Libraries Help Connect Families with STEM and STEAM Programs
STEM and STEAM which are acronyms for “science, technology, engineering, and mathematics” and “science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics”, respectively, are widespread programs in libraries all over the place. Libraries and other educational institutions understand the important impact that STEM and STEAM education makes on students and families. Implementing these types of activities into the calendar creates opportunities for young learners to explore and experiment with new concepts. Libraries all over have come up with new learning experiences for students of all ages.
Benefits of STEM and STEAM Education
Incorporating STEM and STEAM activities into a student’s schedule is a great way to supplement the education they are receiving in school. These programs usually consist of well-thought-out experiments, builds, and other activities that spark interest and engage students. STEM and STEAM programs can specifically operate from a library’s makerspace or they can take place in any other collaborative learning environment the library is able to set aside. Those who attend the programs can find themselves working with their hands and could be doing a number of activities from making robots to crafting Lego houses.
These are ideal spaces for kids to explore. Libraries have always been seen as a neutral and welcoming space. Students aren’t under pressure to perform well or get good grades. The sole purpose is to have a good time while being exposed to new ideas. This gives students the opportunity to focus on their passions and the task at hand. It also gives students a place to go after school that is safe and productive.
STEM and STEAM programming is also important for kids to experience throughout their education because it gives them a chance to practice and explore different skills they may need in figure careers while also breaking traditional gender roles or varying poverty levels. Math and science are fields that are well-known for having gender gaps as well as inequality when it comes to access. When libraries prioritize these programs for students, it helps to break down another barrier in access and allows them to freely learn.
The “A” in STEAM is another important and beneficial aspect of these programs. Adding arts into an otherwise math- and science-heavy field helps with creative thinking and teaches students that there are many ways to explore. The arts are just as important as the sciences and give students another outlet for expressing themselves.
Libraries & Their Programs
Lots of public libraries have already developed robust STEM and STEAM programs for students to participate in. These programs usually include collections of resources, online guides, and plenty of in-person sessions and materials to drive innovation and exploration.
The Massachusetts Public Library System, for example, has an entire section on their website dedicated to STEAM in libraries. This highlights the STEAM programs that are available as well as information on why STEAM programming is critical for students. There are lots of useful tools on the site. For one, they share their Library of Things which lends out non-traditional items to support learning. Patrons can borrow microscopes, robots, and circuitry kits to aid their discovery. The site also comes with program ideas related to music, sound, design, and technology and encourages scientific thinking in those who participate.
Lancaster County’s Library System is also extensively involved in providing STEM education to students from preschool and up. They focus on early learning experiences, hands-on workshops, and the roles of parents and caregivers. Some of the events they’ve held at area libraries include tech storytimes, baking challenges, and science projects. With each event, they also encourage parents and caregivers to get involved. Not only is this a great opportunity for them to learn how to foster a curious mind from a young age, this also reinforces STEM learning for the student.
Some libraries are even bringing STEM to the students. Hartford Public Library branches are showing up after school with mobile science labs that allow students to explore with classmates. This is beneficial especially for students that may not have the ability to make it into the libraries themselves. These science labs allow them to look at specimens through microscopes, play with robots, and perform chemistry experiments. This was part of a coordinated effort with the Urban Libraries Council to bring STEM education to middle schoolers in underserved communities.
STEM and STEAM Impact Lives
It is obvious that having these types of supplemental education and programming benefits students. Not only are they having a great time exploring new ideas in a hands-on environment, but these programs can also stick with them for years to come and lead to passions in their future careers. STEM and STEAM programs prepare students to take on the world and are helping to create the next generation of thinkers and doers.