Curiosity Machine: Hands-on Science at the Pasadena Public Library

This summer I tried a new science workshop at the Pasadena Central Library, for tweens ages 9 and up, using the website This is a great website for librarians, teachers and homeschooling parents, with its collection of projects, how-to videos, and opportunities for children to interact with scientists and get feedback on their projects.

Free science classes are definitely in high demand, and even after I split it up into two classes the spots filled up right away! We started each class learning about some science concept and then applying what we learned to a hands-on challenge. We learned about Newton’s laws of motion, tessellations, the aerodynamics of bird flight, and simple machines. We:

Shot stomp rockets,

Made bird wings that could be flapped hard enough to rotate us around in an office chair,

Engineered honeycomb structures strong enough to hold a stack of dictionaries,

And designed sharp levers for picking up and breaking eggs.

Each time, the kids had to try many times to get the result they wanted. This was not like doing a craft program producing widgets, and none of the projects were easy. Tweaking their designs constantly was actually the point. The kids were encouraged to submit photos of their projects to the website and get feedback and earn digital badges for redesigning them. I told them not to think about failure, because in science there is only experimentation and predicted, or unpredicted, results. And sometimes, it’s the unpredicted results that yield the most amazing discoveries.

One result I had not predicted was that the kids’ enthusiasm for science would spill over so much onto their parents, who often exclaimed how much fun THEY were having! Girls who thought science was a “boy’s thing” found they had a knack for it after all. One child developed a whole new bond with her physicist dad who had never done any science activities with her before.

It was the most fun I’ve ever had at a program, and I guess the kids picked up on that too –one girl told me she wants to be a librarian when she grows up so that she can do fun things like this. The atmosphere each week was electric. Whenever the kids crossed a bridge like getting their rocket more air-tight so it could fly farther, or building their paper structure strong enough to hold not up just one but TWO children, everyone cheered and applauded, as you can see in the photo below.

To share photos of this class, I made a slideshow with more information at I’m also starting to put some things on my blog here at Science in the Library. I plan to post what we are doing each week in the October class. If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email at


  1. This is awesome! So excited to see such a great program run using our website. Would love to hear about the October class, please let us know if there's any way we can support you in running more programs.
    -Kevin from the Curiosity Machine team

    1. Thanks Kevin! The support from Iridescent has been awesome. The kids loved the beautiful certificates they got at our last meeting.


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