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Reading Children 'Storm' a Castle with Marshmallow-Armed Catapults

As part of the Reading library’s medieval-themed summer program.

Claire Freedman focused intently on her target: the open windows and door of the castle half a room away from her.

She carefully positioned the rubber band-powered catapult she had made earlier in the evening. With a push on the trigger, Freedman sent a marshmallow flying toward the castle.

Claire, her twin sister Lydie, and about a dozen other students took turns storming castle facades last week with marshmallows as part of the “Castle Quest” summer program for students up to sixth grade. Library staff chose the theme, explained children’s librarian Rachel Baumgartner. 

Middle and high school students are “Shaking up Shakespeare” with summer reading and activities.

Adults are invited to watch ”Despot Housewives,” about the six wives of Henry VIII.

Zachary Nichols came to the catapult-making program because, he told Patch, he likes medieval times, catapults and building things.

“I find (medieval times) interesting,” he said. The eight-year-old will be a third grader at in the fall.

Both Claire and Lydie Freedman said the activity looked like fun. Claire said she was good at engineering. Both girls will be fourth graders at in the fall.

A group of older students supervised the catapult-making with Baumgartner. One of the project leaders will attend Princeton in the fall and plans to major in civil engineering. Dennis Smith volunteered at the library starting the summer after fifth grade, he told Patch. Now he works there, mainly shelving books, he said, and helping out occasionally with library programs.

Smith and Meaghan Kinton, who works in the library’s children’s room, helped compile the catapult-making directions, Kinton told Patch during a break in the action. They used simple materials: a clothespin, a piece of wood, a rubber band. Like Smith, Kinton was a library volunteer, she said, and attended programs there.  She “loves catapults and building things.”

After students assembled their storm-the-castle devices, Baumgartner urged them to see which ones worked best. Then she suggested that they change the orientation of their catapults, to test whether that improved their performance.

During the catapult building and marshmallow firing, Zachary Nichols’ dad, Jeff, sat on the sidelines, watching. The library has a magazine called “Make,” Jeff said, that shows how to make a larger catapult. The idea seemed to intrigue him. But he’s not sure where he would have the space to launch one, he said, as Zachary took his place in the catapult-firing line.            

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