Volume 22,  Volume 22, Issue 2

UC Libraries hosts local elementary school students

By Participants Elaine Grigg Dean, Mark Chalmers, Ted Baldwin, Chris Harter, Katie Foran-Mulcahy, Rachel Hoople and Aja Bettencourt-McCarthyn

Throughout the Fall 2023 semester, UC Libraries collaborated with College Mentors for Kids to host local elementary school students in library locations across the campus. Students from Oyler School and Evanston Academy visited the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) Library, the College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services (CECH) Library, and the Archives and Rare Books (ARB) Library along with the Oesper Museum to learn more about UC Libraries collections and the work of librarianship.

What is CMFK?

College Mentors for Kids (CMFK) is a non-profit organization that works to “transform the lives of children and college students through mentoring.” College Mentors for Kids pairs elementary school children with a college mentor and together they participate in activities on university campuses designed to inspire growth, confidence, and brighter futures. The University of Cincinnati chapter of College Mentors for Kids is run entirely by UC students (they’re currently recruiting) and works with over 50 students from Evanston Academy and Oyler School. At the beginning of the fall semester, student leaders from UC’s College Mentors for Kids chapter approached UC Libraries to collaborate on sessions highlighting both the Libraries’ unique collections and librarians’ expertise.

CEAS Library Visit Recap

The week of October 16, 2023, the students and UC college mentors visited the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) Library. The students and mentors learned about Neil Armstrong’s life and the accomplishments that led him to become a successful professional, famous astronaut (‘first man on the moon’) and later aerospace engineering professor at UC. The presentation highlighted several artifacts from the Armstrong collection donated to UC by the Armstrong family.

Students were fascinated by Armstrong’s flight mask and learning about how he parachuted to the ground after his plane crashed during the Korean war. An excited volunteer read aloud the poem “My Vacation” about the moon landing and the students enjoyed the idea of debunking the myth about a moon made of green cheese.

After the presentation groups rotated through three different space-themed activities selected by CMFK facilitators: making phases of the moon out of Oreo cookies, making masks of the different planets and making pinwheels modeled after the Pinwheel Galaxy. Devouring the moon cookies ended the program on a very delicious note!

CECH/ARB Visit Recap

During the week of October 23, 2023, the students and UC college mentors visited the College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services (CECH) Library and the Archives and Rare Books (ARB) Library. At CECH, students got the opportunity to learn how and why academic librarians build displays. Students were taught the important guidelines that inform display building, including identifying audience, reviewing the collection and how to choose books and visuals. Students then chose their own display theme prior to selecting display materials from the CECH Library collection, which features children’s and young adult materials along with a robust curriculum materials collection.

The final themes the four groups chose were: halloween, food and cooking, dancing and holidays. Once themes were chosen, CECH Library employees along with UC college mentors helped students pick out books in their selected theme as well as use the CECH Library MakerLab tools to bring their displays to life with hand-made visuals. The displays the students created remained up in the CECH Library through the month of November.

When visiting ARB, the students undertook two projects. One group became ‘history detectives’ by learning about the history of postcards and working with their mentors to determine the age of historic postcards by examining images and other clues on the postcards and in their design. They then had the opportunity to create their own postcards to send to loved ones or friends. Another group learned about the history of book printing and the range of unique books in ARB’s collections including oversized and miniature books, books with fore-edge paintings and a heart-shaped book of love songs. The students then created their own zines and mini books to take home.

Oesper Visit Recap

The week of November 13, 2023, students and UC college mentors visited the Ralph E. Oesper Chemistry-Biology Library and the Oesper Collections in the History of Chemistry. In the library, students participated in an activity where they shared examples of the ways they observe chemistry in their daily lives along with stories from the various museums they had visited. They were shown 17th century woodcut illustrations of scientific glassware next to various animals and discussed ways we find inspiration in the natural world. The students then illustrated their own scientific instruments inspired by animals and drew portraits of themselves as scientists.

In the museum, the students were engaged as they saw and interacted with real examples of the antique chemical glassware they had observed in the woodcuts. They learned more about the history of science and the development of basic chemical methods such as distillation. The groups were particularly fascinated, not by a chemical instrument, but rather by Ralph Oesper’s typewriter, which is on display in the Oesper Library. The students lined up to tinker and play with the antique typewriter.
The visit to the Chemistry-Biology Library and the Oesper Collections was a rich and immersive educational experience. This trip not only deepened students’ understanding of chemistry’s role in both history and society but also sparked their imaginations, leaving a lasting impression.


Each library visit provided students and their mentors with unique experiences and learning opportunities that introduced them to the diversity of UC Libraries’ collections and the range of roles that librarians and staff play on campus. In addition, partnerships like this one with College Mentors for Kids are an expression of one of the Libraries’ strategic goals – engaging with the greater Cincinnati community. UC Libraries hopes to continue to partner with College Mentors for Kids and is working to expand community outreach and collaboration more broadly.