Category Archives: Bathroom STEM

Bathroom STEM: Flowers

Flower displayPutting up STEM questions and activities on the bathroom wall is a great use of available space, while at the same time capitalizing on a captive audience.

With spring finally arriving, this month’s Bathroom STEM theme was flowers. I located, labeled, printed and laminated pictures of several flowers that children were likely to encounter locally .

For some math-based questions I hung a poster asking “How many yellow flowers are there? How many purple flowers? How many red flowers? How many flowers in all?” I purposefully included a tri-color violet (which I grew up calling a johnny-jump-up) in one of the pictures so that children would have to decide if it counted as a purple flower, a yellow flower, or both.

My other goal with this display was to increase children’s awareness of types of flowers. Though these are all flowers that are grown in this area, children may not be aware of their specific names. The hope is that questions such as “Have you ever seen these flowers in your yard? In your neighborhood? At the library?” will inspire children to be on the lookout for new fauna, and will then use their new vocabulary to help identify the flowers. Obviously the children will need to either read the labels, or be in the bathroom with someone else who can read. However, I find that non-readers are generally young enough that parents often accompany them into the bathroom in a public place such as the library.

 

Bathroom STEM: Winter Patterns

A pattern display

Putting up STEM questions and activities on the bathroom wall is a great use of available space, while at the same time capitalizing on a captive audience.

I wanted a winter theme for this Bathroom STEM. My first choice was something about snowflakes, but I wasn’t able to figure out a way to make snowflakes accessible to the youngest library patrons who are the primary audience for these displays while still making it something that requested the user to actively engage with what was on the wall by finding or matching or identifying something. So instead, I went for a simply pattern display featuring winter themes.  As with my first pattern display, I tried to make a subtle pattern with the strips themselves, for the older users to notice (or not….). If you look carefully you can see a spot where one of the first displays pulled a little paint off the wall. Switching from masking tape to painter’s tape seems to have solved that particular problem.

Bathroom STEM: Birds

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Putting up STEM questions and activities on the bathroom wall is a great use of available space, while at the same time capitalizing on a captive audience.

The many birds that come to birdfeeders during the winter months prompted this bird-themed Bathroom STEM display. At first I just put up pictures of common New England birds that children may see in their backyards but may or may not be able to recognize. I thought if I labeled the pictures independent readers would learn new bird name, and smaller children could have their parents read the labels. But the whole display was just too static, and didn’t seem to be creating the conversations that some of the previous displays had generated, so I added a couple of pictures and some search and find questions like “How many black and white birds are there? What kind of birds are they?” That made the whole display more interactive, since it was inviting the onlooker to actively participate in looking at the pictures, rather than simply gazing passively.

Bathroom STEM: Animal Babies

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Putting up STEM questions and activities on the bathroom wall is a great use of available space, while at the same time capitalizing on a captive audience.

Following up on the previous success of “Animal Homes”, I created this matching game for Animal Babies. The sign officially says “Match the immature (baby) animal to its adult form”, since I wanted to introduce some new science vocabulary to my potential audience.

It didn’t occur to me until after I had already printed and laminated all of the animals that I should have labeled them with their correct names to further the learning opportunities, so I had to squeeze the names in with a Sharpie. If I did it over again, I would add a large caption with the animal name on the computer.

This one had the same unintended consequence as its Animal Homes partner, where the pieces were often moved around to create matches on the wall. This time I used painter’s tape instead of masking tape, so there were no problems with paint coming off the wall. I’m still not entirely certain how to make it clear not to move the pictures without adding a distracting scolding sign that might ruin the mood.

Bathroom STEM: Shapes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPutting up STEM questions and activities on the bathroom wall is a great use of available space, while at the same time capitalizing on a captive audience. This month’s theme was shapes. It was a bit less successful than the Animal Homes we did last month. The “How many Triangles Do You See?” was too hard for my target audience. I was trying to engage the older library users, and its possible that I did so, but they did not give me any feedback. The picture with “How many triangles/blue shapes/etc” question should have been larger to be more effective. The one positive outcome of this month’s Bathroom STEM is the discovery that painter’s tape is a great alternative to masking tape when posting things to the wall. It sticks just as well, but doesn’t pull up the paint. (Note that this is not actually the bathroom wall. The original picture was lost, so I recreated it on the floor since I did not want to retape all the pictures.)

Bathroom STEM: Leaves

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Putting up STEM questions and activities on the bathroom wall is a great use of available space, while at the same time capitalizing on a captive audience.

This month we took advantage of the beautiful fall foliage to create a display about leaves. The posters ask questions such as “Which leaf is biggest?” or “How many green leaves in all?” (For some reason, this last question really caught the fancy of the preschool set. I had a surprising number of small children come up to me and say, essentially out of nowhere, “There are FOUR green leaves!” leaving me a little confused the first few times.)

I laminated the leaves, and was happily surprised by how well they kept their colors all month long. The green leaves stayed green, and the bright yellow and orange leaves, which this picture is not doing justice to, stayed quite fresh.

Bathroom Science: Animal Homes

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Putting up STEM questions and activities on the bathroom wall is a great use of available space, while at the same time capitalizing on a captive audience. This month’s theme was Animal Homes, with children challenged to match the animal with its home.  I was somewhat surprised to discover that several children seemed to think that they needed to physically match the pictures. Several times a week I would enter the bathroom to find that the pictures had all been moved around, placing the animals next to, or sometimes on top of, their homes. While it took extra time to reset it frequently (and I learned that masking tap is not necessarily paint-proof), it did tell me that the kids were paying attention and enjoying the display. It also suggests to me that it was slightly older kids interacting with the pictures, since a preschooler or other young child would likely have been in the bathroom with an adult that would have discouraged moving the pictures

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Bathroom Science

No, it’s not that sort of bathroom science, don’t worry! Instead, it’s the recognition of an opportunity. Our library , particularly our children’s section, is filled with windows. While this gives us lots of great natural light, it also means that we do not have a great deal of blank wall space.  Enter: the bathroom. Not only does it have plenty of empty wall space, it also presents us with a captive audience. Young children in particular often spend a fair amount of time in the bathroom, often with parents in tow. Putting up a passive activity on the wall gives us the opportunity to utilize an otherwise empty space, while at the same time providing entertainment and discussion for parents and children who are stuck in an otherwise boring room.

Thus began our Bathroom STEM program. We are planning to feature a different STEM theme each month, with quick activities or information for children and their caregivers.   Here is the first installment (note that this was not actually photographed on the bathroom wall. The original photos were lost and I did not want 

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to have to retape all the pictures.) 

This is a simple “What comes next in the pattern?” question. Notice my clever placement of the pattern strips, so that they themselves form a pattern. When this was up in the bathroom I overheard quite a few parents talking to their children about it. The dinosaurs were particularly popular.