Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Awesome Easy Elementary Outreach

I'm sometimes asked how I have time to blog about my programming. The way I see it, though, is different:
I have to blog about my programming.

1. I'm a blogger by my very nature. From ages 11 to 23, I wrote in a physical journal every single day. They travel with me as I move because as much as I wouldn't want anyone to feel anything about stuff that happened in the past (I even hate reading them), I just can't bear to throw them out. As soon as I (unceremoniously) stopped, I started writing at a Live Journal address. Looking back, I actually talked about work on it a lot. (But don't you look, reader, because I'm sure it's embarrassing or something. I just posted the link so you believed me).

2. I'm self-reflective about my programming anyway, and it just makes sense to write it down. Without writing it down, my reflection just goes in circles in my head until it spirals. "What could I do better next time?" quickly becomes "Why was I so dumb to think that would work?"; "I need to find something more cognitively appropriate for those kids." quickly becomes "I just can't work with that age group!" I mean, it gets negative and self-defeating, even if I talk about it. There's something in the flow from brain to keyboard that lets me not worry anymore. Maybe it's the act of knowing my thoughts are saved for later. It actually might be that forgoing blogging as a time saver in the past few months added to my stress level. That would make sense.

3. Blogging, in fact, saves time. I've talked before about my belief in writing scripts and how it's worked for me (here, here, and here). Take yesterday, for example: I found myself heading out to do outreach at an elementary school, and all I did was print out pictures!

...Okay, not exactly. But it was WAY easier than it might have been otherwise.

Before I got to La Crosse, the team here had been working on a "school-age menu", a list of programs that schools could choose from that we would deliver in person. This was put on the back-burner for other efforts, such as the Library Stars program.

At a recent Library Stars field trip, I noticed an entire class of second graders were obsessed with the crypto-zoology section in nonfiction. Knowing it was all scripted on my blog, I made the connection in my head to a successful program I did at the library last year. A few days later I decided to pounce on it, emailing my second grade contact at that school to see if they would like me to come and run my Monsterology program. She had just been lamenting the addition of state-wide pacing guides, to the futility of which I am no stranger, so I gave her a few ideas: I could come and do it during a lesson time, and make sure to tie in some standards, or I could come during lunchtime and talk while the kids were eating. Another idea I just had right now would be to offer it as an "off site" after-school program.

She decided to have me in during lunch, and to tie it to behavior: only the 12 best-behaved kids could attend. who had interest. The catch was that if a kid was interested, he/she would have to agree to forfeit their recess to hear me talk.

Do you know how many kids were so interested they would give up recess?
Holy crap.

It was super easy: the day before, I dragged Brooke down to the basement and we looked at all our supplies, thinking of activities (I needed to change them, since I would have extra time). We brought back up with us the robot claws, because of course we did, and we thought up an activity where kids would have to pretend to be Bigfoot on a normal day, picking up dishes and stuffed animals. We also got some felt and other things from our craft closet so they could make their own monsters. The morning of, all we had to do was  print off the pictures linked and the script posted for last year's program, pick some books* and write the names of the books on pieces of paper for the kids to reserve by writing down their names, and head out.

Later that week I got an e-mail from the teacher telling me how awesome we were and to please come back for 12 more kids. Same activities, same facts, I just grabbed some more books* and left out (without Brooke this time, because she had baby story times to rock).

We're scheming now to return to the menu idea, but just offer one type of program at each grade level: "Here's our pre-made program we can do in our sleep this year. Take it or leave it."

 It was literally so easy to do this program because I had already done AND had everything written out. Why re-invent the wheel? Make a script and leave it for later!

If you'd like to try out blogging your program, you're welcome to guest post for me. (Ms. Julia did, and now she describes lots of awesome programming on her blog, Laughter and Literacy! Add that to your Google Reader BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!!) Send me an e-mail at brycedontplay at gmail dot com and we can get you started.

*For those of you interested in that sort of thing, some of the most-reserved kind-of-related books were: Larf, The Zombie Chasers, Tracking Bigfoot, The Fairy Ring, Bigfoot Boy: Into the Woods, Wonkenstein, and of course, Monsterology.

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