Unprogramming Part 4: The Recipe Revealed!

Amy Koester of Show Me Librarian and I are tag-teaming at our blogs this week to report out the Chicago ALA Conversation Starter -Unprogramming: Recipes for School Age Success - that we led on Monday July 2.  Please join our continuing conversation in the comments or on Twitter by using the hashtag #unprogramming.

I don't know about you, but when I am looking for something new to cook and browsing through recipes, the ones I pick are often the simplest  - ones with few ingredients, easily accomplished in a busy life and full of flavor. Not for me the ones that list 15 items to put my hands on and too much time in the kitchen.

Doing unprogramming is very similar. There is a kind of recipe to create these programs. But like all the very best recipes, it allows endless innovation to surprise and sparkle the palate.

Unprogramming Recipe

1. Choose a book or subject
What's popular with kids - dinosaurs, Big Nate, space, Legos, Diary of a Wimpy Kid; Star Wars, ninjas, Magic Tree House, Elephant and Piggie, pirates, pets?  Take advantage of built-in interest and tie that into your collection.

2. Gather activity ideas 
Use Pinterest, blogs, publisher websites, pubyac and alsc listserv posts, ideas from professional journals and books that you've been saving to find book trailers; authors talking about their work; cool videos/websites on the subject material (Wimpy Yourself!). Then simply decide which three or four pieces you want to put into the program to appeal to the kids and highlight the books.

3. Mix in materials for kids to explore
If you are like many libraries you have a closet, cupboard, basement or under-the-desk area crammed with unused and left-over material. Browse though it to find materials to re-purpose for your purposes. Claw hand grabbers become robot arms, dinosaur arms, extensions for planet mining. Paper bags become puppets, demonstrate scientific principles, contain survival kits after a planetary crash landing. Paper scraps become gravity-defiers, art, disguise components for superheroes.

Set up simple centers or "stations of stuff" for kids to free-explore/discover as many times as they wish. Be there to chat, inform, elicit impromptu discussion.

4. Digital Camera or Smartphone
Take pictures of all the fun, learning and discovery going on around you (you have plenty of time because the kids are becoming their own leaders as they explore each component).

Now, gather the kids and highlight the book through reading; booktalking; author information; video or discussion of subject, character or author.  Introduce the different activities available to kids and invite them to participate as they’d like. Mix in encouragement, informational tidbits and oversight and kids provide the motivated use at “stations-of-stuff”. Bake for 45 minutes.

Voila!  A tasty mix of interesting content that is not too hot, not too cold, not too spicy, not too sweet - it's just right. And you didn't have to kill yourself for hours in a hot kitchen getting this enticing-to-kids dish prepared! 

Tomorrow Amy and I will both blog with sources for great unprograms and ways unprogramming creates positive change.

Unprogramming series
Part 5 - Why It Works

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