More Library STEAM Fun

Today I want to share with you a blog that has inspired me to no end! Check out STEM in Libraries and their amazing series of attainable, interesting, and varied STEM projects.

Why STE(A)M? 
Let’s start by considering why STEAM education matters – for schools, libraries, students, and families. I want to look at this as more than a flash-in-the-pan trend and explore what components of STEAM actually have an impact on student learning.

STE(A)M stands for science, technology, engineering, math – with the frequent inclusion of arts in the middle. I want to be clear here that I am not interested in trendy, but I am interested in fruitful. From that standpoint, the value of STEAM is the providing of hands-on, exploratory, student-focused activities; the inclusion of a variety of materials; the opportunity to hypothesize, try, revise, and try again; and the ability to predict, problem-solve, and learn from the process.

Perhaps I might say that at the core of my educational philosophy is that doing is as important as hearing and reading, and that being able to think through a process and predict an outcome is as important as remembering facts.

STEAM activities we could do in our libraries
Since one of the major components of our work this semester is planning an early literacy program for children, I have been very keen to consider how we can accessibly and affordably incorporate STEAM activities in our storytimes and programs. This means activities that don’t use a ton of expensive materials, can be done in one session, and are achievable by a storytime leader and a group of kids.

So check out these cool STEAM storytimes that I found on this blog:

Dinosaur Storytime includes a great dinosaur song with lots of dinosaur vocabulary; an activity using air-dry clay to make dinosaur prints; and pasta and glue to create a dinosaur skeleton. We could certainly reduce some components and reduce cost – there’s a lot going on here – but see how we can  use simple materials to conduct a really fun, interactive, educational storytime. There’s so much play going on here but there’s a lot of creative learning, too.

Structures Lab is less a storytime and more a hands-on exploration time, and would be a great addition to a STEM Playground event. We’ve done this with our preschoolers and they love it. Building the tallest tower is a blast, and seeing it fall down is a little thrill too. Consider all the opportunities for teamwork and problem-solving that you can incorporate into this activity.

Adapting ideas to our settings
You might look at these STEAM program plans and think, I can’t do all that at once! And there’s a good reason for that. In my experience, the younger the children, the fewer projects we can get through in one sitting. And setting up for several activities in one day may be more than one storytime librarian can  handle, too. That’s okay. I am looking at how we can adapt these ideas to fit in the context of a library storytime program, and here are some thoughts I have about how I’ll do that.

  • Incorporate books and stories. We can read Rosie Revere, Engineer over and over and never get tired of it. Pick titles that you can use to lead into projects and activities. Have fun with it. We worked a structure activity into a superhero storytime – we used cups to see if we could build a tower so tall a superhero couldn’t leap over it in a single bound. (We couldn’t – the superhero prevailed.)
  • Be flexible. You’ll notice that in some programs, you’ll get halfway into an activity and realize you are not going to get through your whole plan. It’s okay to go back to the circle, read another book, and call it a day. Be responsive to the needs of your group, especially with younger children.
  • But don’t dumb it down. You’d be surprised what young children can get out of a science activity, and how creative they can be in their problem-solving. So just because they don’t know the word “structure” yet doesn’t mean they won’t blow your mind with the cool structures they build.
  • Process over product. We don’t know from instance to instance how our projects will turn out. That’s okay. Think through the process step by step, and consider what can be learned by each portion of your activity. Maybe you do that tower building activity and your kids don’t learn anything about gravity, balance, and force – but they engage in some great teamwork and problem-solving. You’ve still taught a great lesson.

 

I hope you’ll explore more ideas from this blog, and think about how you can adapt STEAM projects and programs to your own context. I know it’s inspired me with a variety of ideas I could implement in my own setting!

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