2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Pi in the Sky – Combining AstroCamp with Legacy Gaming

The 2019 YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Resources Grant allowed us to make the most of our summer kids and teens program Nerd Camp. Nerd Camp was five days at each of our branches where the campers were able to perform from NASA’s and Stennis Space Center’s AstroCamp as well as a day of retro video gaming using Raspberry Pis, monitors and controllers purchased with our grant. By partnering with Stennis Space Center, we were able to increase the learning opportunities for rural and under-served teens and youth and present them with NASA created projects to pique interested in space-related learning. Stennis provided eight hours of training in science as well as many projects that we integrated seamlessly into our program. This training allowed us to pass the knowledge on to youth service specialists and volunteers within the program. The coverage created by this allowed for all our volunteers, our summer intern, as well as our youth specialists to engage with the youth and ensure a higher level of help and learning.

These activities mixed into our existing ideas and program well and flowed directly into our retro gaming and raspberry pi ending extremely well. This showed how science and technology can pair with programming and computers and the use of the pis showed a common use that simple computing knowledge can achieve. Also, this built excitement for science and technology within an underserved community that dovetailed into the summer reading theme of “A Universe of Stories.”

With our five Nerd Camps across all five of our branches, we saw a preponderance of engagement from the community. Our community is an economically diverse one. Because many of our youth patrons get free lunches at school during the year, we wanted to be able to offer that for the days of our camps. To do this we partnered with various restaurants at each branch to provide lunch for the youth and volunteers at each camp. This allowed our partners to have an impact in the community and for the youth at our camps to have a provided meal. While we were able to provide lunch every day at our camps, there was a time we struggled to find partnerships. In the end, however, we locked in both local eateries as well as chains to have lunch provided. Also, through working with McAllister’s Deli we were able to provide snacks and iced tea to two camps as well. During our time in the Canton branch we utilized the summer free lunch program that we offer through the school district at the branch to provide meals for the campers. This allowed us to focus on finding partners for our other four branches while ensuring that the youth at Canton had food provided.

Engagement during camp was a wonderful success. At the Madison branch, we saw a turnout of 20 children. This number was steady through all four days of our camp. At our Camden branch, which is a rural community that serves a population of 900, we saw 10 campers daily. During these days, we were able to have the youth design and fire rockets, learn about computer and gaming, and be exposed to STEM concepts in a fun and engaging way.

 

Dawn Collins is the Youth Services Director for the Madison County Library System.

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Building Interest in Technology Programs for Teens

 The City of Warren is located in Southeast Michigan. In 2017, it was estimated that 31.4% of youth under the age of 18 in Warren live at less than 100% of the federal poverty level. Technological literacy is an important skill that can empower youth to have successful lives and careers. Youth who are affected by poverty are likely to fall behind their peer group in their ability to comprehend and manipulate technologies, limiting their future educational and career prospects.

The inside of a completed Google AIY kit.

The Warren Public Library was fortunate to receive a Summer Learning Resource Grant funded by YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. Our goal was to introduce teens to new kinds of technology, specifically virtual reality and artificial intelligence.  We used the grant money to purchase two Oculus Go headsets, four AIY kits by Google, and books about applied science.

Previous teen tech-based programs at the library have had low attendance. It is difficult to discern why this is the case, but we made a few decisions to help us try to raise teen attendance numbers throughout the summer. 

First, we decided that our technology programs would focus on “process” learning instead of “product” learning. Our goal was to familiarize teens with the technology tools, not to teach them to be experts. For this reason, we allowed them to experiment with the tools with very few specific goals in mind. This made the process more fun and lower pressure because the teens knew there was no right or wrong way to go about using the tools.

The Voice kit is on the left and the Vision kit is on the right.

Second, we brought the tools to programs that were not technology based. For example, the Oculus Go sets were available at our monthly Teen Spot program, Anime Club, and our summer learning closing lock-in. This allowed us to introduce them to a much wider audience. Specifically, it helped us to reach teens who would not have been interested in signing up for a “tech” program. 

Third, we did not focus on “educational” activities. Because our main goal was to interest young people in newer forms of technology, we felt that any use of the tools was educational. For example, while we did download Oculus Go apps that allowed users to “tour” the Anne Frank House, we also downloaded roller coaster simulations and adventure games. 

Finally, we asked our Friends of the Library to volunteer to assist with our teen programs this summer. While this was originally for practical purposes, it actually had an interesting effect. Many of the Friends are retirees who are not familiar with technology.  The teens’ greater comfort with technology led to collaboration and learning opportunities for everyone. 

The Oculus Go headset and control.

Although some programs still did not meet target attendance numbers, overall Warren Public Library had more successful teen programs than in previous summers. Perhaps most telling is our “Space Age Tech Day” which introduced both the Oculus Go sets and the AIY kits. While only six teens attended, it greatly improved over our previous technology event for teens, which had zero attendees.   

 

Julianne Novetsky is the Library Technician at Warren Civic Center Library.

 

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Dollar General Literacy Foundation Contributes to Transformative Year at Rural Library

Community engagement and partnerships have always been essential to making library programming successful, but this year, the Dollar General/YALSA Summer Learning Grant provided our library with a unique opportunity to capitalize on an extraordinary new partnership with our local school system. We partnered with a local system and a local bank to make ChibiCon, a mini-con sponsored by our Teen Advisory Board, even better than ever–while opening new doors for even greater partnerships. 

Additionally, I was already involved in the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant at Bourbon County Middle School (BCMS), where I led a book club every Tuesday afternoon. If you’re unfamiliar, 21st Century federal grants are provided to schools to create a program that provides homework help, educational opportunities, and cultural enrichment to local children.  With BCMS, the grant manifests as an afterschool program and a two-week-long summer camp. The kids read 3-4 books per year and enjoyed STEM and art activities. 

However, the Summer Learning Grant provided us with an opportunity to take our partnership to another level by bringing a published, best-selling author (Gwenda Bond) to our rural Kentucky community and deeply involving the BCMS program. This energized all of the adults involved in the program and helped the students improve their critical thinking skills, literacy skills, and verbal communication skills as they prepared to speak with Gwenda Bond about her work. All the teens enrolled in the 21st Century Camp read Bond’s new book, the Stranger Things prequel Dangerous Minds

The teens from the summer camp made up nearly a third of the attendance at ChibiCon. The event was a game-changer for our relationship with that school program. Thanks to a generous sponsorship from a local bank, we were able to give every person who attended ChibiCon a signed copy of one of Gwenda Bond’s books. The teachers were delighted by this, as were the students, several of whom joined our Anime Club and joined our library’s fandom community. Since all the BCMS students had read Dangerous Minds, they elevated the discussion during Gwenda Bond’s author talk, contributing thoughtful questions and insightful commentary. This partnership with the school’s afterschool program made ChibiCon far greater than it would have been without their help. 

After ChibiCon, we had an even better relationship with BCMS. Since the event, we’ve been invited to join education committees and speak at school events, and we are collaborating further with the 21st Century program to co-sponsor community service events and expanded book clubs. ChibiCon proved that the school and library could collaborate on large events to the benefit of the students, building a foundation of trust that allows us more outreach opportunities–and a stronger presence in our local schools–than ever before. None of this would have been possible without the collaborations cultivated between teachers, school administrators, and library staff. School partnerships can take patience and hard work but are worth every student.

 

Beth Dunston is the Teen Services Librarian at Paris-Bourbon County Library.

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Collaborating Among the Stars – Summer Teen Programming at the Randallstown Library

This summer, the Randallstown Branch of Baltimore County Public Library received a Dollar General/YALSA grant. Randallstown is located on the west side of Baltimore County. Our summer population teen population visits daily. Many teens walk to the branch both after school as well as during the summer. Our branch features the highest computer use in the county.

We used the funding to offer additional summer programs. In conjunction with the “Universe of Stories” summer reading theme, we sought programs that connected to astronomy and space science. We marketed these programs heavily to schools and on in-branch flyers. Programs were also featured in the system’s summer calendar.

In addition, one of our staff filmed an internal video for staff across the system. This let the entire system know about the background of the grant. This video was taped after we had confirmed dates; it also highlighted the programs we were presenting.

We sought to use this money to provide programs featuring outside presenters. We serve summer lunches and provide daily activities in conjunction with that initiative. Staff researched a variety of potential options including NASA, the Maryland Science Center, Baltimore Robotics Club, and the National Museum of Aeroscience. We decided to go with two local presenters: Future Makers and The Science Guys of Baltimore. The branch and the system have worked with these partners in the past. Both groups have a reputation for engaging well with both kids and teens.

Programs were scheduled throughout the summer. In June, Future Makers presented two standalone programs: Build it: Mechanical Rovers and Build it: Light Orbiting Machines. This allowed us to capitalize on interest in the first month of summer reading. Eight teens attended Mechanical Rovers, and twelve attended Light Orbiting Machines.

In the mechanical rovers program, teens explored how to modify devices to move over different types of terrain.  In the light program they discussed centrifugal force before creating mechanisms that spun and glowed. These machines featured motors, batteries, and LEDs. Attendees got to take all assembled projects with them at the end of the sessions.

The Science Guys presented DIY Comets and Vacuums on July 31. In this program, teens worked in groups to make their own comets from dirt, sand, and even dry ice. Participants also experienced putting things into a space “vacuum.” Each group member shared their experiments to one another. Twelve teens attended the program. Sessions focused primarily on collaboration. Teens worked independently as well as in small groups. At the end of each session, attendees showcased their items.

 

Sarah Smith is the Manager and Ife N. Allette is a Librarian at Randallstown Library.

2019 Teen Summer Intern Program: Suffolk Public Library Career Fair

Suffolk Public Library hosted a Career Fair for six teens and one summer worker who were chosen to participate in our Teen Summer Internship Program made possible by the grant from the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) and the Dollar Tree Foundation. We wanted to do this because our internship consisted of a continuing education element as well as a practical element. The teens really enjoyed using the O*Net Interest Profiler in one of their earlier activities to see how their interests related to their career goals. The interns were fascinated to learn which areas of the United States employed their chosen career field, expected income, and the technology skills related to their future paths. We wanted to further ignite this spark, by inviting individuals to speak at the career fair to the teens about their businesses and jobs aligning with career paths that were highlighted during the career profiling session. This internship took place in a high poverty area with limited resources. Working in such an environment gave the teens an opportunity to see individuals, who hailed from the same, achieve their career goals. The teens were able to interact with these individuals and explore their success.

This event was rather casual, as we wanted the teens to feel comfortable asking any questions. We began the career fair as a group enjoying hors’doeuvres in a meeting room.  Then the teens went to a separate room and each individual speaker came into that room, sat down, and had a conversation with the teens. If we could do it over again, we would get a bigger room, have each speaker set up a table and have the teens walk around a little bit  and ask them questions in order to get them up and moving. However, space was an issue this time. We would not change the causal manner in which the program was done so that the teens would feel comfortable and be relaxed.

Teens sit around a conference room at the Suffolk Public Library Career Fair.

The speakers included a local high school teacher, an owner of an art business, a law school student, a construction worker, and a manager at the library. We also had a wonderful opportunity for the teens to send questions in advance to a scout for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Many of our male teens that hang out in the library are interested in sports so through some connections we were able to provide them with an opportunity to get real answers from someone who works for a team in the NFL. They asked all types of things from “What do players eat?” and “How often do they practice?” to “How did Donovan Cotton become a scout?” Library staff who worked with the teens during the internship asked community members to volunteer their time to speak with the teens.

What did they learn?
The unanimous response was that you can have fun doing something that you love.

When asked what we could have done differently?
The teens suggested that we could have invited even more guest speakers to the Career Fair.

 

Tiffany Duck is Manager of Library Locations at Suffolk Public Library.

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Marion County Library System

Graphic reading "TEEN TECH" with media equipment in background.

Some Background Info
Our Teen Tech program had six scheduled meeting times, each lasting one hour. Originally, we had intended to make a short documentary-style video telling the stories of our small community and of its strength and resilience following two major flooding events. In doing so, we hoped to provide teens with the opportunity to work with technology they may not have access to without the assistance of the library. Through this, we hoped they would gain problem solving skills and become reacquainted with the offerings of the library.

Getting Started
Before our program, we contacted another library system –experienced in doing videography with teens—to gather information on which equipment we would need. We also collaborated with our city’s municipal government, and met with the city administrators on several occasions, discussing possible ways they could help with our summer programs. At times, we felt like we may have been asking for too much, but the city’s administration was more than happy to grant any and all requests we had of them. Through trial and error, we discovered that some of the equipment we had ordered needed add-ons to function as intended. The municipal government supplemented the equipment we had purchased with grant funds. The city administrators truly exceeded our expectations!

The Best Laid Plans…
Our plan was to divide the teens into teams and alternate times recording interviews of local people and editing the footage, so we would always have someone using the camera and learning the software. The first day, we had enough teens show up that this would have been possible. The next week, however, only two teens showed up. With the small number of attendees, we gauged that it would not be feasible to proceed as originally planned.  Instead, we decided to make a movie trailer-style promotional video for our library.

Because we only had two consistent attendees, every week we feared that nobody would show up and our program would be a complete failure.  To our surprise, we learned that low attendance does not necessarily indicate the program is doomed. Additionally, we learned that even though we are in a very economically disadvantaged location, some of the schools have camera equipment, so the teens had already been exposed to professional videography tools. Because of this, the teens were able to work collaboratively and give each other insight on angles, lighting, and video editing.

In Conclusion
Although only a couple of teens saw the project through to the end, they worked diligently to ensure their project got completed. (I must admit, though, we underestimated the amount of time it would take to edit the footage and condense it into a cohesive video. We wound up asking the teens to come back on unscheduled days to work with us on the project, to ensure it would be completed.) The teens and their families were excited to see their project in its final form. Once we uploaded the video to YouTube and posted it to Facebook, we saw that many of the family members and community members shared it and there was a positive buzz in the community.

This project has reaffirmed in my soul that we should never underestimate our power as a small community. We had a small turnout, but we accomplished big things. Though our small, rural community is poor, we are all willing to work together and pool resources to ensure that our children are learning and growing, in spite of hardship. In this way, we told the story of our community’s strength and resilience.

 

Ashley Hall is the new Youth Services Librarian at Marion County Library System in Marion, South Carolina.

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: Denton Public Library

This year our library was selected as one of the recipients of the YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning Resources Grant. We chose to use the awarded funds to provide “starter” books to incarcerated teens in our county’s juvenile detention center and to our local school district’s summer high school ESL program. By providing the students with a book up front, we were able to give them the tools necessary to spend a summer reading and improving their literacy skills.

This partnership was not a new one to us as we have worked with these groups in summer of 2018 as well, but this year was special because we were able to provide the kids with the tools to succeed right off the bat. In 2018, the students participated in our summer reading program by borrowing books from their teachers and counselors but this year we were so excited to give them their own book to keep as soon as they signed up.

Instead of buying a variety of books for the students to pick from, we bought each participating student a copy of Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X. We felt this book really represented the teenage experience well and that the students reading it would find it appealing as well. Our hope was that each child reading the same book would lead to lively discussion and team building in their group. This also provided another great outreach opportunity because our two teen librarians were able to go out to the sites, meet the students participating, and book talk one of their favorite books. Our ESL group had never read the book before but their teacher had. The class decided to swap out the group reading they had previously chosen for this one instead. At the detention center, several students had read the book before but enjoyed it so much they were happy to receive their own copy to keep. They even helped us make our book talk more appealing by commenting on how much they enjoyed reading it and pushed their classmates to give it a chance as well.

Overall, 32 students participated in just a few short weeks and read a total of 15,600 minutes which averaged to about eight hours per person. After completing their first five hours of reading, each student received another free book courtesy of our Friends of the Library group to keep as part of their completion prize. We heard very positive reviews about The Poet X from students and teachers. Money leftover from purchasing the book was then used to stock and replace books in the counselor’s library at the detention center.

 

Sarah Ward is the Teen Services Librarian at Denton Public Library – South Branch.

2019 Summer Learning Resources Grant: East New Orleans Regional Library

With my Summer Resources grant, I purchased video games for our teen room and supplies for a maker wall and cart. Here are some lessons I’ve learned from this process, and what I wish I had been telling myself (and my coworkers) at the beginning of the summer:

  1. It doesn’t take as much as you’d think.
    When I applied for the YALSA Summer Resources grant, I predicted that I’d need to spend half of my grant money on video games. I spent months polling teens and asking for feedback about what games we should buy. (They’re not allowed to play M-rated games at the library, so that limited their options.) I don’t know much about video games, but I imagined we’d need a ton of them for teens to feel like they had enough choices. I was wrong. The same titles came up over and over again. It didn’t take as much money or as many video games as I thought it would to give teens some solid choices.
  2. Stop worrying about things that haven’t happened (or, just fix them when they do happen and move on!).
    If you work with teens, you have probably heard these concerns from your coworkers:
    “They’re going to draw/write/make/say/do something inappropriate.” I have only removed one inappropriate drawing from our teen room all summer.
    “They’re going to make a mess.” Yeah, they will make a mess. Then they’ll clean it up. If they don’t, I will.
    “They’re going to think it’s dumb.” Probably not. If they do, we’ll change it.
    “They’re just going to steal that.” Most of our maker wall supplies have not walked away. Bigger ticket items are in a cart that I can move in and out of the teen room. But I think that leaving some supplies in the room at all times shows teens that you trust them, and building that trust is critical. And if they do steal some stickers or a ball of yarn—who cares? Maybe that item will occupy them on a long bus ride or make them smile before a test. Plus, adults steal pens and other supplies from our library all day long—I’m not going to worry about it if teens take stuff that I’m specifically leaving for them to use.
  3. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good (or even the good enough).

I know this—we all know this—but I still have to remind myself all the time. If I waited for the perfect space or the perfect day or the perfect idea, I’d never get anything done.  Especially with a project like this, it will change over time. I can always add supplies or project ideas later, but it was important to start with what I have!

A maker wall at East New Orleans Regional Library.

The “Maker Wall” at East New Orleans Regional Library.

Carolyn Vidmar is a Teen Services Librarian at East New Orleans Regional Library.

Girls Who Code @ Russell Library: Dollar General Grant Winner

In the summer of 2017 the Russell Library in Middletown Connecticut, was accepted to participate in the national non-profit Girls Who Code©. Girls Who Code (GWC) partners with other groups, such as libraries, to prepare students for careers in technology fields by introducing computer programming. Starting in September 2017 the Russell Library offered its first GWC course for 20 weeks to a full class of 12 students and a waiting list! The popularity and the community’s positive response suggested that the library should offer the course again.

As a Teen Librarian with a MLS and no official Computer Science background, after the first session I realized I needed reinforcements. The YALSA/ Dollar General Grant fit the perfect spot to be able to offer the program again.  (*Side Note- GWC suggests a CS Degree or CS experience is not necessary; that anyone can run a GWC program with the tools and resources they provide.)

The initial impetus in searching for a grant was our robust teen volunteer program, which offers important job preparation skills to the teens of Middletown. Teens volunteer at the library all year long, with the majority of the hours in the summer. During the brainstorming process, the concept transformed from volunteers assisting in all Youth and Family Learning Summer Learning Programs to two interns for a specific program, GWC.

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Summer Learning @ Octavia Fellin Public Library

The Octavia Fellin Public Library (OFPL) in Gallup, NM used the funds from the Summer Learning Resource Grant to purchase equipment to begin a Youth Media Lab where tweens and teens would have access to film and audio equipment as well as editing software. At the end of May OFPL was approached by the Miss Navajo Council, Inc. seeking help for creating a multimedia project to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of 1868, which allowed the Navajo Tribe to return to their ancestral homelands after being deported to the Bosque Redondo Reservation. We partnered with the organization utilizing our new equipment and community members to create an intergenerational reading of the Treaty accessible to a modern audience.

The resulting project involved 14 community participants (youth and adult) from the community, and historical photographs from the Library of Congress and National Archives. It was shown at 3 commemoration events in Flagstaff, Arizona; Farmington, New Mexico; and Gallup, New Mexico. OFPL also hosted an exhibit detailing the importance of the treaty and its lasting impacts.

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