Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Program: Jell-O Celebration

When I started this blog, I was still in school. Naturally, the majority of my children's/YA work then simply focused on reading books. Now, I am actually employed (I work A LOT) and my work involves much more than just reading (actually, I don't get to read while I'm at work, except for lunch breaks and picture books). I've intended to include information on the programming I do here on the blog but, due to the aforementioned problem (I work A LOT), I haven't yet gotten around to it. I'm going to try to post about the programs I put on - we'll see how it goes.

My first program as Supreme Coordinator of All Things Tween (this is the title I give myself in my head) happened in February, right before Valentine's Day. Did you know that there exists in this country a Jell-O Week? Yeah, I clearly didn't want to do your run-of-the-mill program and I stumbled upon the wonderful online calendar that lists every obscure holiday and discovered Jell-O Week (you know, I probably shouldn't be writing Jell-O so much in this entry because Kraft doesn't sponsor Jell-O Week and probably doesn't like it when people talk about their product without being told to). But what could I possibly do to celebrate this glorious gelatinous week?

Here is what the program consisted of (it wasn't really that focused on the gelatin):
- A very short Powerpoint presentation showing examples of what you can do with Jell-O (there are a number of artists working in the gelatin medium and every year there is a competition in New York for Jell-O molding)
- Three timed categories of constructing with different materials
- Jell-O eating!

I found (via the interwebs, of course) a science experiment about simulating earthquakes using sheet trays of Jell-O. Awesome. Kids love to build things, so this immediately appealed to me. I decided to try a variety of different materials and get the kids to work in groups and then we tested their various structures on our Jell-O earthquake. Each section was 15 minutes long: first, dry spaghetti and mini marshmallows; second, vanilla wafer cookies and chocolate frosting; and lastly, Jell-O jigglers and any materials left over from previous rounds.

How it went: the kids pretty much blew me away with their creativity. I had tried making some examples before the program so that kids could understand what I wanted them to do, but, once they started working, it was clear that my examples were pathetic compared to what they made. Nearly all the structures of the first round held up to the earthquake trials, only two in the second round, and none made of Jell-O. I had about a dozen kids show up and they managed to keep themselves under control for the most part - their biggest issue was wanting to eat the supplies (which I had to remind them a number of times they DID NOT WANT TO DO because like a billion fingers had touched them). I only had one kid who really did not want to work with his teammates; I spoke to him multiple times during the program about how it was a group activity and he needed to be working with others, but nothing got through to him (how do other people handle kids who don't follow the rules during programming? I think he's probably going to come to other programs and I'm not sure how to deal with him if he's not going to participate in the program as intended). In the end, because I had covered our earthquake tray with saran wrap, the kids all got to eat some Jell-O. They seemed to enjoy themselves and I think the program went well.

Anybody have any thoughts or questions? I'm always looking for new ideas!

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