STEAM or STEM programs are one of my favorite programs! For those who do not know, STEM programs are common in libraries and schools across the country and stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Some choose to incorporate art into their program, making it STEAM. I added the A into our program this September.
Why is STEM (or STEAM) so important? According to the National Math and Science Initiative, “STEM job creation over the next 10 years will outpace non-STEM jobs significantly, growing 17 percent, as compared to 9.8 percent for non-stem positions.1 Jobs in computer systems design and related services – a field dependent on high-level math and problem-solving skills – are projected to grow 45 percent between 2008 and 2018. The occupations with the fastest growth in the coming years – such as biomedical engineers, network systems and data communications analysts, and medical scientists – all call for degrees in STEM fields.”
But I’m not a teacher, how can libraries encourage STEAM education and development? I will fully admit that I am not a scientist (despite my master of science in library science) nor am I good with numbers, so I focus on early STEAM activities if I run them myself, or I bring in local talent for more hard science programs.
For example, my first STEAM program was an invisible ink science experiment. We tried different types of invisible ink (lemon, milk, honey, and vinegar) and different types of heat sources (hair dryer and light bulb). We talked about what makes the ink invisible, and made several hypotheses about which ink would work better and which heat source would work best. When the children made their hypothesis we talked about why he or she thought the hair dryer would be a better heat source than the lamp or why vinegar would work best as an invisible ink. By doing this, the children 5-8 learned how to think critically, which is incredibly important in STEM classes and jobs later in life.
For our second STEAM program, we focused on architecture, and built gingerbread houses. Again, this activity encouraged the kids to think critically about what they were doing, and how best to make their visions come to life. One girl built a series of ledges and supports to hold her landing pad for Santa’s sleigh, only to watch it all fall down as she overestimated the strength of her supports.
In March, a local Lego Robotics instructor joined us at the library. He brought his equipment and taught the children how to program their Lego Robots. This is the type of program I do not feel comfortable leading myself as I’ve never programmed Lego Robots, but the children loved it! I was super impressed with the ease in which they fell into their programmer roles. This program is also great because the programming is fun, which is more likely to spark a continued interest. Maybe one of these program attendees will remember the library program and look into Lego Robotics at school next year, which could spark a lifelong interest in programming.
The other STEAM programs held at my library are:
Heart Science: We made stethoscopes out of two liter bottles and paper towel tubes, and listened to our heart beats standing, after light exercise and after more intensive exercise.
Pirate Science: Jello, baking powder, water, and various beads/trinkets, were frozen in ice cube trays. The pirate scientists (ages 3-8) had to figure out the best way to get the treasure out of the “treasure chest.” They especially enjoyed watching the chests fizz once vinegar was added. After retrieving their treasure, the pirates had to distribute their loot, working on math and sorting.
Build a concert venue with toothpicks and marshmallows: The structures were modeled on different concert venues, and they talked about the different designs and the best way to build a solid structure.
Coding: Patrons discussed the Caesar shift code, and binary code. Patrons made their own code wheel and binary code bracelets. This program focused on patterns and simple math.