Summer Reading Club Activities: Science Fiction Fun

The theme for Summer Reading Club this week is the future, science fiction, and imagination so our weekend fun is about cool science fiction! We’ve got one science fiction craft and one STEM activity to keep you and your child exploring this weekend.

Activity 1: Toilet Paper Roll Robots

Our first craft is a classic. Using our printable colouring sheet, you can make lots of cool robots out of old toilet paper rolls. If you don’t have a printer feel free to get creative and decorate your robots however you like – you don’t need to use our template. Send us a picture of your cool creation to summerreading@tnrd.ca once you’re finished!

Here what’s you’ll need:

  • Empty toilet paper rolls
  • Coloured pencils, markers, or crayons
  • Black marker
  • Glue stick
  • Printable Robot Bits colouring sheet

Set-up:

It’s super easy. First, gather your supplies. Print your bits n’ pieces or draw your own. Then, colour and cut them out!

Next, you’ll use your glue stick to glue them to the toilet paper roll.

You can also colour and cut the toilet paper roll itself into different shapes. And just like that, you’re done!

beep boop! Our robots are ready for some summer adventures.

Activity 2: Learn to Code

This week’s second activity is about coding! What is coding exactly? Coding is the act of writing instructions for a computer to make the computer perform a task. Coding may also be called programming. A finished set of computer instructions is called a program. 

Many of the appliances in our everyday life require a coded program to work. Code is written in “computer” language. Just like human languages, there are lots of kinds of computer languages like HTML, Javascript, and Python. Computer language translates our human instructions into binary code, a string of ones and zeroes that’s easiest for a computer to understand. 

It’s never too early to learn to code. There are lots of cool programs online that teach children how to program using simplified, visual tools. They can build simple games, animations, and more using pre-made blocks of code that stack together to make a sequence. 

Coding teaches a logical sequence of steps to problem solving. Children that code learn perseverance, an understanding of cause and effect, and analytical thinking skills. They can think creatively to pursue innovative ideas and solutions. 

At the end of the day, kids think coding is fun and we love that it really makes them think!

These are some good free websites if your kids are interested in learning coding:

Code Combat

This is playing a game to learn how games are built. It’s really really cool! (Also you won’t be able to stop playing. Really.) Kids have to write lines of code, prompted by hints, to move their character through different levels. The difficulty rises as they advance.

Scratch

You can build anything on this website, like videos and mini-games! It is based on blocks of code that you can drag around the screen. There are lots of short tutorials to help you figure it out. Your children might like to just explore on their own once they have the basics down. 

Code Monster

A fun blue monster narrates this introduction to Javascript. It’s a super simple program. All you do is follow prompts made by the monster that help you change aspects of the objects on your “stage.” So you code in one box, and the other box is your stage. 

Bonus Activity

If you’re looking to unplug from technology this weekend, but still want your young children to learn about coding, there’s an easy and fun game your children can play with you or by themselves. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Tape 
  • Printable code symbols
  • Coloured pencils or markers
  • Coloured construction paper (ideally red, but any colour will do)
  • Scissors 
  • A small toy figurine: hot wheels car, unicorn toy, etc.

Set-up

First, find some open floor space in your house. You’ll want to tape a 5ft. x 5ft. grid on the floor. You could also do this activity outside with chalk in the driveway.

Next, cut out the code symbols provided by the library and colour them different colours!

Also cut the construction paper into squares to fit your grid. These are your obstacles! If your construction paper is red, maybe they’re hot lava squares; if your construction paper is blue, maybe they’re open ocean, like ours. Use your imagination! Then, place your obstacles randomly in your grid.

Protip:  The more obstacle squares there are, the more challenging it will be for your programmer to complete.

How to Play

This game requires two players. It can be played by you and your child or by two children. One player is the “programmer” and one is the “robot.” The programmer gives instructions and the robot follows them.

Put one arrow marking the entrance to the grid and one marking the exit. The programmer will give steps to the robot to guide them through the grid from the entrance to the exit. Each step should be given in computer language: e.g. Move one space forward. Turn left. Move two spaces forward. The robot should follow the commands given exactly. You can give these commands simply by talking or you can use the printable coding cards to plan the commands in advance.

For an extra challenge, have the programmer give all the instructions in advance. They have to lay out the coding cards all at once before they start – and go back to the beginning if their robot hits an obstacle!

Finding a mistake in a code and having to fix it is a common occurrence in coding, which is why there is even a term for it: debugging! One of the great things about learning to code young is the opportunity to talk to children about resilience. Making mistakes, failing, finding the mistake, and trying again is an important part of learning to code, and these skills will serve your children well in other parts of their life too.

Our Kamloops Library mascots had a lot of fun testing this game out for all of you!