Tuesday, June 28, 2016


It's been YEARS since I had time to put any real effort into displays. They've been books + book lists for seemingly forever. This summer I have a great intern as well as an aide, so I have slightly more time to make things pretty. I started out with a big PRIDE display for June:

The best part was how amazing it looks from the other side, too.  Most of my displays have just faced into the Teen Room without a lot of regard for how they looked from the other side.

I almost didn't want to take down the rainbow, especially after Orlando, but I have had my July display planned for a long time....HAMILTON.

 I still need to add, you know, books.

Portraits of a lot of the major characters from Hamilton, with quotes from Ham underneath saying who they are...

See? Cute!

The best part is that it looks great from the other side, too!  There are always going to be some visible back-sides of posters, but the flag and fireworks are ON POINT. I decided to make the readable from this direction.  There's too much glare to photograph them well but they look great.

This sort of thing takes a lot of time I don't really have, but the teens love it and it helps them know someone cares about them and their space, so it's worth it.  Plus I get a huge sense of accomplishment from a good display!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Just TRY and make me use a collaborative theme.

Here we go again, Summer Reading articles are due!  This *should* be my final plan for this summer, since I've already turned them in!  I'm going a little lighter on clubs this year, and doing more stand-alone programs. I've also hired more outside people than i usually do.  We're so busy all summer that I'm trying to give myself a break but still lure in a lot of teens!  I've broken most of the programs down into a few categories.  And yes, I'm using Science as a verb.  WE'RE GONNA SCIENCE THE HECK OUT OF SOME STUFF!

Summer 2016


Test Kitchen: Tuesday,June 21st, South Branch 2pm
Are name brand foods better than store brand?  Come take blind taste tests of several types of snacks to determine which are the best! R

Cupcake Wars: Tuesday August 2nd, Main Library 6pm
Everyone will get unfrosted cupcakes and a bag of decorating items.  Who can use them to make the best masterpiece?  Everyone’s a winner because we all get cupcakes. R


Tie-Dye: Wednesday June 22, Main Library, 2pm
Bring your own plain white cotton shirt to tie-dye! All other materials will be provided, as well as instructions for a few pattern possibilities.  R

Jar Etching: Wed. June 29th, North Branch 3pm / Mon July 11th South Branch 6pm
Create a stencil and etch your design onto a mason jar you can use for drinking or storage! One jar will be provided, but you may bring a few smooth jars of your own with you if you wish to make additional projects.  R

Open Mic Night: Tues July 19th, South Branch, 6-8pm
Perform a song, poem, rap, puppet show, interpretive dance…whatever you do best! Just keep it library appropriate. R

Writer’s Workshop: Thurs July 7th South Branch 6:30, Tues July 12th Main Library 6:30
Come meet other local writers for writing games and activities to get your creativity flowing! R

Cat Toys: Wed July 13th, North branch, 3pm
No sewing experience required! Make simple cat toys for animals at a local shelter. R


Retro Recess: Wed. July 27th, Main Library, 2pm
Let’s play outside! We’ll have our giant parachute plus relays, games, and a WATER BALLOON FIGHT! Make sure to wear clothes that can get wet! R

Yoga for Teens: Saturday July 23, Main Library 11am
Whether you’ve done it before or want to try it for the first time, come for a relaxing yoga workshop with a certified instructor. She’ll be breaking down poses as well as moving through yoga sequences. Please bring a yoga mat or a large towel.  R

Jedi Academy: Saturday August 13th, 2pm
Ring of Steel Action Theater and Stunt Troupe are coming to teach the ways of the Jedi and theatrical light-saber fighting! Space is limited, make sure to register early for this awesome event! R


Exotic Zoo: Sat July 16th, Main Library, 1pm
The Exotic Zoo is bringing LIVE ANIMALS for you to meet and learn about! R

Meet Makey-Makey: Monday June 27th Main Library 1pm, South Branch 3:30pm
A makey-makey GO can turn anything into a button for your computer.  What can we invent using the tools like wires, Scratch (a basic coding program), donuts, and ourselves? R

Robot Rampage: Saturday August 6th, Main Library, 3pm
The library has amassed a small collection of awesome tech toys to learn and play with.  Build mazes for our Sphero BB-8 to navigate, draw paths for our Ozobot, and write with our 3-D pen! R

Learn Coding Basics with Scratch! Saturday May 7th, Main Library,
Learn how to use the free program Scratch to make a basic video game, no experience necessary! R

Trivia! Wednesdays May 18, June 15th, July 20th, August 17th. Main Library, 6:30
Adults and teens in 8th grade and up are welcome to play alone or in teams of up to six.  Questions can be about anything, and the teams with a wide age range seem to be the most successful! Winners earn serious bragging rights—our trivia is tough! R

Brawl Tournament: Saturday, June 25, Main Library 12-6pm
Teens and Adults are welcome to our all ages BRAWL tournament!  This is a serious tournament for serious players.   R

Minecraft Realm:  Online
We’re bringing back our Minecraft Realm for the summer!  Email sjones@cmpl.org with your username, real name, and grade to be added.  At this time you must have your own existing Minecraft account for PC to join. We’ll occasionally arrange meet-up times in-game!


Pajama Prom: May 20, Main Library 5:30-8pm
Not going to prom, but looking for something to do on Prom Night? Come to Pajama Prom at the library!  Wear comfy clothes or PJs and enjoy pizza and snacks while we watch the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie.   Current 11th and 12th graders only, all schools/districts welcome! R

Movies: Select dates and locations
Maze Runner: Tuesday June 28th, South branch, 1:30
Percy Jackson Lightning Thief: Tuesday July 26th, South Branch, 1:30
Pirates of the Caribbean Tuesday August 9th, Main Library, 1:30
Paper Towns: Monday August 8, South 1:30
Pre-Party Movie: Saturday June 18th, 3:30 Main Library
Come early for the Unbirthday Party and watch the Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland.

Study Hall: June 10 3-6, 11 1-6, 13th 3-9
 Need a place to study for exams? We’ve got you covered.  Space and snacks are available in our auditorium!

Summer Reading Kick-off: A Very Merry Unbirthday June 18th, Main Library, 5:30-8PM
Not your birthday? Not ours either! Let’s celebrate with an after-hours lock-in!  We’ll have pizza, cake, an ice-cream sundae bar, crafts, and games.  R

Save the date, this year’s epic party will be Friday, August 26th!  Invitation Only—you can snag an invite by finishing the Teen Summer Reading Program!

Summer Reading
Teen Summer Reading will run from _________ to _________!  Read whatever you want and win fun prizes!  Pick up a form from any of our three buildings starting ___________ Please note that the Teen program ends one day before the Kid program!

Reminder Blurb:

Unless otherwise noted, programs require registration, last about 1 hour and are for students going into 6th-12th grades only.  Parents and younger siblings are not permitted to attend except for special circumstances which must be approved in advance.  After-hours programs will be cancelled if there are fewer than 15 registered 3 days prior to the program.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Board Games!

It's been a busy year for my library.  Since our millage passed, we are once again fully staffed and able to do a lot of things we didn't have a lot of time to devote to before, like outreach. 

My favorite project this year has been building our Circulating Board Game collection.  It's not a new idea or one I came up with on my own.  I blatantly stole this from my pal-on-social-media John Pappas, who blogs about his experiences here: http://boardinthelibrary.com/

It started, for me, with a little extra money in the budget and no physical space for more books. The next step was an email to my direct boss wherein I made excellent points about nontraditional collections and the resurgence of games.  Just kidding, it said this:

Obviously there was some back and forth about specifics, but I am lucky enough to work somewhere where we're encouraged to at least give things a try!  So I bought 10 popular games to get us started.  When they were ready to go, I posted about them on our FB page.

This remains our most popular post of all time.  162 likes, 67 shares, over 10,000 page views.  This was shared all around the world!  Many of the games were checked out by the end of THAT DAY.

And they stayed out!  We'd initially been worried about shelf space, but it turns out that the games are out most of the time.  Youth Services chipped in some funds and we added games for kids and more adult games.  We're now up to 53 games!  Right this minute, 5 are "in", 5 are "just returned" and the rest are checked out or on hold. People LOVE this collection--including staff!  One of our pages has taken home almost every game at least once to try out. 

The stats are a little misleading at this point, because I've been adding games in waves--so the ones I added earliest make up most of our top 10 list:

The biggest thing that held people back from being supportive of this collection can be summed up with the phrase,


So here's the reality, after 6 months.  Total number of missing items: 2.  Well, 3 if you count a pair of dice as two items.  We've lost one tiny red gem (easily replaced, we have closets full of that sort of thing in Youth Services), and a pair of dice--also easily replaced.  That's it.  The games come back repackaged perfectly, our patrons are very respectful of the game collection.

Other FAQs:

Who selects the games?
-me. I started with games I knew were popular, like Ticket to Ride and Cattan.  Since then I've been using board game awards and amazon recommendations to pick other games.  The only game that hasn't been super popular is Hanabi.

Who catalogs the games?
-me.  They have very very basic cataloging--title, publisher, and the blurb on the back of the box.

Who checks for all the little pieces?
-me.  THOUGH now that we're up to 53 games, the circulation department has been  helping out when they can. 

How are they processed?
-The games are circulated right in their boxes, which are secured with 4-way rubber bands.  I put stickers with our name on the bigger things in the box (instructions, game boards), and keep little pieces in baggies. Most games actually come with little ziplock type bags, and we have some adorable tiny drawstring bags leftover from when we had a library store that I use for things like dice.  Some of the boxes are getting a little worn, when they do i give them a round of book tape.  So far this has worked just fine.

Where are the games in the library?

-We keep them all next to the video games, in our popular materials department, even the games for little kids.  We don't really want people to use them in the building--though they can if they really want to.

Basic stats:  Games are holdable and renewable, circulate for two weeks, and have a $1/day late fee.

If you want to start a collection but are having trouble getting permission or getting staff on board, the "I will handle everything to do with this" model works, so long as you're, you know, willing to handle it all.  It's worth it for me!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Gearing up for Summer

Over the winter I've been trying new programs with some successes and some failures.  I've been taking pictures and getting ready for write-ups, but they're not quiiiite there yet.  Soon!

The big news has been that I won The Michigan Library Association's Pletz award, which is such an honor!  You can read about it here if you're interested (and want to see my amazing cat print dress) http://www.milibraries.org/about/frances-h-pletz-award/

At this point Summer Reading is planned and locked down.  When people hear about my programming stats (60% improvement my first two years, and still growing albeit at a slower pace!), they always want to know how I do it.  The answer is PROGRAM PROGRAM PROGRAM. Summer is the teen librarian's time to shine--the teens too young for jobs/cars usually don't have a lot going on--so give them something! As I work on scheduling my staff for the summer, the first step is to fill in the programs.  Here's my June, to give you an idea:

There are only four days in June when I am working but don't have a program, and some days I have 2-3 programs.  Is it a lot to do? sure. But I never understand the librarians who avoid programs or only do a few because they're so concerned about burnout.  To me, this is the job. This is how you make it work--by working, a lot!  Some of these programs are more work than others--D&D night, for example, is very little work for me.  But something like Cupcake Wars takes a fair amount of prep work.

I'm keeping up my winter focus on providing lots of programs about lots of things in the hopes of creating new "regulars" as my core group grew up and left me!  Some of my craft programs have been pretty small, but they are still a lot of fun and I think they'll grow.  I'm having trouble with the North Branch still, and having a hard time pinning down why.  Last month, no one showed up for book club at all!  But I had 7 for DIY Spa Day (write up coming), which is a decent crowd for that branch.  I'm trying out some crafty things there this summer to see how that goes.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Crafternoons #1: Sushi Candles

A lot of my regulars have aged out of library life this year--once they get cars and jobs they stop by and say hey once in a while but are mostly busy doing other things.   That means this year will be a year of finding NEW regulars.  My fall lineup of programs is focused on things that will appeal to the middle school crowd.  One thing I just started is a series of "crafternoons", a once-a-month program with a different craft each time.  I do not anticipate a large turnout for these, but another focus for me this year is remembering that small programs are successes too. 

I used these instructions: http://www.instructables.com/id/Beeswax-Sushi-Candles/

For my materials, I purchased all of the beeswax on amazon.  I got two large boxes of white and green, because I figured those would get the most use, and then a smaller box of assorted colors.




This is a LOT of supplies, I'll be able to do this craft more than once, for sure.  I plan to take whatever is left from the crafternoon to the next meeting of the Anime Club. 

I tried the California Roll first.  There's no way i'm giving teens kitchen knives, so I used regular scissors to cut the wax and it works just fine.  Also, I didn't bother with a blowdryer, I just held the wax in my hands and breathed on it a little to make it a bit more pliable and that seems to have worked fine.

I cut strips of pink and white...
and smooshed them together for the...crab? I don't eat sushi.

To make the cucumber...
I rolled up a bit of white
Smooshed it down into a sort of wedge shape, and then put a bit of green on the wider end of the wedge.  Pretty good! Later cucumber bits looked a little better.
Some crab and a couple of cucumbers were smooshed together wish a wick in the middle, then wrapped in green (nori) and white (rice!).  I later added another layer of white to make it a bit thicker.  Not bad!  It looks much better than the few times I've tried rolling actual sushi!
I made a couple of other simple rolls. The tuna is just some red rolled up, the other one is some leftover pink (mystery fish!) with carrot, cucumber, and avocado.  Once I got in the groove it was pretty easy to make these!  I'm going to take one home tonight to burn to see how that goes.

At this moment I only have one teen signed up, but she's my favorite teen so even if it's just her, me, and the new intern we'll have a great time.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Cold November Rain

Summer reading did a number on my budget--who would have thought 60 teens would show up for the Disney Movie Marathon?  That's a lot of not-budgeted-for pizza!  So this fall has been necessarily slooooooow program-wise.  Which is how it usually is-the teens need time to get back into the routine of school. 

Mostly I've just been doing my regular programs:  Pizza and Paperbacks book club, Teen Advisory Council meetings, Dungeons and Dragons nights, Trivia Nights, Anime Club, and a couple of movies.  I only had one REALLY exciting program, and that was ROBOT DAY.

oh photo, how I wish I could rotate you within blogger.

A long-time library teen who still hangs out sometimes but has mostly outgrown teen programs approached me about robot day.  She's a member of an award winning robotics team that draws teens from a number of local school districts, and they were interested in doing an outreach program at my library.  I said YES! before she managed to get the phrase "Can I bring my giant robots to the library?" out of her mouth. 

The teens involved in the robotics team were EXCEPTIONAL.  They were extremely polite, organized, and enthusiastic.  They planned everything--including creating coloring sheets for the little kids who attended.  It was a big program--in one of our meeting rooms we had a ton of small robots that the kids and teens who came to Robot Day could drive and play around with. 

In our auditorium, we had two of their BIG competition robots, as well as several stations demonstrating how they robots are coded, a few 3-D printers, and a station where kids could rivet a piece of metal. 

It was a drop in program, they were in the library for about 4 hours and people could show up whenever and stay however long they wanted. I didn't require any registration.  We had an AMAZING turnout of about 300 people!  It was mostly parents and kids, but we had some teens as well--and it was totally run by the teens from The Thunderchickens (best robotics team name ever!)  If you have a local robotics team, I highly recommend contacting them!

They gave me a Thunderchickens shirt!!!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Tech Project 2: Circuit Art

I, like all of you, have been in full Summer Reading mode for the past couple of months.  I had about 40 teen programs all told, luckily all that's left other than my monthly clubs is the Wrap Up Party.

I've been doing more tech projects, at least one per newsletter cycle.  This time around I did Circuit Art, which was really fun even though the teens were a bit apprehensive at first.

What is Circuit Art?  Using paper and other stuff lying around (buttons, googly eyes), teens could make any type of picture they wanted and add LEDs to it.  Here's my sample:

Using a coin cell battery, conductive paint, and an LED I made a robot who learns to love when you pet his kitty.  In this case, the cat acts as the "switch" that makes the light turn on when it's connected to the battery.

This is the conductive paint product that we used: http://www.bareconductive.com/

I bought one tub, which was plenty for the 12 teens that showed up plus all of my practice projects.  So long as you're making smallish things one tub should be just fine. I have plenty leftover.  You can get LEDs cheaply wherever--mine were just found on Amazon. I bought a variety of colors.

This project was a little difficult, if only because the teens couldn't decide what to make.  Next time I will probably make it less open-ended and have a basic project ready to go--for example, we'd ALL make robots or something.  Still, we had some cute projects in the end, including one TARDIS with working light!  Fun Fact:  All the girls finished functional projects, and none of the boys did. Heh.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Oh hey, it's May

Late Winter and Spring are slow-ish times for programming, as the teens are busy with school stuff and I'm getting ready for Summer Reading.  The programs I've done lately have been all the same old stuff--all of my clubs plus a couple of crafty things.  I had two pretty big flops--both things that my Teen Advisory Council asked me to do.  I made Duct Tape tote bags at both branches and had very low attendance, and then I did egg decorating at the main library and had ZERO attendance.  I mostly know better than to listen to the suggestions of my TAC by now, but this pretty much cements it!  The egg decorating was saved by making an announcement that anyone in the library who wanted to decorate an egg RIGHT NOW could do so.  It ended up being very fun anyway!

My big project this month is my kickoff party for the The Fault in Our Stars movie!  I'm having a 5 hour party in our auditorium.  So far I'm planning:

1) To build a giant fort for reading in.  I was fretting about how i'd get enough blankets and things to make this happen, and then I remembered that I own a 1500 sq. ft. parachute.  That'll work! 
2) To watch lots of Vlogborthers/Sci-Show/Crash Course videos, plus the trailers. 
3) To play a couple of games.  Haven't really planned these yet.  Trivia of some kind, and maybe a scavenger hunt or something?
4) Pizza AND an ice-cream sundae bar.  My usual start to summer reading is an ice cream social, which I'm skipping this year in favor of this party, so I figured I'd combine them!
5) To give out 100 free copies of TFiOS!  I'm really excited to be able to do this.  My Friends of the Library group is awesome and generous with their funding! The books arrived yesterday.
The teens are encouraged to wear PJs and spend the day reading and lounging and, of course, sobbing. It's going to be really fun!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Screen Printing!

I'm going to apologize in advance for the quality of the photos on this post---I was working quickly and with hands covered in stuff so I used my phone, and now I'm working on a sloooooow computer and so i'm forgoing editing!

For this project I'm starting with these instructions.  For the most part they worked fine, though there were once again a few things that were a little unclear.  Also I fudged some things to keep it cheap.

FIRSTLY:  I started out using the directions to make a screen with embroidery hoops and mesh fabric.  The instructions just say to buy mesh fabric, but when you get to the fabric store you'll see that there are a LOT OF OPTIONS.  I ended up purchasing something that was pretty much what you'd use for window sheers, and that worked OK.  If you could find something finer it would probably be better--there were some problems with too much ink getting through the screen and making things a little gloppy.

See? It works, but my attempts that did anything finer than a basic shape didn't come out very well.

While I was searching our supply closet for tote bags to practice on, I found an entire tub of printing supplies.  No one here has any idea where they came from or who bought them, but the tub included a bunch of pre stretched silk hoops!  Very similar to these: http://www.dickblick.com/items/63005-1003/

I decided to give those a try, and WOAH, way less hassle.  A little pricey, but the embroidery hoops were too.  I'll probably let the teens make one of each.

Step 1: decide what you want to make.  I made stencils with our diecuts and had some success with those, but of all my practice attempts (4 total), the freehand drawing turned out the best.
Here's my mysterious hoop of unknown provenance.  Where did you come from, hoop?
My narwhal went through a few different facial expressions before I got his essence right.  The drawing is on a piece of paper under the hoop.  NOW.  If your hoop has a bit of a lip to it, you want to put down the hoop in such a way that it is raised up a little.  Like, if it were a very shallow cup, you'd be putting it top down.  Is this making sense? Ok good.  Now you'll use your screen drawing fluid to drawn on your design.  IMPORTANT! You are drawing your design BACKWARDS. Mostly this isn't going to matter, but it will matter if you're using any letters. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES.

Here he is!

I cheated and did the lettering lightly on the wrong side of the screen, and then covered it from the correct side.  That worked out fine.

This is the BACK of the screen.  See how you can see the lip there?

Let it dry completely. This will take a few hours unless you want to bust out a hairdryer.  I left it overnight.  When it's dry, cover the whole thing (on the same side you put the drawing fluid on) with your screen filler.  It needs to be thick enough that all the holes are plugged, but be careful not to get too much on the drawing fluid or it runs a little. I didn't manage to get a photo of this step.  I used a piece of cardboard to spread it around, which worked fine--though try not to leave any streaks--aim for a nice even layer.

Let it dry again.  I'm doing this with the teens as a two part program--one day they will make the screens (we'll dry the drawing fluid with a hairdryer and then let the filler set overnight) and the second day they'll do the actual printing.  After your filler is dry (overnight), rinse the screen under cold water.  The drawing fluid magically rinses out, leaving just the screen filler.  On the real silk screens it did leave a bit of blue dye behind.

The rinsed screen! I will do this for the teens in the days between programs.  Make sure the water isn't hot--cold was best for me. Once it's dry, you're ready to print! Yay!

To print:

If you're printing on a bag or t-shirt, make sure to put some cardboard or paper inside so the ink doesn't leak through to the back.  Put your screen where you want it, this time so that it lays FLAT and the lip faces up. Glop a bit of your printing ink at the top, and pull it downward.  I'm trying to keep things cheap, so I used a pink rubber eraser instead of buying an expensive rubber squeegee, and it totally worked great. Be wary of using TOO MUCH ink, or it will seep outside the lines of your drawing.


Here's the back of my inky screen...

and here's the front.  You can rinse the ink out afterward, though I haven't tried re-using it yet.

And here's my amazing shirt! There are a couple of areas where it could have used a little more ink, but that just makes it look screen-printed, to me.

Shirts were on sale 4 for $10 at Michels, so I grabbed a few to practice on.  For the program, the teens are bringing their own shirts or whatever to print on.

Overall I think this will go pretty well with the teens, but I'm glad I gave myself plenty of time to practice! 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Teen Tech Project #1 : Solar Bugs

For the past few years, library makerspaces have become quite The Thing.  Unfortunately we don't all have the space, staff, or $$ that it takes to set something like that up as a permanent thing.   Starting with the current round of programming (we divide the year up into 3 newsletters, and plan things far in advance so that we can get them printed and out to residents), I'm doing at least one Teen Tech Project every time.  This was my first, and required a bit of self education.  I've never messed with electronics and things like that, but I'm glad to be learning!  For this project I had to learn to solder, which was very easy.

This is the project we did. Once again I found myself in a position where the instructions are written assuming a certain amount of prior knowledge that I didn't have.  For example, at one point it says you need "Scrap Wire...they can be anything".  Now, I know enough to know that PROBABLY there are at least a few things that wouldn't work.  But I don't know enough to know the difference between something that obviously WILL or obviously WON'T work.  So I'm going to break it down for you here in excruciating detail.

What You Need:

To make the Solar Bug function:

2v Solar Cells 
It looks like the seller I bought from doesn't have anymore, but the description should help you.  There aren't a lot of non-shady places to get these, most people I talked to said to use e-bay. I lucked out that this seller had them on Amazon.
Tiny Motors
Soldering iron and Solder (Ask your IT and facilities departments, they probably have these!)
Wire Cutters (again, IT and facilities)
Wire to connect the Motor to the Solar Cell (link goes to what I used, which is what he used in his instructions.  If you have a better knowledge of what counts as useable "scrap wire", use what you like!)

To make the solar bug into a creature:

Big paper clips, cut down with wire snips
Hot glue gun and glue sticks

totally optional:

Pipe Cleaners
Googly Eyes
Tiny Bells
Anything else you may want to add--though keep in mind you have to keep the solar panel uncovered!

 The Process:

Decide how much soldering you want the teens to do.  I decided "just a little" and so I did the first bit myself and had them do the less fiddly bit.

There exists a tool called a "helping hand" and if you have one, they look like they would be super helpful.  If you don't, you can totally rig a system of binder clips.  The first step is to solder your "scrap wire" or resistor (snip it apart from the thing in the middle so you have two plain wire pieces) to the motor. 

The quick-and-dirty of soldering is that you want to hold the hot tip of the soldering iron to your wire near where you want to solder two things together.  The heat will travel down the wire---you are NOT touching the solder to the soldering iron!  After 10-20 seconds, touch your solder to the wire, keeping the iron in place.  Does the solder melt? Great! Goop that all in there to hold things together.  If it doesn't, give it a few more seconds. It's important to keep contact between the iron and the wire, or else it will cool off and you start over.

Here's how I held things steady.  My first attempt included a clip torn from an old conference badge.

Both sides are in place and soldered!

I did this step for all of the motors, and then assembled kits for each teen that had all the basic parts:

Then the teens bent the wires so that they would touch the contact points of the solar cell (not seen above...they're on the underside).  We used binder clips for this too, along the long edge of the cell leaving plenty of wire exposed. Then you can lift the motor up a bit so that it has a little more room to turn. 

There you go!  At this point, take it outside to see if it works!  You will definitely know if it does.  I found that we needed direct, outdoor sunlight to make them go.

To make it into a jiggly creature, unbend the paperclip wire into legs and hot glue them to the bottom.  After that it's all a matter of personal taste.  This is my little practice bug:

He looks depressed. Probably wishes he were dancing!

From the side.

Here's a link to a video of mine moving

I liked adding googly eyes and bells because they add some movement and noise.  Some of my teens added things to the spinning part of the motor, so that their bots would have a tails that twirled!  So cute!  Here are some photos of their projects: