Makers Series 2 Session 4 – Simple Motors

For our last session of Winter Makers we built simple, electro-magnetic motors. Since we explored batteries and how they work in our last series with the Lemon Battery Project, it seemed like a great next step for the kids to take.


Our motors were a essentially built from these instructions from Make Magazine (I love those guys!) but with a few small changes. Rather than masking tape, we used electrical tape. I’ve been trying to instill some basic generalities when dealing with electrical things, even if they don’t matter for a particular project. For example, when we made Brush Bots, you don’t really have to connect black to black and red to red, but we did so that they got into the habit. We’ve used electrical tape for our projects in the past, so we went with that this time. Also we used D batteries instead of AA, easier for little hands to wrap the wire around bigger batteries. And finally, instead of trying to bend paperclips, we used large safety pins, when taped to the battery openable side down, the small loops at the top make a great base for the wire to rest in.


per child you will need:

1 magnet

1 battery (D cell)

8 inch piece of electrical tape

Copper wire


2 safety pins

Wrap the wire several times around the battery. It helps to have some three foot lengths pre-cut for the kids. Carefully slip the coil off the battery and wrap the tails around it to hold it together. The tails should extend out about an inch and should be directly across from one another so that they balance well. Sand one tail lightly all the way around, then sand the other tail just on the top side, this creates the on/off that makes the coil spin.

Tape the safety pins to either side of the battery, openable ends down, using the electrical tape. Suspend the coil on the pins by threading the tails through the holes in the safety pins.

Finally, place the magnet on the center of the battery, just under the coil, and give the coil a spin. Test different spots on the battery for the magnet, and different angles for the coil, to see what works best. If it’s all balanced correctly, it should spin for a good while before slowing down.

A word of caution, once assembled, these things can get hot so it’s worth it to tape the battery to the table to help avoid burned finger tips. It’s hard to get the coil of wire perfectly balanced so it doesn’t spin indefinitely, but it will go for a ways and you can see it trying to keep going once it looses steam, which is pretty cool in itself. It’s a great opportunity to explain why the motor works and the force of magnetic fields.


How it went: This was an Ok project. I’ll do it again, but it would be better with maybe a slightly more experienced group. These guys didn’t quite have the hand eye coordination to pull off wrapping the wire, removing it and securing it without help. I had them work in pairs to get this accomplished, but some needed several steps done for them.


Makers Series 2 Session 3

Since Friday is Valentine’s Day, and since I know from experience that kids often panic/worry or just plain forget about a card for mom and dad, I thought we’d take the opportunity to make very special light up cards using Bare Conductive’s conductive paint! We ordered the paint and coin cell batteries from Amazon (they were cheaper on Sparkfun but sold out) and I picked up the remaining supplies locally.

ImageWhat you need:

Template (and instructions) which can be found here

Coin cell batteries (2 per student)

LED lights (1 per yellow robot card, 2 per blue card)

Conductive paint

Paintbrushes (these need to be thin!)




Plastic lids

How it Went:

The instructions linked above were detailed and well written, so I won’t repeat them here but I will add a few things. First, cover the tables. The paint got smeared on the tables and it was a pain to wipe up, so next time I’ll cover the tables with butcher paper before we get started.

Second, this requires some pretty good fine motor skills. My kids ranged from 2-6th grade. Some of the 2nd graders were able to paint the lines without making a huge mess, some of the 2-4th graders were not. You’ll want to help those who are having a hard time and make sure they keep washing their hands and the paint brush as they work if they are prone to being messy.

Third, the blue robot is way harder than the yellow. It doesn’t look that much harder but it was a much bigger challange, even for the older kids. The trick is making sure that both lights are pointing the same direction, which is hard if you have to trim the ends of the LED’s. The yellow on is a better first timer projects and next time I’ll make double copies of the yellow so that each kid can still do two cards, just not the harder blue card.

Finally, I’ll order more red LED’s in the future. This time around I was working from a mixed batch from previous projects. The reds light up much brighter and the kids all wanted only red, but we didn’t have enough to give everyone red for all three lights. The green, in particular, was disappointing brightness-wise.

Repeat or Don’t Repeat

This is definitely a project to repeat, but with the caveat of doing it with a smaller, older group than I had today. I think this would be a better project for a 6:1 kid to adult ratio instead of the 12:1 I had today.

Storytime – Space

Space! Planets! Stars! Astronauts!

I took one of our Preschool Book Boxes to a new school today and when I delivered it I also led a story time in both the Preschool and the Toddler rooms with the theme of Space!

I started with the Preschoolers, since they were already sitting quietly when I got there I didn’t do my “if you’re ready for a story take a seat” opening but launched right into introducing Daisy the Elephant and singing the Wibbily Wobbly song.

Book 1 – Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes

Song 1 –  We’re Flying to the Moon (Farmer in the Dell)

We’re flying to the moon
We’re flying to the moon.
Blast off, away we go
We’re flying to the moon.
We’re going in a spacecraft
We’re walking out in space
We’re landing on the moon
We’re collecting moon rocks
We’re flying back to Earth
We’re landing on the Earth

Book 2 – Space Case by Edward Marshall

Song 2/Activity – What Will We See in Outer Space? (Mulberry Bush) For song/activity this I cut out paper stars, rockets and moons, added magnets to the back and let the kids decorate my magnet board with the shape they had when we got to that part of the song.

What Will We See In Outer Space, In Outer Space, In outer Space

What will we see in outer space, Away up in the sky?

We’ll see some tiny Twinkling Stars, Twinkling Stars, Twinklings Stars

We’ll see some tiny twinkling stars away up in the sky

            We’ll see the moon with a smiling face

            We’ll see a rocket flying by

Book 3 – Show outer space photos, then I want to be an Astronaut by Byron Barton

Song 3 – If you’re going to the moon (If you’re happy and you know it)

If you’re going to the moon, wear your boots (stomp, stomp)
If you’re going to the moon, wear your boots (stomp, stomp)
If you’re going to the moon, this is what you have to do
If you’re going to the moon, wear your boots (stomp, stomp)

…wear your gloves (clap, clap)
…wear your helmet (pat, pat)

For the Toddler Room we slowed things down a little, the group was very, very young so I only read one book.

Song 1 – If you’re going to the moon (If you’re happy and you know it)

If you’re going to the moon, wear your boots (stomp, stomp)
If you’re going to the moon, wear your boots (stomp, stomp)
If you’re going to the moon, this is what you have to do
If you’re going to the moon, wear your boots (stomp, stomp)

…wear your gloves (clap, clap)
…wear your helmet (pat, pat)

Showed aerial photos of the earth to them but did not read text.

Song 2 – Five little Martians

Five little Martians went out to play, over the planets and far away

Mother martian said come back come back, but only four came flying back.

Book  – I want to be an Astronaut by Byron Barton

Song 3 – Twinkle Twinkle

How it Went:

This was a great story time in terms of songs, but I think I’d replace some of the books next time. Byron Barton is a classic but Kitten’s First Full Moon, while great, wasn’t super spacy, and could have been replaced. Although the kids loved it!

Makers Series 2 Session 2 – The Marshmallow Battle

Apparently, the pull of marshmallows is so strong that it can keep even the most die-hard ski kids off the slopes on a half day, because even with a foot of new snow and a short school day, I had a full house for our epic marshmallow battle. This was a serious hit with the Makers and they are already asking for round two, and bonus, it’s probably one of the cheapest maker activities I’ve done at the library.

photo 3


Large Marshmallows (buy more than you think you’ll need, we used two full bags for 14 kids)

Skewers (figure 8-10 per kid)

Mini marshmallows (these are for ammunition, so one bag should do)

Plastic spoons

Masking tape

Rubber bands (the thin kind that come wrapped around newspapers)

I got the basic instructions here but this being Makers, I wanted the kids to explore possibilities on their own. We talked about tension and force and I modeled the basic set up then let them go with building. Once everyone had a catapult built we lined them up on one side of the room and the competition began.

First we tested for distance, three rounds of one shot per person to see who could shoot the furthest. They needed a little time between rounds to adjust and repair their systems and a few collapsed so I encouraged them to join up with another person to keep the competition going.

Secondly we tested for accuracy, with the kids choosing between trying to aim for a friends mouth or aiming for a rectangle on the floor, this was particularly hilarious and almost no one made the target, but it was a lot of fun.

Finally we just flung marshmallows everywhere with the catapults. I paid the kids in marshmallows to get them to clean up (which worked brilliantly, who knew they’d pick up 25 marshmallows each and wipe smooshed ones off the floor for a few minis to eat?)

photo 4-1

Hands down my favorite Makers so far.

Storytime – Pets!

It’s been three months since I dropped off the first boxes in our Preschool Book Box Program so it’s time for another round of books and storytimes! The school that I dropped off with today is about to get a resident puppy so only a pet themed story time would do!

Literacy Activity:

Magnetic Shapes on Trays – Sorting

Opening:- If you’re ready for a story take a seat

Daisy and the Wibbily Wobbily song

Book 1 – Horray for Fish (Lucy Cousins)

Song: 5 little fishies, swimming in the sea, teasing Mr Shark you can’t catch me, you can’t catch me. Along came Mr. Crocodile, quiet as can be and SNAP! Four left. (and so on)

Book 2 – Children Make Terrible Pets (Peter Brown)

Song: Can you:

Can you hop like a rabbit?

Can you jump like a frog?

Can you waddle like a duck?

Can you wag your tail like a dog?

Can you fly like a bird?

Can you swim like a fish?

Can you sit back down and be still like this?

Book 3: Bark George (Jules Feiffer)

Flannel Board/Magnet Board

Ten Little Fishes (fish bowl and numbered fish handed out to the kids)
Ten little fishes were swimming in a school
This one said, “Let’s swim to where it’s cool.”
This one said, “It’s a very warm day.”
This one said, “Come on, let’s play.”
This one said, “I’m as hungry as can be.”
This one said, “There’s a worm for me.”
This one said, “Wait, we’d better look.”
This one said, “Yes, it’s on a hook.”
This one said, “Can’t we get it anyway?”
This one said, “Perhaps we may.”
This one, so very brave, grabbed a bit and swam away.”

Book 4 : The Pigeon Wants a Puppy by Mo Willams

Closing: We wave goodbye like this

Alternate books: I can look after sizzles Lauren Child. I want a Pet, Lauren Child,
Fred Stays with Me, Doggies


How it Went:

Children Make Terrible Pets is a little on the long side, so with a squirmy or younger crowd, it might need to be replaced, but these guys were troopers and loved the whole thing. Five Little Fishies in the Sea is always a big hit and you can make this into a get-up-and-stretch activity by having the kids all stand up and acting as the fish, while you are a shark. Each time you SNAP, one child sits down. Overall, this was a great storytime and the kids really enjoyed it.