This program came to be through a series of straggling thoughts and ideas. When I was researching science opportunities in my area, I learned that my county has its own center for creating biodiesel. “Wow!” I thought, “Imagine someone talking to the kids about energy and creating alternative fuels!” I contacted the outreach and education professional there and, sadly, she informed me that no one thought they could make their work accessible to elementary-aged kids (which…ugh…). However, she was happy to talk about the recycling process. I thought about it and decided that recycling is actually a creative process. People are imagining using old things to make new things and that reminded me of a certain book.
So I suggested to our speaker that we could have this craft as a portion of our program. She could talk about recycling–how it works, what we recycle in our county and what things are made from it– and then I could jump in and tie it all into this book. I’d read the book and then they could use recycled items to create something new from a box.
So we did it! I was a little worried that the kids might not find learning about recycling so fascinating, but actually, they really seemed to enjoy it. What was hard for me to see was that, when put on the spot to make something with a box and a TON of craft materials, a lot of the kids floundered and defaulted to me or a parent to tell them what to do. I know this is tangential, but I’ve noticed this happens almost every time I present an open-ended activity to a school-aged child and, knowing that my preschoolers are totally okay with this, I can’t help but wonder if it’s a product of schooling. (I don’t know how others are responding to this, but I usually give the child a few ideas to choose from and then I stand back and refuse to help them any more. “You’re an explorer today!” I might say. “Use your noodle and don’t worry, you can’t do it wrong.”)
Overall, the program went pretty well. I’m not the first person to present this craft+book duo (google the book for some other really great examples of library programs that extend the text), but I was glad I could use it to help children apply the idea of re-using and upcycling the things around them.