It’s 31 feet tall, holds in its belly a mystery number of marbles, and offers – strung from a huge spiral lettered provocatively with “... around the corner ...” “... and then ...” – more than a hundred things. Take a look here:
Things to puzzle over, things to ask about, things to spark fantabulous trains of fantastical thoughts.
It’s the Story Jar at ImaginOn.
ImaginOn, the collaboration between the public library and Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, opened in 2005. The Jar was designed to inspire kids working in its Story Lab: Computers were connected to it and each time a child completed a story, its marbles lit up. Since then, iPads with learning and literacy applications have replaced those computers and that function, but the Jar remains. And its things still spur conversations.
Some even have stories of their own.
In her job as planning and partnership coordinator for Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, Maryann O’Keeffe has become the “keeper” of the Story Jar. And it makes quite an impression on library patrons, she said. “Nine out of 10 times, people say ‘Wow!’ It’s so huge. They get closer and start pointing out things that they see. ‘Awe-inspiring’ and ‘awe-struck’ are the words I’d use to describe people’s reactions.”
Once a year O’Keeffe climbs a cherry-picker to change out four to eight items on the mobile. “Originally, the items were meant to generate stories, not have ones of their own. But over the past 12 years we have been able to add items of significance.”
For one thing, each season she creates a scavenger hunt including items that tie into that year’s CTC performance schedule. Families can use the poster in front of the Story Jar to find the scavenger hunt items. (That’s why you’ll see an umbrella, for “Mary Poppins,” and a stuffed penguin, for “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” now.)
There’s also a Story Jar Search, added in 2007. Patrons pick up a list at the Welcome Desk or Spangler Library Service Desk, then look for items on the mobile that match the letters of the alphabet. Library staff recommend climbing the ramp to the third floor to get a closer view.
Story Jar Trivia
1. What was the first thing added to the Story Jar?
2. What was the most difficult item to hang?
3. Which item was the toughest to obtain?
4. Which letter on the Story Jar Search corresponding to an item is the hardest to find?
5. Which thing do most kids comment on?
6. What items don’t kids recognize?
7. What’s the weirdest item on the mobile?
8. What’s the title of the one book hanging on the Story Jar?
a. Antique sewing machine.
b. Washboard and disposable camera.
c. The Cabbage Patch pink chair.
d. The letter “X.”
e. The food items, especially the broccoli.
g. Unicycle and the hobby horse, because they are heaviest.
h. Hansel and Gretel
Answers: 1: c, 2: g 3: a, 4: d, 5: f, 6: b, 7: e, 8: h