21 April 2015

Busting school holiday boredom with fun that's educational too (don't tell the kids!)

It's the cry all caregivers dread from children during the school holidays:

"I'm booooored!"

But Auckland Libraries helps banish the boredom with an assortment of events and activities every school holidays at all branches across the city. And they aren't just reading - these children are managing mischief too.

Movies made by kids during Wellsford War Memorial Library's school holiday programme. 

Libraries Adviser Youth Service Development Wendy Dreadon says school holiday programmes aren't just about giving kids something to occupy them, but creating rich experiences for all library users, no matter their age.

"We want to surprise and delight our customers with our school holiday programmes. We want parents, guardians, caregivers, to come in and share their child’s experience, and see that libraries continue to offer valuable services for them. We also want customers that come in at the same time they are not participating, to stop and take a second look at what else their library offers, in case they didn't know."

In 2014 Auckland Libraries introduced "meaningful play" as the driver for children's activities. Wendy describes meaningful play as "imaginative, exploratory and expressive. It provides multiple pathways for literacy and learning."

Lighting up Christmas in Central City Library

One of the innovative and fun activities this philosophy has resulted in so far is Central City Library's LED light-up Christmas cards, made using simple parts like copper tape, a battery and an LED light.

Team Leader Learning Services Penny Dugmore said it was a fun and novel activity for the participants that also offered a valuable insight into how to make a basic circuit, with the potential to include a switch arrangement to turn the light on or off.

"While cards were being made, we were able to have conversations about how the circuit is working or not working, what electricity is about and what do batteries do" Penny says.

Although this activity was less successful than hoped due to equipment failures, Penny says it taught staff good lessons.

"This is definitely a fun activity that customers of all ages enjoyed. We learned on the spot with them; the copper tape/LED/battery combo didn’t work quite as well as intended as the copper tape was very sticky and tended to stick to places where it was unwanted! Nonetheless, children managed to make some unique creations including a Christmas tree and a Rudolph.

"We spoke to some customers and they are keen for more activities like these, but we learned our customers would enjoy it more if we offer it as a proper workshop, rather than a 'walk up' activity," Penny says.

Showtime at Wellsford War Memorial Library

Another example of meaningful play in action took place at Wellsford War Memorial Library, where staff recently offered a month of Movie Making afternoons using iMovie and Stop Motion apps on library provided iPads.

Library Assistant Natasha Hallam said the activity provided an opportunity for children of all ages to come to the library, have fun and create together.  Older children worked in groups to create and draw sets, plan storyboards, act in and edit their creations, while youngsters used stuffed animal collections or tried out the Lego Movie app, making movies of spectacular crashes involving the Lego vehicles they built.

Natasha says the children mostly taught themselves all they needed to know on the spot and library staff offered guidance where necessary.

"We were impressed at the amazing creations they came up with from SPY Movies, Dinosaur Stop Motion Movies, Bollywood dramas and Lego Action movies. Our staff were also learning and having fun alongside them. It was fantastic to see the children working together in groups (sometimes with their parents) and watch the end product of their combined efforts. The finale was a spectacular screening on the big screen, complete with popcorn."

Movie Making Month was such a success with the customers, it inspired staff to continue creating with the iPads, this time turning to music.

"We invited children to use the Garageband and WI Orchestra apps and this attracted a different crowd keen to make their own music. The children mostly worked individually, which meant headphones for each participant a must, and mixed different instruments and various fun vocal effects to create their masterpieces, which they enthusiastically and loudly shared with their friends"

While school holiday programmes run regionwide three times a year in addition to the summer holiday reading programme Dare to Explore, Wendy says all content is developed and delivered by local libraries who know their communities best.

“Having a regionwide theme that has been left open to interpretation provides a wonderful variety of experiences for families in Auckland. The programmes are always evolving to reflect the changing needs of our customers,” she says.

The first school holidays of 2015 have just wrapped up and embraced a theme of Carnival Masquerade. The July programme will focus on Matariki and September's holiday programme will be inspired by digital maker play. What would you like to see on offer at your library?

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