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DTL hosts virtual Storybook Engineering

Elizabeth Lee shows the audience how she is building her henhouse using a triangle-shaped structure

By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff

Many kids have found themselves confined to the house this summer. There have been no summer library visits with COVID-19 restrictions still in place. But that hasn’t stopped the Dover Town Library (DTL) from bringing programming to kids. On Thursday, August 13, the DTL hosted the last of its Storybook Engineering sessions. 

Elizabeth Lee, who led the sessions, focused this last class on the story of Henny Penny, a retelling of the Chicken Little story. “Once upon a time, a long, long, long time ago, back in the days when animals could talk, or maybe we’ll say it this way - when animals let humans know they could talk - there was a chick named Henny Penny,” began Lee. She continued telling the story of Henny Penny’s terror at thinking the sky was falling, leading other animals to panic. Lucy Goosey, the eldest and wisest animal in the story, quickly figured out that the sky was not falling. Instead, she knew that it was actually acorns falling from the tree and hitting Henny Penny in the head. Rather than tell Henny Penny and the rest of the animals, Lucy Goosey proposed making henhouses that could withstand the falling sky.

Lee assigned attendees to make some henhouses of their own. “Your job is to build and test, and if it doesn’t work the first time, that’s ok. When you observe what doesn’t work, that gives you your ideas for how to make it better,” explained Lee. Participants had picked up their building kits at the library prior to the class. Each one contained popsicles sticks, two pieces of construction paper, index cards, and a piece of foam. Kids needed tape, scissors, and something to use as a falling sky. “Mine is a bag of erasers,” said Lee.

The children were eager to get to work. Some kids focused on making their henhouse as a triangle, while others tried other shapes. When asked about her plan, one participant exasperatedly admitted that she had no idea for her design. “That’s actually really normal and not a bad thing. Can you show me what you have so far?” Lee asked. The girl revealed hers and Lee helped her improve it so it was ready for any pieces of falling sky.

The group tested their henhouses, dropping their respective skies onto them. Participants whose henhouses fell apart brainstormed with the group and tried new techniques to strengthen them.

After finishing the henhouses, Elizabeth Lee returned to the story. Like the attendees, the animals made and tested specially-made henhouses. As she made her henhouse, Henny Penny realized that it was acorns, and not the sky, that was falling. She announced her findings to the rest of the barnyard, where all the animals sighed in relief, but continued their work. Much like the participants, they were eager to find the best design for a henhouse.

While no one expected this summer to be one of learning and library visits, Storybook Engineering provided the perfect environment for the community's youngest patrons to learn about science - and all from the safety of home.

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