Full STEAM Ahead! An Interview with Heather

Can you imagine being on the job and then getting a 1 workday notice that you will be presenting a whole series of science programs?

Well that is what Heather, a relatively new local librarian, embraced and conquered. A part of her job is to fill-in to present programs on a short notice. She was overwhelmed at first but she knew it would be a great experience. It shows that she is open to change and flexible when under pressure. These are all qualities that interviewers want to hear about.

Her program was called, “Solstice Science” where she presented to school-aged children over Winter Break. She taught them vocabulary words (like solstice and equinox) and concepts about the rotation of the Earth, the role of the sun, and why we have seasons.

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Source: NASA

Want to see her in the news? Check out this newspaper article written about her program.


“Where did you start?”

With a bit of advice from my supervisor, I started with the description for the program that was already published on the fliers. My supervisor said bare bones was fine but I took it as a challenge and did everything in the description.

I was nervous because I have never presented in front of school-age children in this type of setting before.

First, I focused on the science that I know I understand already. To do this, I reflected back on my elementary school days and focused on what I liked about science class. I remember the fun activities, experiments, and creating things that moved or blew up. Those are the types of activities I wanted to create for these kids.

Then I focused on what age group I’m working with and what they have probably learned about already. Even if you want to challenge them, keeping it simple is key. Also, there needs to be a lot of visuals and movement so that you can keep their attention for the full hour.

After getting my bearings, I immediately browsed Pinterest for program ideas. kid part of the NASA website was very helpful too. They have full lesson plans that I pulled from; particularly about the seasons.

“How was your program organized?”

A Book: I started off with the story of Raven by Gerald McDermott.


It was about the old days and answered the question, “Why does sunlight disappear?” It’s about how the sun appeared after a long period of darkness – much like how the days get longer after the Winter Solstice. It is also a book with local roots and simple explanations through the telling of a story. This was a great segue into how people celebrate solstice.

Presentation: Next, I went through a PowerPoint that included images of Stonehenge and other man-made monuments to the movement of the sun in the sky. I explained how it marked the sun’s position during a time when we didn’t have clocks to tell the time of day. How could you tell when lunchtime was?

Movement Activity: After the presentation, I showed them actual science with a globe and flashlight. This was meant to show how the tilt of the Earth as it goes around the sun plays into why we have seasons. This is also where I incorporated vocabulary and a movement activity to help solidify the concepts presented. I had all the kids create a circle as we passed the globe around one child who was the sun. I threw in a curve ball and designated one child to be the north star to ensure that the tilt of the Earth was consistent.

Video: Then to reinforce the science, I showed a Youtube video. This helps explain the science behind the concepts in a way that may be more informative than what I can explain.

Game: For the ending, I closed off with a true or false game. Everyone got a paddle that had “true” on one side and “false” on the other. I had 3 categories of questions; about Raven, culture/celebration, and science. On the side, I had a felt board that had felt pieces I created just for this activity. I had each child come up and take a piece off the board and I would read it. These questions were based on the book I read or just on their base knowledge. Then the children can guess true or false in a low pressure environment. This was a big hit with the parents!

Before the program was over, I had 3 different activities for them to explore the concepts we just talked about.

  1. The first one was a static lamp aimed to a thermometer. This was meant to show them how direct sunlight we have in the summer months results in higher temperatures. I turned it on at the beginning of the activities and then the children read the temperature at the beginning, wrote it down, and then read it before they go to see how hot it got.
  2. The next activity was a sun dial made with a paper plate and a straw. This is a take-home activity where they check where the shadow of the straw moved throughout the day in the sun.
  3. The last craft was a diagram with 4 Earths. You put the sun in middle and the position of the Earth represent the seasons.

“How did it all go?”

I had a tremendous response from parents who were very thankful for the presentation. I also got many clarifying questions from them, as they had never realized why exactly we have seasons!

However, there are always ways to improve.

Technical issues:

There was 1 presentations (my first one!) where the audio for the video didn’t work. For the absence of audio, I had to dub the video from memory.

Focus problems:

Some groups I had just couldn’t sit still long enough for the video. For them, I just turned it off and moved on with a more interactive activity.

Potential change:

If I were to make some changes, I wouldn’t have shared the video and I would have changed one of the ending crafts. It was hard to understand the craft with the 4 earths but I didn’t have time to get supplies to change it. It would have been a lot more understandable with a 3D model instead.


“Do you have any advice for us?”

1. Learn from others: If you are interested in presenting programs, it is the most beneficial to watch others present. Everyone has their own style but getting ideas of things that work for them, gives you ideas for what can work for you.

2. Look Around: Stay up to date with trending concepts and program types. It’s never too late to compile information for programs that you may want to present someday.

Here’s a list of some blogs I follow for inspiration and ideas:

              Jbrary – an amazing amount of storytime songs

              Abby the Librarian

              Library Underground

              Storytime Katie

              ALA Think Tank Facebook Group – where people ask for advice and post jobs

3. Network. Getting advice from other librarians is huge in this profession. Their experience is invaluable and librarians are very open to sharing. Just ask!

4. Know yourself: Reflect from what you did and enjoy when you were in school. If you loved exploding experiments, find a low-key exploding experiment you can do indoors yourself. When you are excited, the kids are excited.


Speaking of exploding, Heather is currently really excited about presenting elephant toothpaste for preschoolers with water, hydrogen peroxide, soap, and yeast next.

Source: questacon.edu.au



Thank you for reading and thank you, Heather, for sharing your series!



This blog post was written by Melody Leung. She is a 1st year residential student interested in youth services. She loves public libraries and performing storytimes for children every chance she can get. Her studies include multicultural resources, entrepreneurial support, and outreach. On her spare time, she enjoys doing wushu (Chinese martial art), watching sit coms, and cooking.




In the Field: Meet Justin Hoenke

Welcome to “In the Field”, a new blog series here on the iYouth Blog. I’m Rebecca Z Dunn, a MLIS student here at the University of Washington iSchool, and I will be interviewing successful, innovative youth services professionals from all across the country. So hold onto your hats, and get ready to be inspired by amazing individuals doing amazing things for children and teens in the library-sphere.

Today, I’m excited to introduce Justin Hoenke, Teen Librarian extraordinaire from Chattanooga Public Library!


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you work, and what you do there?

I am a 33-year-old human being, male, who is married to Haley Hoenke and with her I have two boys named Finn and Aero. We live in Chattanooga, TN in a wonderful neighborhood named Highland Park and I work as the Teen Librarian for The 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library. My job is to work with tweens and teens ages 8-18 and share awesome things with them. Those awesome things include books, movies, music, 3D printing, technology, video games, and just about anything else that comes up in conversation. I really like music, Nintendo video games, and going on adventures with my family.

What project or program have you recently completed/are currently working on at work that you’re proud of?

I really loved our DEV DEV: summer of code program that we ran for four weeks in July.  Read more about the program here.  The basic gist of the program is simple: we brought 50 teens ages 12-18 into the library and taught them about HTML, CSS, Python, and Robotics for four week.  The program was a partnership between the Chattanooga Public Library, Engage 3D, AIGA Chattanooga, and the Benwood Foundation.  Not only did it give a lot of teens an opportunity to learn about technology but it was also a very community driven collaboration.

When did you realize you wanted to work in libraries? And specifically with youth?

I totally fell into libraries and working with teens. My mother-in-law is an amazing librarian.  One day she told me “you know, you’d be great at this job” so I went back to school and got my masters degree in library science.  While I was doing that, I got an internship and they asked me “do you want to work with the teens?” and I said “sure, why not?!?!”.  And now here I am 5 years later.  What it all boils down to is this: I like helping people and I like doing things that are fun and exciting.

Looking back, what do you wish you’d learned in library school that you could utilize in your work today?

Less time in the classroom, more time “in the trenches.”  Some of the best things I’ve ever learned about libraries has come from being out with the public.  You learn to think in the moment, make quick changes, and make sure your community leaves the library with a smile on their face.

What advice do you have for library school students looking to… Well… Do what you do?!

Be honest, be genuine, be enthusiastic, and keep an open heart.  Libraries can be a tricky career.  The moment you think you have everything under control is the moment where everything changes.  Always be open to that change.

Favorite part of being a youth services librarian?

Sending a kid, tween, or teen away from the library with a smile on their face.  I like it when they run out of the building super exciting about something they discovered.  I like it when they lose all control of their emotions and start talking about the library in such a loud and enthusiastic voice.

How can we keep up with what you’re up to?

I tweet about the things I encounter in life @justinlibrarian.

I write about library stuff that I’m involved in at justinthelibrarian.com

I write about bigger library ideas at http://tametheweb.com/category/ttw-contributor-justin-hoenke

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Rebecca Zarazan Dunn is a first-year MLIS student at the University of Washington and a Youth Services Library Assistant at the Lawrence Public Library. She blogs regularly about children’s books and adventures in the library, among other things, at Sturdy for Common Things. You can follow her on twitter at @rebeccazdunn