Archive | August 2015

MakerSpace Activity: Coconut and Date Balls

The whole library staff got our dates wrong and thought Fathers’ Day was last weekend instead of this weekend, so we were a bit early with this activity. We got the kids to make some coconut and date balls, then wrap them up for dad with a home made gift tag. The recipe has only two ingredients – pitted dates and desicated coconut. We used one bag of coconut and three bags of dates which was enough for about 25 kids. We had a couple of different brands of dates; the cheaper supermarket home brand ones were a bit too dry and hard to process. We put dates and coconut at a ratio of approximately 2:1 in some food processors that the library staff brought from home and whizzed them up until well combined. We then parcelled out about a quarter cup to each student who shaped it into balls, then rolled the balls in extra coconut.

coconut3 coconut2 coconut

Book Week Costume Parade

We had a “dress up as your favourite book character” day for Book Week yesterday. Although the definition of book character was stretched a bit and there were a lot of Elsas and Annas from Frozen, it was a fun day and most of the students and a lot of staff got involved.

hunter as charlotte

Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web



our office staff as the three witches from Macbeth

My Granny's a gangster

Gangsta Granny

Mario and Luigi

Mario and Luigi


our Junior School winners

library staff

our library staff as the Thompson Twins and Harry Potter

Dylan Brennan

our Senior School winner – the Mad Hatter

Billie B. Brown

Billie B. Brown


Book Week Activity: Pirate Cave

We’re running an activity each morning tea and lunch time this week where we’ve set up a pirate cave which students have to explore with a torch and find the treasure. It’s a fairly loose connection to the “light up our world” theme but the kids are having a lot of fun.

We completely blacked out the windows with cardboard and borrowed two tunnels from our Kindy – one leading in to the room and one leading out. From the ceiling we hung tinsel, crepe streamers and inflatable insects so that students would brush against them in the dark. It’s quite effective and the kids’ imaginations provide most of the scares.

Using the electronic whiteboard in the room, students watch a short video message from the ghost of “Pirate Bob”, then crawl in to the room with one small torch. We have a maximum of three students at a time for safety – with the lights off it’s completely black in there. They then have to find three gold coins (yellow counters) – one in the pit of spiders (a box we’ve filled with rubber spiders, with a large inflatable spider sitting on top); one in the quicksand (a container filled with sand with two rubber washing-up gloves poking out of it which gives kids a fright when they touch them); and one in Pirate Bob’s bones (a Halloween skeleton we downlit with a red spotlight). Once they’ve collected their three coins they have to find the exit (another tunnel) and crawl out. They can then exchange their coins for a prize – freddos, a lollipop, stickers etc.

Day One was today and we had a big line up wanting to get in. A lot of kids got turned away and will have to come back another day this week.

Cave 1

MakerSpace Activity: Coasters for Fathers’ Day

It’s hard to think of something to give to dads for Fathers’ Day – mums are much easier. I found this activity when I did a Google search for Fathers’ Day craft and thought it would be a fun, cheap and easy thing to do. I bought a pack of six cork tiles from Bunnings for $13.50 and cut each into 9 squares, about 10cm in size. This gave us 54 coasters and all but one was used on the day, so it was a popular activity. I borrowed some acrylic paint and brushes from our art department and used some masking tape, cups and paper plates from our MakerSpace trolley.

Coasters 1

some examples of coasters the students made

Our usual MakerSpace was being used so I spread newspaper over the tables in the main library area. Students could either paint the whole coaster or use masking tape to create a design which then made a lovely effect when the tape was peeled off. We left them to dry over night.

Coasters 2 Coasters 3

Book of the Year Winners Announced

The Children’s Book Council of Australia have just announced the winners of the Book of the Year Awards. I was thrilled to see that My Two Blankets won Picture Book of the Year. Congratulations to Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood. I remember reading it last year when it first came out and immediately thinking that this would be the winner in the awards. Our Year 8 classes are studying picture books in English and I’ve done a lesson with each class on this book. There’s just so much to analyse in terms of symbolism, language, structure and use of colour. The students often think that picture books, being primarily for young children, must be simplistic, and it’s great to open their eyes to how much richness can be mined from a book that’s beautifully written, flawlessly illustrated and carefully designed. Even something as often overlooked as the endpapers takes on meaning in this book.

Virtual and Augmented Reality at the Science Fair

The library staff set up a stall at our Junior School’s Science Fair yesterday. We had a reading corner with bean bags and a few high-interest science books but the main attraction was our “Augmented Reality Alley”. We borrowed two of the Oculus Rift headsets from the IT department and set them up on laptops to run a virtual reality program called Ocean Rift, which took the kids underwater to spot sharks, whales and dolphins. It was a huge hit, with kids, parents and staff lining up to have a go. We also had a number of iPads which we’d loaded some augmented reality apps on. We printed out the trigger images and kids scanned the images to make the augmented reality layer appear. Chelsea Wright’s article in Connections issue 94, 2015, gave some great suggestions for AR apps to try. The kids loved the Guinness World Record apps and Animal 4D. These made animals come to life, sharks and dinosaurs jump out of the pages and the solar system swirl before them. The teachers were impressed by Elements 4D and Anatomy 4D, which allowed students to examine the human heart and explore the chemical elements. Even the principal came over to have a look and we took her through all the apps and she left very impressed.

augmented reality augmented reality 2

Book Week Activity: Glow Doodle

Of all the activities we’ve been doing in the lead up to Book Week, Glow Doodle has been the most popular. Once my Year 4 boys stop giggling over the name, they race to line up for it. I’ve used it with Year 3 to 7 and they’ve all enjoyed it. Glow Doodle is from MIT and allows students to create images with light.

We set up a “photo booth” in the library workroom in the bay at the far end of the compactus. It was quite a dark area anyway, having no windows and being behind another large compactus, but we lined the walls with rolls of black paper to stop reflected light off the white paint and, when we turn off the over head lights, it’s very dark indeed.

To use Glow Doodle you need a laptop with a webcam and a small light source. We started off using a penlight but found that an LED worked much better. The narrower the beam of light, the clearer the image you can produce. We also gave students some coloured cellophane to put over the lights to change the colour.

To create a Glow Doodle go to , stand in front of the web cam with your light and click “try it now”. You can experiment with your pictures and then click either “clear” or “upload”, depending on how they turn out. We’ve printed out the students’ creations and have created a wall of Glow Doodles in our library.

glowdoodle 1 glowdoodle 2 glowdoodle 3 glowdoodle 4

MakerSpace Activity: Beaded Bracelets

This was a popular activity, with about thirty students turning up. I was a bit worried that it was very girl-centric but we did get a few boys turning up to make gifts for their mums.

I bought a whole lot of cheap beads from Modern Teaching Aids (about a thousand for $10 depending on the type of bead) and we got 1000 rings of memory wire for $20 on ebay. We pre-cut the wire and kinked one end to stop the beads falling off. The kids then started threading. There were some lovely creations from kids who had a good eye for colour and pattern, and a few that were a random mish-mash. We kinked the other end when they were done and the kids acted as great ambassadors for the MakerSpace as they walked around the school showing off their bracelets.

bracelets 3 braceletsbracelets 2


I was examining my borrowing stats from Semester 1 and was surprised by how many magazines were appearing in the top 100. I decided to purchase some more titles and consulted with students on what they wanted. The boys wanted surfing and gaming magazines and the girls wanted Dolly (not allowed at our school) and a wide range of other fashion magazines.

Our current magazines are Empire, Popular Science, Inside Sport, Girlfriend, Top Gear and D-Mag for the younger kids. Girlfriend attracts a bit of criticism from some staff at times but it’s hard to find a decent magazine for teenage girls that they actually want to read. We tried Indigo magazine a couple of years ago but the kids weren’t interested in it.

I’ve now added Rolling Stone, Frankie, Marie Claire, Make (for our new MakerSpace), Hyper, Game Informer, How it Works and Tracks. I’ll see how they go and reassess next year when I do my budget which ones we continue with.

Designing a Tree-house

I’m reading Book of the Year nominee, A House of Her Own to the Preps to Year 2s this of her own

The students are having a lot of fun designing their own fantasy tree-house. So far we’ve had chocolate-milk water slides and lollipop surveillance cameras, secret entrances and hidden rooms, ice-cream ponds and roller coasters. It took a bit of prompting to move them beyond thinking TV, bed or chair into really letting their imaginations go wild but now they’re getting excited about sharing their creations with their neighbours.

treehouse  treehouse 3