Maker Workshops at the Newtown Library

I have in the past lamented a lack of free kids’ arts activities in Sydney, but I have to hand it to the City of Sydney’s libraries which have been running some really great free afterschool programs.

My partner stumbled upon them when I was sick one afternoon and he came home early to take the kids out of my hair. They headed to the Newtown Library where we’re frequent visitors and I started getting very excited texts from him “Did you know they do coding workshops here??”

Ever since she did a circuitry workshop at Questacon a year ago, Luella has developed an interest in all things tech – something her IT geek dad strongly encourages. On our recent Melbourne trip Luella did a great workshop with a program called RoboKids. (They do have some programs in Sydney too.)

I was, however, surprised and dismayed that in the RoboKids workshop of about a dozen kids, she was the only girl! So when my partner texted me he also proudly noted a much better gender balance at the library 🙂

At Newtown these “Maker Workshops” have been running every second Wednesday afternoon from 4-5. Not all the City of Sydney libraries have them – you can check individually. They say they’re geared towards ages 8+ but Luella and some of her Year 1 buddies have had no trouble with them.

And they haven’t all been strictly tech-oriented. The last two I took Luella to were more focused on engineering – one was building a machine of some sort (I was busy reading “Oi Dog” to my 3 year old 87 times so missed the details that day).

However, yesterday’s workshop was by far the favourite of both Luella and her little brother. They brought in a wind machine and the kids made creations and experimented to see how high they could get them to fly.

Nikolas had a little bit of help with his design, but the older kids were all really left to their own devices and just given a pile of materials to work with.

Luella got stuck right in and started designing an “alien” to send flying. I knew she was making it too heavy to fly but I kept quiet because I wanted her to have the experience of trying, failing, re-evaluating and trying again – and that’s exactly what happened.

She tried removing elements of her design and eventually decided to just start from scratch with a more lightweight cup. She also took a look at the designs that were floating best, and borrowed elements from those while still keeping her own decorative touches, eventually coming up with the creation that flew the highest of anyone!

All of the kids were so engaged and getting to see their creations fly really brought the activity to life. Activities like this are so great for fine motor skills too – something Niko often struggles with. But after a lot of practice he got the hang of ripping off sticky tape and using it to decorate his “super hero cup”.

Honestly, I’m hard pressed to think of a better way to spend our time after school. Usually Luella comes home asking to watch TV but these Wesnedays have become the highlight of our week.

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