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Kids learn about building skyscrapers from bottom up

Lynn Farrow, Riverside Regional Children’s Librarian expands upon the library’s regular story time while school is out. Her recent program on building skyscrapers from newspapers was interactive on many levels and authenticated learning with a dump truck visit demonstrated by Eric Welch from the Jackson Department of Public Works. The morning program, held at Jackson Civic Center, began with an animated story time done “Miss Lynn” style.

To help children understand how skyscrapers are built, Farrow began by explaining that demolishing an existing building is often the first step. No matter if you’re removing a building or just digging up the ground to make a foundation, a dump truck is needed to haul debris. It was no wonder that Farrow began the skyscraper program by reading stories about dump trucks.

“My daddy had a dump truck,” said Farrow. “I got to get in the dump truck. I got to honk the horn.”

The first story on dump trucks relied on the children’s participation to get them pumped for a visit from a real dump truck. Farrow enthusiastically read the words, “crash, bang, boom, pour” from a story about dump trucks that came alive for children listening. They needed no prompting to engage in the sound effects and hand motions as they interacted with Farrow, the storyteller.

My Truck is Stuck, a comical story about a dump truck that gets stuck in a rut and is sneakily emptied of its contents by a bunch of gophers, followed. Again the children were on cue with appropriate sound effects like beep, beep and the sound of a roaring engine, stuck in a rut. Afterward, the children went outside to learn, answer questions and see a demonstration on how a dump truck works.

Eric Welch, from Jackson’s Department of Public Works, began by explaining that dump trucks not only dump rock and spread it, but can also be used to remove snow once a plow is attached to the front.

He showed them his safety vest and reinforced how important it was to be safe around trucks at all times.

“First thing I do before I get into the truck is walk around and check the air in the tires, lights and do an entire safety check. I have to make sure everything inside and outside is working fine,” he said.

Then he lifted the bed on an incline and opened the gate to show the children how rock is dumped and spread. Everyone took notice when he honked the truck’s air horn.

He explained how part of his job was to inspect the road work done by contractors working for the city. Welch described the current projects taking place in Jackson and answered children’s questions. They learned that a dump truck can hold about eight tons and that it takes a class B commercial driving license to operate it. 

When the children went back inside they watched Farrow construct a three-dimensional skyscraper from newspaper. Starting with a flat surface, she crumbled up a foundation and then rolled up a newspaper and taped it down to the foundation. Presto — a skyscraper — so tall it almost touched the sky. Children and skyscrapers littered the Civic Center floor.

Locker Mate lunch bags were distributed to all skyscraper builders as they worked. The nutritious sack lunches included milk, tuna salad, sunflower seeds, raisins and applesauce. Funding for the lunches was provided by Riverside Regional Library’s unrestricted funds, available for programs and events outside the budget, said Jeff Trinkle, library director.

“What’s nice is everybody is served (not need based). We will probably continue to do this every summer. Not only do we offer the lunches during a program but whenever a kid comes in and wants it. It’s just a way to give a little extra service.”

For Zach Smolak, a 10-year-old who built the tallest skyscraper named “The Leaning Tower of Paris,” this three dimensional project satisfied an art credit requirement in his homeschool training.

He said, “I thought of what I did at home on my Legos and just did it here,” in explanation of making such a tall building. “I like skyscrapers because they go to the sky. I’ve seen them in video games but not in real life.”

“We’re regulars at story time,” said Crystal Smolak, who also brought her other children, Max and Avery; and a child she babysits, Ava Turner. “We love to come see Miss Lynn. They scream to see Miss Lynn!”

 Farrow announced a hands-on skyscrapers activity scheduled for 2 p.m. at the library. Children colored a street with several skyscrapers, cut it out and glued it to newspaper. Then they used bubble wrap to paint the sky using a stamping method.

“I saw Clayton (Birk) doing this project with his art teacher when I visited Millersville School to promote the library. I liked it so much I borrowed it for my skyscraper program,” said Farrow.

Caleb Hudson, age eight, said the most fun thing about the whole program was coloring the skyscrapers for the afternoon mixed media project.

 Farrow said her programs give children the chance to try things and if it doesn’t work to just try again. “You never fail. The important thing is to keep trying.”

The library program promotes “Maker days,” an initiative to promote cognitive skills and move toward educating youth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

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