As a librarian, I write a lot of grants. The problem with grants is that often I actually get them. And then I have to do all the work I proposed doing. This year, I received a grant for the library’s book clubs. We run book clubs for 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders, as well as Jr. High and Teens. In this year’s grant, I proposed doing some STEM activities with the summer book clubs. So, along with reading and discussing a book each month, we had science experiments, art and writing projects, and cooking. Here’s something to know before you consider doing this – some books lend themselves to science projects and some do not.
Flunked by Jen Calonita is a great book, which we used with the 4th grade book club. But until someone writes a book on Fairy Tale Science, it can be a little hard to come up with STEM activities to go with it. We did do invisible ink, which might have been a little bit of a stretch. But, really what’s a fairy tale land without secret messages?
My favorite book and STEM book club this summer was The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston, which we read with the Jr. High students. The Story of Owen takes place in modern day Canada, but there are dragons. And they are not friendly, wise dragons, with people as dragon riders. They are mean, hungry, carbon loving dragons. So, along with eating the occasional person, they love to attack anything that produces carbon, from cars to oil refineries. The chapter on learning dragon avoiding maneuvers in driver’s ed is one of my favorite parts. The book also has a lot of environmental themes, so it lends itself to alternative energy science projects.
As part of our book clubs then, we made water wheels.
We got the idea from DK’s Maker Lab: 28 Super Cool Projects by the Smithsonian. It’s a great reference for any library with a Maker Space or wanting to add a little Science to other library programs.
For a craft we made dragon eggs, of course. To make the eggs we used plastic Easter Eggs. We decorated them with strands of hot glue. Once the glue dried, they were spray painted with a dark color; mostly black, although some of the kids chose to use red or purple. When the spray paint dried, we dabbed a little silver spray paint gently over the painted egg using a paper towel. This gave it a mottled aged look.
Finally, we needed a cooking project; something Canadian. We opted against poutine- french fries slathered in gravy and cheese curds and went for Nanaimo bars. I first had Nanaimo bars in graduate school, because one of my fellow graduate students was from Alberta and it was her go-to-dish for potlucks. I hadn’t had them since, but these bars with a chocolatey nuttey crunchy layer, a custard layer, and melted chocolate on top, were as good as I remember. Here’s a recipe.
I have to say, despite how much work each of these book clubs were – they were so much fun. We read a lot of great books, made a lot of cool treats, and did some fun hands-on science.