Welcome to Native-flatables! A part of the PLIX Rural & Tribal Library Toolkit project, this Inflatables remix is created by April Griffith, the library director at Eureka Springs Carnegie Library in Arkansas. Learn more about the design of this remix in our blog.
🌀 Remix 🥰 Ages 10+ 🕐 1–1.5 Hours 👩👧👦 6–18 Participants 🍎 1–2 Facilitators 🎨 Craft Materials
How does this remix address a challenge or opportunity in your context? We’re challenging tweens and teens to re-create dogwoods, redbuds, morel mushrooms, etc. (all native to Ozarks) into inflatable blossoming plants using recycled chip bags, paper, tape and other household materials. The creations in turn can be approached as toys, wearables, etc.
Why did you choose this remix strategy? How does it address a challenge or opportunity in your context? Native plants are a topic we like to center programming on as a tenet of sustainability and community resiliency. A fun way to connect younger people to this topic (or at least a nice way to sneak in another fun STEM aspect—a spoonful of hands-on creating helps the hard science go down!) is to highlight the local, beautiful flowers and fauna that are endemic to the area, and try to recreate them. As participants work on their inflatables, there is an opportunity to talk about why native flowers are important in supporting the ecosystem and how insects, birds, small and large mammals all rely, in turn, on these particular flowers having space to grow in our community.
We ask participants to think of what flowers they are noticing or looking forward to seeing this spring to start the conversation. We show them some of the example flowers we made, and talk about the connection between native plants and upcycling trash for materials as accessible, practical sustainability practices.
Did you create any example projects for this prompt? Please describe. Yes! We made a moon and star just to experiment with inflatable shapes to begin with. We also made a blooming flower crown, and several of us tried to make a blooming flower based on the instructions in the PLIX sample cards but we were unable to get our flowers to “bloom.” :(
What went well? What was challenging? We didn’t have many attendees, but those who came were excited and tried several iterations of their creations. Ultimately, no one was able to make a correctly “blooming” flower, but everyone had fun making other inflatables.
What did you celebrate? We loved making the figures (after we gave up one flowers). One of the examples looks kind of like a caterpillar, which was an opportunity to discuss the connection between native flora and fauna. Even though our flowers didn’t bloom, our caterpillars still crawled!
Which of the PLIX facilitation techniques did you use or think about while planning this remix activity, if any? Celebrate process and product, model curiosity and confidence, don’t touch the tools! And give yourself time to grow. I had to remind myself not to touch the tools but offer suggestions and let them work through them with the tools. Myself and another librarian as facilitators also created new items next to the participants, and showed them our original creations so they could see how it was definitely a learning process. We encouraged them to use as much of the materials as they wanted because all of it was headed for the trash can anyway, which I think helped them feel a little more open to exploration.
Are there any activity-specific facilitation tips that you used with patrons? We sort of lightly-narrated in a conversational way, what we saw others doing that seemed successful for the benefit of the rest of the group. I pointed out how it looked like someone was having success using just the edge of the iron to seal the edges of the mylar, instead of the tip. Or that someone was folding their material as a way to not have to seal the entire piece, but instead benefit from a starting point based on the symmetry. A very specific tip for this activity: we used glue dots internally for the paper-flatables in place of where we might have made “diamonds” with the iron on the mylar. These worked well as a substitute so that we were still able to get some animation and motion with the paper creations.
What advice would you give facilitators planning to do this remix at their libraries? We were really focused on native flora, but I think it would be helpful to open it up to the native fauna as well. Frogs and butterflies, creeping caterpillars; birds with curling tails, all the way up to mammals (bobcat tails!) are all good ways to open up this activity a bit more, and a fun follow up would be lining these different creations up in a visual food chain/ food web to demonstrate the ecology.