Do-It-Yourself Programming with Children’s Books on Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment
Hands-on crafts and games are a great way to celebrate women in history. Instead of sounding like a history lesson, this interactive format can bring in a wide age range of children who will enjoy the crafts and art projects, as well as some fun games. Here are some simple do-it-yourself programming ideas tied to children’s books on great women and their accomplishments.
Hands-on do-it-yourself programming can be relatively easy and much more affordable than other programming for many libraries, since the costs are just some simple arts and craft supplies. You can present a program offering these activities at separate stations, as part of a Women’s History program or festival. Have two high school volunteers at each station, to help younger children, to monitor the craft supplies, and to keep things moving. Perhaps a group of older Girl Scouts, or a local young women’s organization would like to volunteer. Having a refreshment table and a display of these books and others on the topic will make for a great program!
You can also offer just one or a few of these activities as a “passive program.” Just set up the supplies for one activity, along with a poster outlining the instructions, for parent and child to do together at a library table. These activities can also be adapted to the classroom, bookstore, or museum, since they fall into the type of “living history” activities that are so popular.
Here are several books and a hands-on activity relating to each, which would be a great focus for a Women’s History program.
Make take-home small potted plants to honor Kate Sessions, the focus of the picture book biography The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by Joseph Hopkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry, Beach Lane, 2013. The first woman to receive a science degree from the University of California, Sessions took a job in San Diego and quickly started a project to add trees to the community. Have puff paint available to decorate small terra cotta pots, and let each child choose a small houseplant to plant into the pots. Or make these cool plants that look like hair: www.redtedart.com/2012/04/04/kids-crafts-grass-heads/.
Even a young teenage girl can make a difference, as we learn in the picture book biography Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, Harpercollins/Balzer+Bray, 2013. Clara Lemlich helped lead a strike against garment factory owners for safer working conditions. To celebrate her achievements, make the fabric scrap memory game seen here: http://inchmark.squarespace.com/inchmark/2009/1/12/fabric-scrap-memory-game.html.
Making and flying paper airplanes are a natural activity to accompany Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared into America’s Heart by Julie Cummins, illustrated by Malene R. Laugesen. Roaring Brook Press, 2013. A contemporary of Amelia Earhart, this short book introduces readers to Ruth Elder, who attempted to fly across the Atlantic Ocean (and finally succeeded). Check your library for many books on paper airplanes, or check out: www.exploratorium.edu/exploring/paper/airplanes.html.
Making bookmarks, or decorating canvas bookbags, are natural activities to link to Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children by Jan Pinborough, illustrated by Debby Atwell. Houghton Mifflin, 2013. This picture book biography focuses on Anne Carroll Moore, a ground-breaking children’s librarian at the New York Public Library. Here are some ideas for library-related crafts: www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/amazing-craft-ideas.
Some of the earliest artistic photographers were women (such as Dorothea Lange), including the subject of Imogen: The Mother of Modernism and Three Boys by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Lisa Congdon. Cameron + Company, 2012. Imogen Cunningham was a creative genius as well as the mother to three sons. For a photography related craft activity, make special picture frames: www.firstpalette.com/Craft_themes/People/craftstickphotoframe/craftstickphotoframe.html.
Have a “Dance Zone” at your program to honor Josephine Baker, the subject of Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell. Chronicle Books, 2014. This innovative modern dancer and civil rights activist had an unbelievable life. Have scarves and beanbags, and assign a leader to motivate the dancers, similar to a toddler dance party!
Many children will be surprised that until the mid-1800’s, the U.S. didn’t have female doctors. Introduce them to Elizabeth Blackwell with the book Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman, Henry Holt, 2013. For a related game, have a cotton ball relay race: www.birthdayinabox.com/activity-guides/games-girls-cotton-ball-relay.html#.
Betty Skelton was a stunt pilot in the 1930’s, and even tried out to be an astronaut in the 1950’s. The picture book biography Daredevil: The Daring Life of Betty Skelton by Meghan McCarthy, Simon & Schuster, 2013 describes this unknown over-achiever. For a game, play “Pin the Tail on the Airplane:” www.airsideandy.com/have-an-airplane-party/.
Adept at English, Sarah Winnemucca used her public speaking skills to advocate for her Northern Paiute people in the 1800’s. Her life is celebrated in Paiute Princess: The Story of Sarah Winnemucca by Deborah Ray Kogan, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012. For an authentic Paiute game, play the Hand Game: www.apples4theteacher.com/native-american/games/guessing/hand-game.html.
Plastic Ahoy: Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Patricia Newman, Millbrook, 2014, is a photo-filled look at how three young women scientists studied the huge island of plastic that is impacting the Pacific Ocean. Using recycled water bottles, play this fun bowling game: www.ucreatewithkids.com/2011/02/creative-guest-meet-dubiens.html.
By Penny Peck, San Jose State Univ., School of Information Science
Originally published on the Kidlit Women’s History Blog.