STEM Read on Location: DeKalb Public Library’s 2nd Annual Pop-Con

By Isabella Cortes and Claire Culton, STEM Read Interns

DeKalb Public Library, DeKalb, Illinois

We love an event that gets us out of the office and in front of kids who are as pumped about science as we are! Most recently, we visited DeKalb Public Library for Pop-Con. The library held this event for the second year in a row, in order to celebrate popular culture for all ages. This year’s theme honored the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It was a day packed with spooky costumes, fun activities, and our favorite books! The library ran an escape room for kids and even brought in live bats! The event offered hours of fun for families at no cost.

We arrived at the library early to find our table and set up for the day. This year STEM Read decided to highlight Franny K Stein: Lunch Walks Among Us by Jim Benton. In the book, Franny feels like an outsider for being the only mad scientist at her new school. In an effort to fit in, she tries to change who she is. But, when the school is threatened by an evil pumpkin monster, Franny must embrace her mad scientist self to save the day!

The monster in the book is created from the contents of Franny’s lunch and other miscellaneous items. We built our own replica of the pumpkin monster and tasked children with engineering food monsters of their own that they thought could rival it. They did this by choosing the foods pictures that seemed most durable, or served their purpose of taking down our monster. They then glued them onto craft sticks! Handouts were available for kids to take, which included more fun science experiments, how to make your own slime, and information on STEMFest.

The kids had a great time with the activity. The youngest of kiddos were excited by the cookie and donut pictures. The older kids see the spiky pineapple as an opportunity, the fried chicken drumstick as solid arms, and the bread as “armor”! It was fun to witness the unique spin each kid put on their lunch monster. Many declared confidently that our pumpkin monster wouldn’t stand a chance. It was a fun way for students to think a little more scientifically about a simple craft activity!

We love getting kids excited about STEAM, especially when we get to do it with our local library. Franny K Stein has seven other adventures (soon to be eight!) in her series, all of which explore her mad scientist mishaps. Below, you’ll find a few idea sparks for those who want to expand on the STEAM in Franny K. Stein.

  • Franny loves slimy things. Make your own slime with one of the many recipes you can find online.
  • Mad scientists (and sane scientists) are great observers of the world. Drip some water on a slice of bread and see what happens. You might end up with your own monster.
  • The monster in Franny K Stein: Lunch Walks Among Us is a fearsome foe. Use different kitchen items like forks, spoons, plastic cups, and rubber bands to engineer a monster trap.