By Awnali Mills
When you do a program the week of Thanksgiving, there’s just no telling what you’re going to get. Some years everyone goes out of town, so the library resembles a ghost town. Other years, everyone’s extended family comes in and the library resembles a Black Friday sale. So six months ago when we planned an Elephant and Piggie party for this week, we didn’t know what would happen. We didn’t know how popular our new library would be, and we didn’t know what kind of advertising we were going to get, so we were pretty casual about the whole thing.
Until last week.
Our storytime/programming space holds 50 according to the fire marshal. With the sliding glass wall open, we can accommodate more. But, we planned for 30 kids, assuming that with parents we’d end up around 50. But we had so many people expressing interest that we were starting to be concerned. Then, our program was featured on our library system’s homepage and advertised several times on NPR. We decided that our current plan just wasn’t going to work, and we rethought, revamped, and came up with a game plan that would accommodate a much larger crowd. Just in case. Instead of containing the program in the storytime room, we moved it into the children’s section at large, moving furniture around until we could fit everyone and everything in. And that worked really well, as we had a large turnout.
I partnered with Tracey to do the program, but the rest of my coworkers pitched in to help cut and create and then helped with stations and crowd control. We absolutely couldn’t have done it without them. So, this is what we did:
We opened by talking about the Elephant and Piggie books. Taking a page from Fat Girl Reading, Tracey dressed in grey and I dressed in pink, and we did a dramatic reading of There’s a Bird on My Head. To make this even more fun, I took a black stocking cap and sewed Velcro dots on it. On the crown of the head, with the Velcro dots, I attached a Folkmanis Baby Birds in Nest puppet. On the top of the nest were Velcro dots for attaching eggs (actually ping pong balls). On either side of the nest were some birds (actually baby ducklings from another set that had the only two bird-like creatures that matched.) As we acted out the book, I put things on and took things off the nest, and pulled out the baby birds. Finally, I pulled the hat off and put it on my own head. This was a big hit. But, I’ll tell you the truth, sewing on those dots was a pain and a half, since all we had were the adhesive kind, which gums up the needle and thread (and fingers). About ¼ of the way through, I would have cheerfully chucked the whole thing.
After acting out the story, we sent them to do three stations:
- Bird on My Head Obstacle Course: Tracey made three nests out of Styrofoam bowls filled with brown paper shred and a picture of Pigeon. These tied on with yarn. Doing it again, we might use elastic instead. The kids crawled under, jumped over, went around and through different little obstacles and threw a ball into a basket before leaving the course. All with a nest on their head.
- Elephant and Piggie puppets: I used the graphics from Three Little Birds here and here. I did have to redraw part of Elephant. I was unable to print them directly because they weren’t turning out well, but I printed them, traced them again with marker, and then copied them directly onto grey and pink construction paper using a copy machine. With the help of my co-workers, we cut them all out and put the pieces in baggies for the kids to assemble.
- Elephant and Pig puzzles: Tracey created laminated puzzles using a black and white background of the animal and construction paper bodies. Each puzzle piece was a different section of the animal, and the kids were encouraged to name each piece as they put it on (tail, trunk, leg, etc) just because we HAD to sneak a little science in there!
After the kids had plenty of time to do the different activities, we called them all back and presented We Are In a Book. There were no props this time—just the book (and the hams presenting it!). While we were reading the book, one of the other staffers taped up the scavenger hunt signs—pictures from the Elephant and Piggie books. After we finished, we gave the kids pencils and a search sheet and sent them into the library for the scavenger hunt. When they finished the hunt, we gave them an Elephant and Piggie bookmark to color in exchange for the pencil.
Over all, the program was really successful. We couldn’t have pulled it off without all the help from our colleagues, because we really were running a three ring circus. Two people were needed for the obstacle course, and one each for the puppets and puzzles. Because of the way we needed to set up, we needed people to set up the stations in the library while we were doing the first book and the scavenger hunt during the second book. So, a big shout out to Barbara, Jet, and Meghan, who cut out puppets, set up and ran things, and manned the desk. You COULD do this with less people, but only if you had a different spatial set up.