STEAM Storytime: Gravity!

Image credit: Gravity by Jason Chin (Roaring Brook Press, 2014)

This is the final recap of STEAM Storytime’s voyage into outer space, which happened back in March. On week 4 of the month-long series we talked about gravity. Basically, I dropped a bunch of things, shared one of my absolute favorite nonfiction picture book, and we made a mess with paint. Read on!Note: Rather than sing, I start STEAM Storytime with a discussion. My intention is to sort of mimic the scientific method with the program. We start by observing, and then I come up with a question and ask the kids for their hypotheses before we experiment. Before the kids leave, I ask them to report what they’ve learned. That’s the goal anyway. Full disclosure: I’ve yet to achieve this goal. Still, I find it’s helpful to have a concept to frame my storytime practice.

Discussion: What falls down?

I didn’t realize how abstract this question would be for some of the younger kids. Sure, they can label things by associations: cats and dogs and pigs and mice are animals. But to label by an action? That’s harder stuff, I suppose. Of course, their answers weren’t wrong: paper, people, tree, and water all fall down in some way. Maybe the question wasn’t a good place to start. Whatever the case, I’m glad I pulled out my bubble gun after so we could pop our confusions away and move onto the fun!

Book: I Fall Down by Vicki Cobb, illus. Julia Gorton

i fall down
Image credit: Vicki Cobb (HarperCollins, 2004)

If you don’t know Vicki Cobb’s “Science Play” series, get thee to the stacks stat! She creates these really great introductions to science concepts that include experiments in the body text. Since this one was a bit long and I didn’t have all the supplies listed in the experiments, I only read a portion of it. I brought out a bunch of objects to demonstrate the fact that everything falls down. Then we did a speed test of a penny vs. a ring of keys—kids were surprised that they fell at the same rate. I ended my reading at the part where the text says that on the moon, even feathers fall at the same rate because there is no air.

Song: “Zoom, Zoom, Zoom”

Book: Gravity by Jason Chin

Image credit: Jason Chin (Roaring Brook Press, 2014)

LOVE. THIS. BOOK. And I’d actually never read it in a storytime before. It worked perfectly to rehash the theme and the kids picked up on the repetition of “Gravity makes objects fall to earth.” We delved into the pictures a little bit, and kids noticed that the book was within the book. But I don’t think they found that as interesting as I did.

Activity: Gravity Paintings

Image source: Alec Chunn (me!)

source: Adventures of a Children’s Librarian

This was one of my favorite activities because it was so open-ended that I didn’t have to do much side-coaching or anything. Instead, I got to ask questions (Does all the paint drip at the same speed? What happens when the colors mix?) and watch the kids go to town making a (delightful) mess. It was nice to have a takeaway to end our thematic exploration, even if some of the parents wanted more structured activities. I’d say I did a pretty good job this month covering the S, E, A and M of space (not so great with the T).

Note: my picture doesn’t really do it justice so definitely check out the source link for some pretty cool photos.

How It Went: To be totally honest, I’m writing this so long after it happened that I don’t really have any anecdotes to share… I think it went very well, especially because this was one of my clearest “educational” storytimes. I had a clear concept to teach (“gravity makes objects fall to earth”) and that concept was built into everything we did. The concept was also demonstrated in many different ways. Most participants left with a general understanding of the word gravity—a success, to be sure! I would do this program again.

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