Solar Powered Mason Jar Holiday Luminaries

Hello Friends,

Today’s crafting program idea is holiday Luminaries for your enjoyment!


They are easy to make, and fairly inexpensive on a tight budget with a trip to your neighborhood dollar store.


Mason Jar Luminaries can be tailored for different holidays including Halloween, Christmas, Valentines Day, or can be decorated with a summer feel.


I chose to use solar powered lamps instead of button powered LEDs as those will burn out and  teens will just cast away the craft all together.



Things you will need

  1. Mason Jars (1 for each teen)
  2. Mod Podge and paper bowls to place it in.
  3. Clear Packaging Tape
  4. Designs printed on a Laser Printer
  5. Glitter
  6. Foam Brushes (1 for every 3 teens or so)
  7. Solar Lamps from the dollar tree (1 for each teen)
  8. spare bits of Cardboard
  9. Craft Knife or Box cutter
  10. Hot Glue Gun
  11. Hot water and pan to soak labels in. +Access to warm water
  12. Hair Dryer (optional)

Program Prep

Preparing the Solar LED light

  1. These solar lamps can be bought at the dollar tree.
  2. Remove the solar lamp from the plastic casing.
  3. Trace the lid of the mason jar on cardboard and cut out a circle
  4. Cut out a square so the solar glass will be exposed through the cardboard allowing it to do it’s awesome solar powered thing.
  5. Using the hot glue gun glue the plastic edges to the cardboard.
  6. Fit in the top ring and boom you have a solar powered LED lid!

Prepping Decals

  1. Using Microsoft Publisher create a page size that conforms to the packing tape you are using. Go with roughly 1.8 “ by 10”
  2. Select Program appropriate images using google. Have them be transparent and format the images so they are Black and very little brightness. (Darker the better)
  3. (Steps 4 and 5 can be done within the program or ahead of time)
  4. Print the images, then using the packaging tape, Carefully lay the tape over the images. Use a plastic card to get rid of any air bubbles.
  5. Using a pair of scissors cut as near to the images as you can and set aside.



1st Step Bedazzle the Mason Jar

  1. Using a foam brush, coat the inside of the jar with mod podge, working your way from bottom to top. Try to avoid thick lines or pools.
  2. Once the inside is thoroughly coated drop a generous table spoon of glitter into the jar. DO NOT LET TEENS HAVE CONTROL OF THE GLITTER! even though it’s a simple pouring action somehow my teens had glitter go everywhere.
  3. Cap the jar and Shake and Bake!
  4. Add more glitter if needed or dump excess glitter into a baggie and save for another use or for next luminary.
  5. Once the jars are glittered seal them.
  6. PRO-TIP: Use Extra Fine Glitter. For colored luminaries  ratio is   75% Diamond  25% Color.


2nd step Soak, Remove and Apply decals

  1. Prepare a Tin with Warm water
  • Warm should be warm not hot if it is too hot it will distort the image
  1. Drop the images carefully covered in tape into the water
  2. Allow to soak for five minutes
  3. After 5 minutes grab one of the images
  4. Using your finger remove the paper from the sticky side of the tape.
  5. If the paper is too stubborn place it back in the water and add more warm water.
  6. Once the paper is removed the image will remain on the tape.
  7. Lay the image flat on a table sticky side up.
  8. Allow to dry or use Hair dryer to speed up the drying process.
  9. Once the tape is dry it will become sticky again.
  10. Carefully apply the image to the outside of the Mason jars. Attempt to avoid bubbles or wrinkles.




Overall this program went fairly well. Kids were entertained and enjoyed making these.  Now knowing how to create decals with a laser printer it opens up possibility for programs where kids can do some customization if they wish.

For further reference go to these website

When your lesson plan fails…

As a school librarian with a flexible schedule, the instructional time I have is quite productive and focused, but it’s usually highly concentrated. I often see a class for a project for a week in the fall, but not again until the spring for another week-long project. So, when a lesson flops, it’s a big deal.

Part of my strategy for dealing with failed instruction is prevention. Good advanced planning that keeps the student group in mind is a must. Even if I teach the same 9th grade class with the same teacher working on the same project, I’ll still differentiate the pace, activities, and content based on what I know about the specific section and what the teacher has mentioned about each group’s working style and personalities.

Even with good planning, though, sometimes things just don’t work out. I run out of time, there are significant student behavior disruptions and I don’t manage them as well as I should, we have a fire drill, students just aren’t getting the concept very well.

Much of the struggle with a failed lesson is emotional. It’s difficult to accept the failure and move on, instead of believing I’m a bad teacher and students just won’t ever “get it”, but it has to be done. Taking a big-picture, longitudinal approach to meeting instructional goals is key for me. I may not see a group of students again until the spring, but I do have the benefit of seeing students grow as researchers across multiple grades, which not every teacher has. I use that multi-project, multi-grade perspective to my advantage when designing research lessons. If a project failed in 9th grade or students didn’t get as far as we’d like in skill development, we can adjust the research projects across all subject areas in 10th grade to give them more experience.

So, breaking down content and making intentional time for review is key in recovering from a failed lesson.  I can’t cover every skill in detail in every research project students undertake, so I break up content into the essentials for the grade level with plenty of time for review. So, I teach having high standards for evaluating sources and making a basic bibliography in 5th grade, moving on to an MLA format bibliography in 6th grade while reviewing standards for evaluating sources. Building review into the instructional sequence helps with lesson failure because I know that if the first time students see a concept isn’t successful, I will be reviewing the concepts in the next project or the next school year. I can always re-teach more intensively instead of a more basic review if I believe that students are behind in a certain skill set due to a failed lesson.

None of this is easy, believe me. But, as I see students grow as researchers, I know that this approach works and that a failed lesson on any given day, terrible as it might feel, is absolutely temporary.

Bookish Bites: YA Book and Food Pairings


Has a book ever made you hungry? I’m sure many of my fellow literary/foodie folk loved imagining what butterbeer would taste like when reading Harry Potter, or got really disappointed after reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to find out that the taste of Turkish Delight is really not worth betraying your family.

Just as food adds much pleasure and nostalgia to life, it can add so much to one’s experience of a story as well. It helps locate the story in a unique time and place; what characters eat (or don’t eat) gives a sense of their values, personality, or even their socioeconomic status. If you run or participate in a book club that reads YA literature, try bringing food into your next book discussion–and of course bring some to share with your readers as well! It will help immerse you in the world of the book.

Here are a few ideas of potential literary snacks to jazz up your next book club meeting:

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han – White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

If you can read To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before without developing a major craving for cookies, I applaud you! For the rest of us, I highly encourage baking a batch while you read or discuss the book. While there are many options from Lara Jean’s repertoire to choose from, I suggest attempting her White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies which are perfect for the holiday season. Jenny Han includes a recipe for them in the paperback edition of the book.


The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – November Cakes

Maggie Stiefvater helps build the unique island setting of The Scorpio Races with lots of descriptions of food. The most intriguing of these offerings are November cakes. Just listen to this description: “Finn finds my left hand, opens my fingers, and puts a November cake in my palm. It oozes honey and butter, rivulets of the creamy frosting joining the honey in the pit of my hand. It begs to be licked.” Yowza! Stiefvater provides a recipe for November Cakes on her blog here.


A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge – A Killer Cheese Platter

In the underground world called Caverna, our protagonist, Neverfell, works as an apprentice to Cheesemaster Grandible. Grandible is more like a wizard than a cook–his cheeses can induce visions or the future. Put out a platter of unique, strong cheeses like bleu d’Auvergne, Gruyere, aged Gouda, and Camembert to transport readers to Neverfell’s world.


Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor – Tainted Pepper Soup

Akata Witch is about a group of tweens in Nigeria who have magical powers. Nnedi Okorafor frequently describes the delicious Nigerian dishes–both magical and mundane–that her characters eat. Pepper Soup is a popular Nigerian dish, but Sunny, the main character, encounters a magical version called Tainted Pepper Soup that can explode if not prepared correctly! Try this non-magical version from the author’s blog at your book club meeting.


Bang by Barry Lyga – Pumpkin Manchego Pizza
Sebastian has had a hard life. At age 4, he accidentally shot and killed his baby sister, and has been grieving ever since. Now 14, he meets a new friend, Aneesa, who helps him move forward by celebrating his cooking skills. Sebastian has always been a passionate pizza chef, and Aneesa helps him create a Youtube channel to share his creations. One of his masterpieces is a pizza made with a pumpkin base and manchego cheese that sounds absolutely amazing. Here’s a recipe I found that allows you to bake a customizable pumpkin manchego pizza with optional toppings.


What are your favorite foods from fiction? Please share your faves (and recipes!) in the comments below.

Happy Hanukkah | YA Books w/ Jewish Characters

Just a couple months ago, 11 people were killed in a shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. It’s even more clear now that Jewish voices deserve a space in our collections, and that these stories are important for everyone to read. As teen librarians, we must actively show all the teens in our community of all faiths & identities that they are welcome in our library.

Tonight will mark the fifth night of Hanukkah, so I’m sharing a list of YA books with Jewish rep to recommend to teens at your library and incorporate into displays & booklists. Some of these books deal heavily with Jewish faith & identity, while others simply feature characters that happen to be Jewish. This is not a comprehensive list; there are so many more books about Jewish teens that deserve a spot in your collection, so be sure to actively seek those out.

All books are in alphabetical order by author or editor.



To keep up to date on forthcoming YA books with Jewish rep, I highly recommend following Rachel Lynn Solomon on Goodreads (she has awesome lists of upcoming books with Jewish characters that are super helpful!). Another great resource is the Jewish Book Council.

Please let us know in the comments what other books with Jewish rep you love!


Try Your Hand at Stop Motion Animation

S.T.E.M. in the Library

S.T.E.M. programming as become an important part of library programming. Most, if not all libraries are finding ways to add such programs for their patrons. The programming that takes place is based on one’s budget and knowledge of the topic.

Back in October I decided to try my hand at Stop Motion Animation during my monthly S.T.E.M. program. It was filled with some ups and downs but ultimately was a fun success. It’s also very simple and possibly inexpensive for you to do yourself at your public or school library.

What is Stop Motion?

“An Animation technique that uses a series of shots showing small movements to make characters or objects appear to move.” (Source: Sports Claymation by Emily Reid)

“Stop motion is a type of animation. It is created by taking many photographs. After each photo, the animator moves the characters just a little bit. The process is repeated over and over. At the end, the photos are used to make a movie.” (Source: Filming Stop-Motion Animation by Zoë Wilkinson Saldaña)

Different Types of Stop Motion:

  • Claymation/Clay Animation
  • Lego

What you need to make a stop motion film:

  • A smartphone or tablet with a camera and the app Stop Motion Studio
    • The version above is free but you can also purchase this version of the app with more features
  • An idea
  • Props and other materials
  • Desk Lamp (if needed for better lighting)
  • Masking Tape (optional)
  • Tripod or another type of stand to hold your device (I used book stands)
  • Pencils (optional)
  • Paper (optional)
  • Patience

Steps for creating your stop motion film:

  • Come up with an idea
  • Create a storyboard and characters (if time allows)
  • Build your set
  • Prepare characters and props
  • Set up your smart device in a spot best for taking the photos
  • Begin taking your photographs
  • At some point along the way, give your film a title

Useful Knowledge:

  • For this app., your film must be shot in order
  • Don’t move your camera while filming a scene.
  • One second is about 8 photographs.
  • Remember to move each object slightly. You may want practice before filming.
  • If having a character raise its arm have it go up further than you want and then go down a bit. This will give it a more realistic look.
  • The more characters and movable objects in your scene, the more work.

How it went at my library:

Fortunately my library had iPads and I had the app loaded onto a few of them. I had more teens then I expected so I allowed a group I trusted to use my iPhone which I had previously uploaded the app to in order to test it out.

The Children’s Department at my library had a bunch of Legos, so I decided they would be best to use. Unfortunately I didn’t discover until the day of that they didn’t have any Lego people. Instead I allowed the teens to use my Funko minis as the characters in their film.

I did this program in my normal one hour S.T.E.M. program which I think was a mistake. If I do it again (which I hope to) I am thinking of trying it as a longer special S.T.E.M. program.

The Final Products:

Feel free to head over to my library’s teen blog to check out the final video products by clicking here.

For books featuring more information check out the following titles:


Feel free to comment with any questions you may have.