Messy Art Club: First Meeting!

Wee!!! We were brainstorming all summer about the best way to get those older elementary-aged kids into the library, and so far our mini-clubs are doing the trick!

So that you can understand the enormity of this triumph, let me just say that in a typical 4-week month, we offer 24 programs (storytimes) for children birth-6. Many of those have their own age breakdowns (ex. birth-12 months), but they are all for the younger set. Typically, that same month we might offer 3 additional afterschool programs–and we were targeting that SAME age group! I think it’s because we knew they would come. Many of those youngsters are library regulars. We know them by name. We know their favorite books and board games. But, our children’s room goes up to age 11! The only thing those older kids were doing regularly was playing Minecraft on our computers (and that’s awesome, but we offer so much more!).

Naturally, we had to think about what would get more of those 8-11 year-olds in the door. While most of our afterschool programs were listed for ages 6-11, we found we were still only getting 4-7 year-olds on a regular basis. These programs were typically based around a story with a corresponding craft or snack (our morning storytimes do not have crafts, so this was supposed to be the big draw). The head of our department wisely made the decision to forgo the story portion, and aim the afterschool programming towards children around 4th or 5th grade. What she was saying was risky, because we might be alienating our fan base and sending an anti-literary message. Not so! Today’s activity proves that there’s a willing crowd (I had a waiting list!), and now we know the demand is there. And of course, there’s no such thing as anti-literary when you’re in a room literally stacked with books. 🙂

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Today’s installment of Messy Art Club revolved around pendulum painting and baking soda/vinegar painting. Of course, the pendulum was the main event!

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it was awesome to see some kids I hadn’t seen in a few years, and also some new faces in the mix. A mom approached me after the club to tell me how happy she was to see an event specifically geared toward this age-group. She and her daughter were feeling that they had “aged-out” of the activities in our department, but being 9, she still isn’t ready for teen programming. That felt good to hear! Again, the demand is there (shame on us for not seeing it sooner).

And this was SO fun, and SO messy! All the participants were surprised at how messy they were allowed to be. I can’t lie, though. I did try to reign it in…to no avail. Once you get that messy train started, it is tough to put on the brakes!

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Each piece of art is a reflection of the artist. Some kids chose to push the pendulum (a 16 oz. water bottle topped with an Elmer’s glue twist top, hung from a cymbal stand) wildly, while others had more controlled nudges. One person just held onto the pendulum the whole time, directing the lines where she wanted them to go. All were fascinated by it. I tried a few times to get everyone to stay in their seats unless it was there turn, but the draw was too great–they crowded around, excited to see what other people were doing with their art. It was a very social affair!

Of course, many libraries are already doing awesome programming like this for their patrons. Still, it’s so nice to see in person how important it is to provide artistic opportunities, especially those that might require special equipment or supplies, for children in a public library setting. Not only are we encouraging them to be well-rounded and creative, but we’re encouraging them to be human, to share their hearts, to cooperate, and to find beauty in unexpected places.

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I kept the canvases and we’ll be putting them up as a temporary exhibit in the children’s room once they are dry. The artists will get their paintings back in a month or two. I can’t wait to see them all up on display, beautifying our room!

 

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