Linsey Pollak walks through the steps of making a functioning clarinet from a carrot and then plays it to perfection. You will never look at carrots the same way again.

Altoids Tin Ukelele (Advanced)

Daniel Hulbert makes banjos, guitars and ukeleles from a variety of household implements from bedpans to tennis racquets. Free plans for the Altoids tin ukelele are available at Circuits & Strings along with many other interesting projects combining tech and music.

This Week’s Maker Ed Notables

There are so many great initiatives in the Maker Movement that I am going to highlight a few each week.

DHMaker Bus. A mobile makerspace in London, Ontario. Ryan Hunt and the rest of the staff and volunteers put on engaging programs, but also through their blog emphasize accessibility with posts such as Affordable Accessible Maker Learning Resources for Parents and translations into Arabic for some of their most popular posts. @DHMakerBus.

MIT Media Lab. They’ve had a hand in so many of the physical products that have made tech and coding more accessible. Makey Makey, Scratch, Chibitronics (paper circuits), LilyPad Arduino and so much more. @medialab

Robot Test Kitchen. Children’s and teen librarians in Chicago using simple robotics to bring technology and imagination together. @RobotTestKitchn

Here’s to a week of joyous musical making!

Coding and Making Resources for Youth

June 7, 2015

A version of this post promoting summer coding and making activities originally appeared on Iowa Tech Chicks with additional Iowa City/Cedar Rapids-specific information.

coding and making


  • Short Hour of Code activities to longer multipart courses. Start by building snowflakes with Elsa and Anna from Frozen and work up to learning JavaScript and creating phone apps.
  • CodeAcademy: started with basic web development courses, adding new languages all the time. Requires good reading skills.
  • Code Combat: Learn to code by playing a game
  • Code School: many languages, combination of video and written tutorials. Most introductory courses are free, intermediate and advanced courses often require payment
  • Computer Science Unplugged: learn logic through group activities that do not require computers
  • Hackety Hack: Ruby, Introduction to Programming
  • Made with Code: Coding projects use Blockly, a visual programming language and most incorporate music or art.
  • Scratch: (a visual programming language)

Coding Apps

Many have added web-based activities and curriculum

STEM & Maker Movement Projects


Online Maker Camps

DIY Camps: Paid 4-week online camps including daily activities. Examples include LEGO Master Camp, Minecraft Architecture Camp and Music Inventor Camp.

MakerCamp: July 6-August 14: Six weeks of themed maker projects from Make Magazine.

Area Activities

CoderDojo: an international coding for kids movement with area chapters. Check for the chapter closest to you.

Public Libraries: Many have including making  and coding programs in their Children’s and Teen Summer Reading Programs this year. These are a great way to experiment with some of the pricier electronic maker toys such as Cubelets, Little Bits, and Makey Makey. Maker Jawn Curriculum and Show Me Librarian are great places to start if you are wanting to ramp up maker programming in your library.

Batman Fingerpuppet Template

June 5, 2015

Every Hero Has a Story

With the Summer Reading Program theme at most American libraries being Every Hero Has a Story, I hope you will find my hand-drawn template for a Batman Finger Puppet useful.

Batman finger puppet


batman template

You can download the template PDF here or via Slideshare.

Finding Flannel Friday

This week’s Flannel Friday host is Jane at Itsy Bitsy Mom.

You can also find past and future roundups and lots more information about Flannel Friday at the Flannel Friday website. For a visual round-up of all postings, check out Flannel Friday on Pinterest.