Science Alive Under 5 Fest – Hands-on science fun for kids

Science Alive’s annual Under 5 Fest gives kids under the age of 5 (and their parents and caregivers and educators) a heap of hands-on science fun. It’s on from Tuesday 21 to Sunday 26 March, 9.30am to 4.30pm at Table Tennis Canterbury stadium, 294 Blenheim Road, Riccarton. Library staff will be there from 11am to 12pm daily, doing a 20 to 30 minute Storytimes / Wā Kōrero at 11am, sharing stories, rhymes, music and play.

Science Alive Under 5 Festival

The Science Alive team say there will be some cool new exhibits as well as old favourites. Entry is $6 for all ages, except under 2s get in for free. Make sure you bring some coins, there’s a balloon creator and face-painter on site. If you are there and want to share your pics and vids, use the hashtag #U5FEST

Visit the Science Alive website to find out all you need to know about parking, food (and coffee) etc. You can also subscribe to the Under 5 Fest Facebook event to get the latest info.

Science Alive Under 5

Science Alive at libraries

For older kids, Science Alive also offer Science Snippets, an after school science programme at five libraries across Christchurch.

Science resources for kids

Last year we interviewed Geni McCallum of Science Alive! about the Under 5 fest and kids and science: “Science is about doing”.

Libraries have plenty of science-themed fun for kids:

(Images in this post supplied by Science Alive)

My date with Lynda

With my husband out of town with work, I found myself home alone on Valentine’s Day, I decided instead of watching some soppy romance film, I thought I would spend an evening getting to know Lynda.

Valentines

With 5,800 courses and 260,000 tutorials, first glances were impressive. Lynda.com is an online video tutorial website that is available from our collection of eResources.

I logged in and my date with Lynda began. She is amazing. There are many courses to peruse from IT and programming, to graphic design and business skills. Basics like Microsoft Office are here as well. I was mesmerised. The website is easy to use and all the courses indicate whether they are beginner or advanced so you can immediately tell if it is the right course for you.

LyndaI chose two courses – Photography and Web Design. I know a little about both and can say that tutors on the videos were engaging and obviously experts in their field. Each course is broken up into small tutorials so you can learn at your own pace.

I’m looking forward to spending more time with Lynda, and I am going to suggest that my husband goes on a date with Lynda too, (when he is back in town). He was asking me for some tips on Excel.

Summer Writing School for Youth 2017

sfyw-summer-writing-school-poster-no-marksThe School for Young Writers in Christchurch is holding a Summer Writing School and Workshops, 16-20 January 2017. The Summer Writing School comprises a week’s worth of writing for teenagers, with special guest tutors alongside some of our regulars. On the final day students will get an opportunity for 1:1 mentoring as they complete a piece for the special magazine that they will produce.

There are also opportunities for younger children (Year 7-9) to let their imaginations loose in short workshops with James Norcliffe and Heather McQuillan on the 24th January. Information can be found on their Facebook page. (Please note: the years 4-6 sessions on Jan 23rd are now full).

We spoke to Glyn Strange, founding director and Heather McQuillan, associate director of The School for Young Writers about the Summer Writing School and Workshops:

Why go to The School for Young Writers throughout the year? Who is it for and what will they get out of it?

The School for Young Writers is for Years 3 to Year 13. Young writers get the pleasure of working with skilled teachers in groups of like-minded children. Regular tuition produces results. We also have a correspondence programme for those who can’t make the class times.

What kind of writing activities and exercises do you do?

Heather: Stories, poetry in all its forms, creative non-fiction, jokes, flash fiction, memoir, song lyric, play script, monologue, twists on genre, fantasy, slam poetry, whatever the children ask for and whatever our creative tutors can come up with.

Tell us about some of the tutors at the school.

Summer school tutor, James Norcliffe

Glyn: James Norcliffe is one of New Zealand’s most admired writers of poetry (Burns Fellowship and many other awards) and fiction for young readers. Heather is also an award-winning writer of fiction for young people as well as poetry, short story and flash fiction ( She is the current National “champ” in Flash fiction). Gail Ingram is New Zealand’s best poet for 2016 (New Zealand Poetry Society). Greg O’Connell is renowned for his interactive poetry shows  and poems published in the School Journal. Stephanie Frewen is an award-winning scriptwriter. The plays her students write are broadcast on Plains FM and many are preserved for all time in Radio New Zealand Sound Archives.

Can you share some top tips for youth who want to write?

Join the School for Young Writers (of course). And enter the competitions in our Write On magazine. Teenagers submit to Re Draft – an annual anthology of the best teenage writing in New Zealand.

What about young people who think “I’m no good at writing…”

Glyn: Some of our best writers said that when they joined us. We are not there only for the gifted and talented. People don’t know they have a talent until they try it.

Heather: Sometimes young people have not had the opportunity to express their own creativity through writing. Our programmes are “low stakes.” We don’t use rubrics, mark or judge writing. Our goal is to help a young writer develop a piece to be the best expression of their ideas. This is a joyful process.

What changes do you see in the students over the course of the year?

Glyn says the changes are “immense” and Heather agrees: “For some it takes a few sessions to warm up and let their ideas free. Once they do then amazing things happen. Learning that all writers redraft is often key to the breakthrough.”

Can you share some highlights from the School for Young Writers this year?

Glyn: The greatest kick for me was to see the change in a young writer who came to us writing very dark stuff. By the end of the year, eligible to enter our annual Re-Draft competition for teenagers, this person won a place in the 2016 book The Dog Upstairs. This nationwide competition is for writers up to university level, so it’s a great achievement for such a young writer to win a place.

Heather: This year we held a poetry reading event in association with WORD Christchurch and New Zealand Poetry Day. It was a thrill to see usually shy young people stand up and read their pieces with confidence. I also love working in schools and a seeing the transformation over two days as reticent, vulnerable writers realise that they have something worthwhile to write, something that others want to read. Standouts have to be a group of Year 7/8 country boys (never laughed so much in a workshop) and a gorgeous group of teenagers in Queenstown who were open, enthusiastic and extremely talented. They even gave up their Saturday to attend.

Your favourite authors writing for children and young adults?

Of course we love James Norcliffe! Most of our young writers are also avid readers and they recommend writers to us!

cover of Pirates and the nightmaker Cover of Felix and the red rats Cover of The Loblolly boy Cover of Dark days at the Oxygen cafe

Some of YOUR Top picks of books for youth in 2016?

Heather: Being Magdalene by Fleur Beale. I went back and reread her others. Anything Patrick Ness has written. I’m a bit behind on my YA reading having been a University student this year and reading the modernists. I’m looking forward to some holiday immersion in YA books.

Cover of Being Magdalene Cover of A monster calls Cover of The knife of never letting go Cover of The rest of us just live here

What drives you to commit so much passion for this work?

Glyn: All of our tutors do it for the love of writing and with a passion for ensuring the future of New Zealand literature.

The School for Young Writers is based at Hagley College. What’s the association?

Glyn: Hagley College offered to support us and we gratefully accepted. We are a separate organisation and a registered charity. Hagley is our venue.

Tell us about the publications the writing school is associated with.

Cover of They call me ink, Re-Draft 15Glyn: The School for Young Writers has always emphasised the importance of publication. Without it, writing is like a house without a roof. Write On magazine gives everyone a chance to strive for the pleasure of seeing their name in print and encourages them to lift their game as far as possible. The Re-Draft competition began when we had developed teenage groups whose work was good enough to publish in book form. Re-Draft challenges our senior students to pit their skills against the best in the country. The results are amazingly good. New Zealand literature is alive and well and has a good future. Your blog should include this.

What are some things you’ve heard the students say about their experiences at the writing school?

Glyn: You should see the smiles on their faces when they emerge after two hours of fun learning. They don’t need to say anything. It shows. The younger ones often excitedly share their work with Mum on the way home.

Heather: They keep coming back and stay for years. For some of the students The School for Young Writers is their safe place, they make special friends and can be themselves. We love quirky. We value individuality.

Check out what is on offer for youth at the Summer Writing School this January.

imagine-write-two

eResource Spotlight – Academic Search Premier

I’ve decided to give everyone a little run through of the eResources we have on offer at Christchurch City Libraries to let you know about some of the great databases we have access to.

academicsearch

Academic Search Premier allows access to one of the world’s largest scholarly full text database, covering every area of academic study. Extremely useful for essay writing and university level research. The collection boasts:

  • More than 14,000 abstracted and indexed journals;
  • More than 4,700 full text journals;
  • Over 12,000 peer reviewed, abstracted and indexed journals;
  • More than 4,000 peer reviewed, full-text journals.

You can also save, print and email results. By creating your own account using an email address and password you can also:

  • Save preferences;
  • Organize your research with folders;
  • Create email alerts and/or RSS

Ben
The Library at Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre

Nanogirl in Christchurch: Quick questions

nanogirl-2016-250x250Nanogirl is coming to Christchurch with a bang! She is putting on two shows on 5th December at the Isaac Theatre Royal. Expect explosions and excitement at Little Bang, Big Bang – the Live Science Show. One hour of science where Nanogirl blows things up, blows things over and blows your mind!

Covering Bernoulli’s principle, firing a massive air vortex cannon, holding fire in her hands and exploding thousands of ping pong balls, this show has science like you’ve never seen it before!  Safe for all ages, this family friendly show shows you simple experiments you can do at  home.

We asked Nanogirl – aka scientist Michelle Dickinson – a few questions ahead of her upcoming visit

CoverWhat resources would you recommend for kids interested in science?

Actually my favourite place to go is online to places like the Science Learning Hub as they have great New Zealand content for all ages and for teachers that includes local content.

I also love Rosie Revere, engineer as an engineer myself, it’s so great to read a book with such a strong female engineer lead character to get girls and boys interested in and familiar with the word ‘engineering’.

What did you read as a child that you enjoyed? What books inspired you?

I read a lot of science fiction books which I loved as they helped me to think about what a future world could look like which helped me to think big about working on solutions that could help our future by helping to create technologies and materials that don’t exist yet.

What do you enjoy reading these days?

Now I’m a total non-fiction biography addict as I follow influential leaders that I admire as I try to piece together how others have overcome challenges in their lives to create the successes they were aiming for.

What role do libraries play in your life?

Libraries used to be the place that I went to borrow books when I was younger but now they are spaces of technology for me as I help libraries who have 3D printers and robotics centres in them and instead of the hardback books I used to borrow, I’m now an avid audiobook borrower from my local library.

 

Fun Palaces at Central Library Peterborough - 3d Printing
Fun Palaces at Central Library Peterborough – 3d Printing. Flickr CCLFunPalaces-2015-10-3-Fun Places – 41 – Fun Times – 41 – 1912

What advice can you give young people wanting to pursue a career in science?

The best scientists and engineers are always asking questions and always testing their theories through creating experiments and researching their ideas, so my advice is to never stop being curious.

More Nanogirl

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Science and technology at the library

See also our post: Inspiring girls to work in STEM – Ada Lovelace Day 2016

I draw the line

Art Before BreakfastIn any interaction where I mention that I try to draw every day, there is a point straight after the words leave my lips when I can hear the drawbridge being cranked up, and see the intervening moat filling up with tablets, apps, Pokemon and the sundry small, useless products of 3D printing. And, as if from a distant galaxy, I hear the person on the other side of the moat say some variation of the following: “Oh I can’t draw a thing. I can’t even draw a stick man.”

And let’s say, just for the moment, that you are stick-man challenged, still I bet you had the chance to draw and paint and play music when you were at school. What is a great concern for many educators nowadays is that the swing to a predominantly technology-based education system like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) means that many children will be deprived of the opportunity to develop their own direct, tactile creativity, and will be doomed to a life of thinking that creativity is the manipulation of someone else’s genius.

ArtlessWhich is why I am such a huge fan of The Big Draw – The world’s largest drawing festival. Most education systems nowadays focus on STEM curricula. The Big Draw is part of an initiative to change STEM to STEAM through the addition of the Arts. And we have a chance to be part of this initiative at Art Box Gallery in Christchurch until Friday 28th October. Art Box is the venue for the Christchurch Big Draw which has invited 20 New Zealand artists to show us just how important drawing is. How we simply cannot afford to let Art slip through the cracks. How the British Arts Education Trust believes  “Art can change lives”.

I went along to The Big Draw with my colleague and art-buddy, Masha. Debra McLeod was in attendance to share some arty gems with us – she is always so welcoming and knowledgeable. It was a struggle to drag Masha past Ina Johann’s Parallel Lines – mapping another life (and it was only exhibit 2 of 20), and I wanted my little drawing books to morph into the likes of Mario Luz’s Sketchbooks.

All the artists in this Big Draw exhibition are known in their field and for sure you will come away with a different slant on life. But here’s an idea – maybe the next Christchurch Big Draw could feature the sketchbooks of ordinary, everyday sketchers: the people who draw though they will never be known for it, and the children who are just starting out on drawing.

Back we meandered to Central Library Manchester – just that little bit altered. There to search out more beautiful drawing books. Paul Klee is reputed to have said that drawing  “is the act of  taking a line for a walk”. To-day Masha and I took a walk for the lines!

Roberta and Masha with Sandra Thomson's Coral Reef and Fated.
Roberta and Masha with Sandra Thomson’s Coral Reef and Fated.

‘Voulez-vous partir with me ….

…and come and restez la with me in France’ – so the Bill Wyman song goes.

Cover of Flirting with FrenchI love a good mixture of Franglish (or Spanglish for that matter).  Eventually, with examples of the above, combined with expressive mime, facial expressions and dexterous hand gestures you can get yourself understood.

My French teacher endured approximately seven years trying to teach me the basics of French conversation and grammar. His perseverance was rewarded when our whole family got lost in Caen at the beginning of our summer holidays ‘under canvas’ and, since I was the only one who had supposedly learned French, I had to locate our first night’s accommodation.

I had seen Maurice Chevalier, Alain Delon and Sacha Distel all speak fractured English on the TV and naively assumed that the majority of the French population could do likewise!!  Duh!!!

To my complete amazement I learned that every French person I accosted (in the street or even in their homes whilst having their family diner – I was desperate), with my pitiful ‘je suis perdu – où est le… hôtel??’, was met with a mixture of indifference or a rush of ‘gauche et droites’ which left me more confused than ever.

The same French teacher had also advised me that ‘gesticulating’ as a last resort might be the way to go. SO bearing this in mind, I bravely flagged down a passing police car and watched, horrified, when a Charles de Gaulle look-a-like stepped out of the Citroen with his hand resting gently on his holster and asked me (in French) what the problem was?  Well, for starters the gun was… Anyway, I managed to impart the necessary information and he quickly rose to the challenge. We were in our hotel 15 minutes later having witnessed said gendarme ‘tearing a strip off’ the hotel owner for turning the neon sign off that would have alerted us to the hotel at least 3 hours ago!

Cover of complete language pack italianAll library customers can avoid painful scenarios such as the above incident by utilizing, with the aid of their Library Card Number and password/pin, the eResource, Mango Languages.  There are 72 languages available (including American Sign Language). Clicking on the option ‘Building the Basics’ after choosing the language you wish to learn is a great way to start your linguistic adventures.

Of course, you can also:

et voilà…

Bonne chance! Buena suerte! In bocca al lupo! Lycka till!

Junior Robotics at the Learning Centre at Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre

The Learning Centre at Te Hāpua:  Halswell Centre recently staged the first ever junior computer science competition in Canterbury, called The Buzz Off. Students from year 1 to 3 came from a number of schools to compete in Beebot robot challenges.

beebot-city

This event was organised with the support from Professor Tim Bell, University of Canterbury – Computer Science guru. MTA (Modern Teaching Aids) donated a first prize of $300 to a well deserving Ladbrookes school. You would have thought we had given them a million dollars by the looks on their faces!

Two ladies from Google Australia kindly made the trip to support this venture and donated gifts for all children who participated.

The great thing about this competition was that it was run by students for students. St Margaret’s, Casebrook, St Peter’s and Kaiapoi North student helpers supported, guided and celebrated the younger students learning.

For many of the teacher/adult helpers this was their first visit to the Te Hāpua Halswell Library. They expressed lots of enthusiasm and many expressions of “This library is fabulous and we will definitely be back”.

You can experience BeeBots at the Fun Palaces at Central Library Peterborough and see more robotics related classes.

In our Learning Centre, students experience eLearning programmes aligned with the New Zealand Curriculum document. These programmes provide learning in a technology-rich environment and the teaching within these programmes keep abreast with the latest teaching philosophies and strategies.

If you are interested in working with us to tailor an existing programme or work alongside us  please contact us Tel: 941 5140 or  Learningcentre@ccc.govt.nz

Busy Things is getting busier

Sometimes my job is just sublime. An example of this is when Busy Things – a very popular kid’s eResource was upgraded. In the name of research I was “forced” to colour in dinosaurs, design football kits, create a lost pet’s poster and name a number of shapes. You see Busy Things was aimed at 3 to 7 year olds but it has undergone an upgrade to include activities for those aged up until the age of 11.

Colleens Fireworks

Never dull, this eResource is instantly appealing to kids and able to hold their attention as they move between free play to more structured learning. The interface can be worked by even very young children and older crusty adults such as myself.  When you now enter Busy Things you can select the most appropriate age group and then disappear into a huge range of entertaining, safe and educational activities. Headings range from English, Design and Technology, Geography, Food, Maths and Family and Community.

As you can see from the above poster of a Chinese fireworks display I constructed using Busy Things its possibilities are endless. Granted I am not artist, but I still had fun and used some pretty cool computer skills to get it to work! Try it with your little ‘uns today!

Colleen Busy screen

Ready for the big guns? Time for eResources Discovery Search

Young-lady-sitting-on-the-floor-using-her-laptop-233x300When you have come to your senses and cast aside Wikipedia and Google in the quest for serious research solutions – then the library has what you require. The best research tool to start with is eResources Discovery Search or eDS for short. No matter how tight the deadline is this online treasure is available 24/7.

What makes it so great? Well it provides you with access to most of our eResource collection, articles, eBooks, journals, and photographs, through a single simultaneous search at a single access point. So with one search in one place you can search across huge swathes of information just like Google – but all of the information you find is authoritative and referenced without funny yet distracting cat videos.

For example what if you had to research Donald Trump? Put that name in eDS and these miraculous things happen …

eDS

Research starters – at the top of your search results there will be a “research starter” on Trump. There are starters for most topics which is useful if you want a starting point or a brief background.

To the left – tools to refine results to the most relevant. These include:

  • Publication date – maybe you only want articles from the last six months?
  • Source types – do you need a video, journal article or book on Trump?
  • Subject – are you interested in his talk shows or his political campaign?
  • Content providers – maybe you want a biography from Gale Biography in Context?

To the right – you get images, videos and newswires you can use or access the library catalogue. If you get stuck there is also Live Online to get you back on track.

Basically eDS is all you need in your answer arsenal and can be used anytime of the day but is most effective when you are really stressed and have a deadline looming. All you need to use this solution to all your research requirements is your library card number and password/PIN. Bookmark it now.