Summer Learning in a Library Maker Space

Summer at the Millvale Community Library is a frenzy of slamming doors, popsicles, bike helmets, and (more recently) hover boards. Most days there are kids at the doors before we open, and kids in the library until the moment we close at the end of the day. In the past, summer programming at the MCL has functioned as a drop-in model, where there would be a time window where kids could drop by and participate in as much or as little of the decided activity. This proved difficult to plan for and hard to accommodate the growing number of interested children. So, last year we moved to a summer camp model.
Summer 2017 brings 12 summer camps and over 150 campers to the MCL. I would say that our first two camps were huge successes, and having two weeks off before the next camps was a genius idea on past Nora’s part.


MakeShop Campers with their cardboard creations… Something about cardboard and hot glue made us feel like warriors…

Our first camp was a collaboration with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and was so so so much fun. Just so fun! The two groups of campers, younger kids in the morning and older ones in the afternoon, learned so many new words and became comfortable with new tools… what an awesome way to measure a good time.
Words like “ply”, “kumihimo”, and “conductor” were thrown around like no big deal… I’m still impressed tbh. Three days jam-packed with cardboard construction, weaving and braiding, and circuitry explorations… Those were some lucky kids. Big shout out to the Children’s Museum for lending us one of your magical teaching artists for a few days.


Learning how to keep our watershed and rivers clean with Allegheny Cleanways… ON A BOAT!

Our second camp was Environmental Camp. A little less directly related to the traditional ideas of “maker education”, I was tasked with connecting the dots between “green” learning experiences and building and learning with our hands the week before. Campers met a real screech owl with the Audubon Society, went on a nature scavenger hunt (that ended in a water fight), and learned about single point pollution while cleaning up the Allegheny River on a boat with Allegheny Cleanways! It was an action packed week full of quotes like “I learned what a watergarage was today!” (Watershed… oops), and “Birds don’t have teeth but they have really lopsided ears.”

Summer learning is so important. Libraries are here to fight summer brain rot. Teaching artists are here to show your kids that learning is fun and exciting! Support your local library… and follow mine on instagram! (@millvalemakers)

Stay tuned for more summer updates. Summer Nora is a little less reliable, but be patient. She’s probably sunburned and sleep-deprived. 💕

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